Mary – JESUS – Mary

Imagine a group of books being held upright by a bookend at each end.

Now make some changes to this image and create a spiritual picture.

Replace the books with the life of Jesus. (Maybe a collection of 33 books – one for each year of His life.)
Instead of bookends, imagine a woman named Mary at the beginning and another Mary
at the end of Jesus’ life. Two ladies supporting Jesus at His birth and death.

Let’s make some comparisons between the two Marys. I will refer to one as Mary Mom (the mother of Jesus) and the other as Mary Magdalene (a woman uniquely positioned in Jesus’ inner circle of followers).

  • The young Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of His Son, was from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. (see Luke 1:26)
    Mary, known as Mary Magdalene,
    was from Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of Lake Galilee. (denoted by her name)

  • Mary Mom was a pure virgin whose baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1:31)
    Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene – at one time she was not so pure. (see Luke 8:2)

  • Mary Mom encountered an angel (Gabriel) when told she would bear a son named Jesus. (see Luke 1:30-31)
    Mary Magdalene saw an angel (a young man wearing a white robe) at Jesus’ empty tomb. (see Mark 16:5-8.)

  • Mary Mom was fearful but was told not to be afraid. She was perplexed by Gabriel’s visitation and message. However, he told her not to be afraid because she had favor with God. (see Luke 1:26-38 esp. v30)
    Mary Magdalene was fearful but was told not to be afraid. When she saw the empty tomb, she was bewildered. Then the angel told her not to be alarmed because Jesus had risen. (see Mark 16:5-8 esp. v8)

  • Mary Mom would have been the first person to hold Jesus as a human baby. (Isn’t this the privilege of a mother?)
    Mary Magdalene had intended to be the last person to hold Jesus’ human body. (Had she fulfilled her plan of preparing His body for burial at the tomb, this would have been her privilege.)

  • Mary Mom anointed Jesus for life. I think Mary Mom may have anointed Jesus (with baby oil?) before she wrapped Him in warm blankets. (an assumption by author)
    Mary Magdalene desired to anoint Jesus after His death. Because she had spices with her, I believe Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. (see Mark 16:1)

  • Mary Mom wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling cloths before she laid Him in a manger. (see Luke 2:7)
    Although Joseph of Arimathea had already wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth, I believe Mary Magdalene had intended to provide a proper burial for the crucified Christ by wrapping His body in a linen shroud. (see Mark 16:46; John 19:25)

  • Both Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene were near the cross when Jesus was crucified.  (see John 19:25)

Looking closely at the spiritual image, I see one Mary holding baby Jesus at the beginning of His life and another Mary with the intent of holding His body at the end of His life. Jesus was surrounded and held by Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene. The words of Jesus in Revelation 1:17-18 seem an accurate description of Jesus’ life,Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One;  I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Living One. We no longer hold Jesus as a baby in our arms (as Mary Mom) and there is no need to hold His body in the grave (as Mary Magdalene).

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

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A Valentine for 365 Days

Universally, the heart is a symbol of love. However, on February 14, the heart is commercialized in more ways than one can imagine. Greeting cards are created in the shape of hearts decorated with lace and flowers. Heart-shaped boxes enfold decadent chocolates. Bouquets of red roses with a plastic heart stuck in the middle are advertised. Even fluffy stuffed animals portraying love are for sale. Whatever the expression of love, there is always a heart included with the sentiment “Be My Valentine.”

Why magnify love only one day of the year? True love lasts longer than one day. Love is more than a few romantic words composed by Hallmark. Love is more valuable than commercial stuff. God’s love is lavished upon us 365 days of the year. (see I John 3:1) God is love according to I John 4:8.

Let’s make a few comparisons between what God says about love and what the marketing industry sells.

The Greek language has several unique words for love. Agape is God’s love – selfless love. Eros is passionate or romantic love. Valentine’s Day focuses on Eros.

Here are images of angels. Cupid is the valentine angel. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love. A cupid is described as a winged being symbolic of love.

In comparison, we see an image of Michael, God’s archangel. Micheal is a warring angel who fights for us. (see Revelation 12:7-9) In Revelation 5:11, John heard the voice of “thousands upon thousands and tens thousand times ten thousand” angels. Too many angels to count! Psalm 91:11 a  loving verse telling each of us about our personal guardian angel. Weapons are evident in these images. In the valentine image, Cupid is shooting an arrow with his bow. On many valentines, there is an arrow of love aimed for the beloved’s heart. Is this truly romantic?

The other image is symbolic of the sword of the Spirit – part of God’s armor. (see Ephesians 6:18) The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Offensively, God’s Word can penetrate the unbeliever’s heart allowing him/her to experience the love of God. Much more powerful than an arrow!Is love costly? Looking on the back of a valentine card, one discovers how expensive a particular piece of folded paper can be. Is Eros love worth this amount of money?

Agape love cost Jesus His life. That’s costly! Romans 5:8 NLT says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And I Corinthians 6:20 says, “God bought you with a high price.”Pictured above is an old-fashioned valentine. On a flimsy piece of paper, a cute little angel says, “It would be heavenly to have you for my Valentine.” Although this might be a sweet sentiment, there is no sincere commitment.

In contrast, God reveals His love for us throughout the Bible. In Revelation 21 and 22, the angel of the Lord shows John the new heaven and the new earth that will last throughout eternity. The Lord’s love endures forever.  (see  I Chronicles 16:34)

So, forget the commercial hype of Valentine’s Day. Concentrate on God’s  love. Listed below are  scriptural love notes from God. (Emphasis is by the writer.)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.
I John 4:7

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:8

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But
the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

 

 

 

 

 

Everything!

“Everything” is all-inclusive! When I was a little girl, my mother helped me learn me how to pray by giving me a simple prayer outline. She suggested that I pray, “God, thank You for ______ and ______.” I was to fill in the blanks with two things for which I was thankful that day. Sometimes it would be easy for me to fill in the blanks. Other times, I might just pray, “Thank You, God for everything!” This could have been my prayer because my heart was so full of gratitude that I could not choose two specific things. Or, it might have been an easy way out because I was too tired to think. Today, when I think about thanking God for everything, it involves a greater risk than I perceived as a child. Can someone be thankful for a diagnosis of cancer? Can another person be thankful for losing their job? At this point in my life, I do not always find it easy to thank God for everything. However, I do still pray about everything. I have discovered some all-inclusive scriptures I want us to think about today.

Jesus looked at them intently and said,
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God.
Everything is possible with God.”
Mark 10:27 NLT

Nothing” can be replaced with “everything” when we allow God to work on our behalf! This verse from the gospel of Mark is Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Humanly speaking, neither this man nor any of us can do anything to inherit the kingdom of God. Admitting that we can do nothing opens the door for Jesus to do everything for us. Jesus did it all! He died on the cross to pay the price we cannot pay.

The other factor we need to remember is that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and His power, we become capable of doing the impossible even though we are human. I recently heard Bill Johnson  encourage us to not run from the impossible. We are told in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God for whom nothing is impossible and we can receive that same power. Bill Johnson pointed out that this power of the Holy Spirit in us is enough for us to do the impossible. We can do the impossible not because we are human, but because Christ through the Holy Spirit lives and works through us. This leads us to the next scripture.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 NLT

Everything” is “every thing.” From this verse, I gain the confidence that I can do everything that I encounter in life because Christ promises to give me the strength to do what I need to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. I should never say, “I can’t.” When faced with a regimen of chemo treatments for a cancer diagnosis, one may feel overwhelmed and be tempted to cry out, “I can’t do this!” However, Paul assures us that we can do the “everything” facing us because Christ will be with us and working for us during the duration of the treatment. Years ago, my uncle underwent numerous treatments for cancer and I remember my mother commenting that she did not know how he was able to keep going in spite of the side affects etc. However, less than a year later, she faced similar cancer treatments and I witnessed the grace of God sustain her during her time of trial. I need to have the mindset of “I can” rather than “I can’t.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7

Everything: can be “whatever.” This verse can be dangerous if we do not focus upon the complete verse. We must not skip over the “if” qualification for receiving what we wish or ask for “ if you remain in Jesus and His word”. In I John 5:14-15 the “if”qualification phrase relates to God’s will, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” God is able to do everything we ask when we become so attuned to Him that whatever we ask is always in accordance with His will. Although God may not answer in the way we expect, He is able to give us everything as He promises when we surrender everything to Him allowing all our thoughts and desires to be His thoughts and desires. Psalm 37:4 NASB says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desire of your heart.” When we delight in Him, our desires are transformed into His desires.

Now there is another “if” scripture for us to consider.

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.
Mark 9:23 NLT

Anything” is “everything!” In this scripture, Mark tells of a man who came to Jesus asking if He was willing and capable of releasing his son from the influence of an evil spirit. Because this man was thinking of Jesus’ capability from a human perspective, he was questioning Jesus’ ability to set his son free. Jesus responded by reassuring the man that through faith and trust anything and everything is possible. Like this man, we must be careful that we do not prevent the Lord from doing what He promises to do because of our lack of faith. We also need to remember that although anything is possible, God will only answer our prayers in His way according to His time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together
for good to those who love God, to those who are called
according to
His purpose. . . . predestined to
become
conformed to the image of His Son,
Romans 8:28-29

All things” is “everything!” The point to remember from this scripture is that while God is capable of causing everything to be used for His good, He does not cause everything that happens to us. Referring back to my simple prayer outline, I can pray “Thank You, God, for how You are going to use my current experience, whether it be positive or negative, for Your glory.” That is quite different from asking a recently unemployed person to pray, “Thank You, God, for my losing my job.” I like the thought that God gives us all kinds of situations so He can give us all things.

When we encounter all kinds of situations, God has the opportunity to reveal His faithfulness to us by showing us how He actually uses all the things we experience for good. God will use everything we encounter to make us more like Him. We may not like everything we experience but we still need to embrace everything and allow God to turn negative situations into positive life lessons. 

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.
Jeremiah 32:17

Everything” can meannothing.” Nothing is too hard for our Lord who created everything with His hands. Today, everything we experience passes through the hands of Him who created us and our surroundings. He continues to hold everything in His hands, so we do not need to fear anything we experience. If He could create this world we live in, then He can take care of it. There is no reason for us to doubt His ability. Truly, there is nothing too hard for God to do!

In Genesis 18:114, the Lord asked Abraham, “Is anything too Hard for the Lord?” My Reader, how do you answer this question? How does your response to this question affect how you feel about everything that happens in your life and how you handle every situation you encounter? May you remember the words of Colossians 2:10 in the Living Letters, “So you have everything when you have Christ.”

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

 

Be a Prays-er

Prays-er” is a word used by Cindy Jacobs in the book Possessing the Gates of the Enemy. The uniqueness of this word Cindy created has given me much to think about. Most of us will say that we are pray-ers who talk to God asking for His help in situations in our own lives and in the lives of others. However, if I say I am a “prays-er” I am describing myself as a person who praises the Lord while I am praying. As a praiser, or prays-er, I choose to praise Him because of who He is, not because of what He does for me. I praise Him because He is the Creator of all things and the One who has given me life. I praise Him because He is my Savior, Lord, Healer, Deliverer, Defender, Provider, Protector, etc. He is loving, gracious, merciful and kind. God is good! He is worthy of my praise! Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.” I want to fulfill this scripture by being a prays-er.

Psalms is probably the best book of the Bible for references to praise. (My Reader, you may want to do more research on your own regarding praise scriptures as I cannot begin to be inclusive in what I share. I just want to create within you a desire to become a prays-er.) Psalm 145:3 is a good starting point for praise. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 100:4 instructs us, “Enter gates His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 150:2 NLT says, “Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness!” David and the other writers of the Psalms were definitely prays-ers!

As a leader of the Israelites, Moses sets an example of the importance of praise when he personally declares in Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Moses refers to the Israelites as well as himself when he says in Deuteronomy 10:21, “He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.” Flipping a few more pages of our Bibles, we find other references to praise.
I
Chronicles 16:9 instructs, “Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” Reading a little further in this chapter, I Chronicles 16:25 says, “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.” None of these people limited their conversations with God to requests. They praised God for who He was. They were prays-ers!

Being a pray-er, requires more of us than asking God to help us and meet the needs of those around us. Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Petitions are a part of prayer but so is praise. When we praise the Lord for who He is, we will worry less because we will become more aware of His character and nature. When we praise the Lord for who He is, our faith is built up and we have the confidence to thank Him for what He is going to do. Praise is a powerful part of prayer! Be a pray-er and a prays-er!

Since there are scriptural references to praise in both the Old and New Testaments, praise is not restricted to a particular time period. In Isaiah 43:21, the Lord declares, “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim My praise.” This is amazing! One of the reasons God created us is so that we can become prays-ers! Moving into the New Testament. we read I Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Praise is pertinent for us today! God desires our praise – He wants us to be prays-ers!

Acts 16:25-26 tells us, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” The combined power of prayer and praise resulted in freedom from the bondage of prison. The same wonder-working power of God is available to us. Paul and Silas are an awesome example of prays-ers!

Praise is mentioned in the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation. Daniel 2:20 says, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.” John says in Revelation 5:11-12, “Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels and living creatures and elders encircling the throne, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” It is interesting that the angels also praise the Lord. One of my favorites scriptures is Philippians 2:9-11, “God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This indicates to me that I will be a prays-er not only while I am alive on earth but throughout all eternity! What a privilege!

I am a pray-er, a person who prays (talks to God), but I am also a prays-er, a person who praises (lifts God up and honors Him for who He is). I acknowledge with the prophet in Isaiah 25:1, “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” I personally declare Psalm 104:33, “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” and Psalm 145:1-2, I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.”

My Reader, will you be a person who praises the Lord in addition to being a person who prays to God? I encourage you with the words of Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” Be a prays-er!

Trusting to Jump into the Pool of Life

While spending the night at a motel, we walked past the swimming pool and observed the following scene. A father was encouraging his small daughter to jump into the water. Actually, Dad was inviting the girl to jump into his arms because the father was already in the water. The little lass was hesitant because the water was much deeper in this location than where she had previously been playing in the shallow end of the pool. The father was asking his child to trust him and take a risk. It would be fun. Although this was not an unusual interaction to be happening during a family swim time, the Lord asked me to look more closely as He wanted to reveal something to me through this encounter.

The young girl playing in the shallow water was enjoying herself but the father wanted to interact more personally with his daughter. He desired to be closer to her. Maybe he wanted to teach his daughter how to swim or help her overcome a fear of deep water. Our Heavenly Father has a similar yearning for us. Although attending a worship service on Sunday mornings has value for us as believers, God longs for a deeper personal relationship with each of us. (Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.”) God does not want us to be content to only “play church” for a couple of hours every Sunday. This represents a person with a shallow faith. Our Heavenly Father holds out His arms asking each of us to trust Him and jump with both feet into a commitment of living with Him and for Him 24/7. (John 3:16-17,36 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.)

Let’s create a spiritual setting for our swimming scenario with our Heavenly Father. He invites us to jump into the pool of life with Him. Isaiah 51:15-16 says, “For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar – the LORD Almighty is His name. I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”

Are we, as believers, ready to jump into a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father? Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” These are safe arms waiting for us! In case, we fear something unsafe might happen after we jump, Isaiah 50:1 assures us, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” When we jump into the arms of our Heavenly Father, we have the opportunity to jump into the His Word. We can trust our Heavenly Father because of promises He has given us.

I want to encourage you to quit playing in the shallow end of faith and jump into a deeper relationship with God. Let me share with you some scriptures that will give you confidence to trust our Heavenly Father with your life.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145:18

He will not let your foot slip–
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Psalm 121:3

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.
Psalm 56:3

I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
Psalm 13:5

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Joyfully,
Cheryl

 

*Click on image to find the credit for appropriate image.

Anchored to Hope

While HOPE is one of my favorite topics to blog about, I have chosen to emphasize it today in honor of a dear friend of mine, Judy, who went to be with Jesus a year ago in April. June 17 was her birthday on earth, and while she is celebrating that day in heaven now, I want to honor her with the following insights regarding HOPE. She anchored her faith to hope throughout her illness. The anchor with a yellow ribbon pictured above, was given to each of us at her celebration of life service. I still cling to this anchor pin as well as to the spiritual promises of hope.

In the bigger picture, the view from which Judy now experiences it, hope is the eternal full manifestation of eternity with God. Our eternal hope is promised in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” But in the meantime, we walk by faith and not by sight because according to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

My Reader, what comes to your mind when you hear the word HOPE? Do you perceive hope as a fluffy, flimsy desire floating through your mind or do you picture hope as an anchor uniting with faith in your heart? We often have trouble describing hope because it is invisible. There is an anonymous quote that says, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” A scriptural definition of hope is found in Romans 8:24-25, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Although HOPE is invisible, I want us to envision the anchor as a picturesque image of hope.
Hebrews 6:19 states, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Sarah Young says in Jesus Calling, “A good way to remain anchored to Jesus is to whisper His name as often as needed. We can pray and proclaim “Jesus, You are my HOPE!’”

With this in mind, I have created an acronym for HOPE that elaborates upon four descriptions of the Lord that will help us understand why He is the One in whom we must put our hope and trust.

H.O.P.E.

H = Helper – Zechariah 4:6
John 14:26 NASV says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” In this verse, Holy Spirit comes from the Latin term paraclete that means advocate or helper. II Corinthians 5:7 tells us to walk by faith and not by sight, but as human beings this is hard for us to do. We tend to want to follow what we see and what we know in our heads, so we need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help us secure HOPE deep in our hearts.
In Zechariah 4:6, the Lord Almighty declares that victory is attained “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” So, with this assurance, we can assume that Helper is an accurate word for the letter H in our acronym for HOPE. Only as the Holy Spirit helps us, can we grasp the assurance of hope.

O = Omniscient – Isaiah 55:8-9
Omniscience is defined as “the state of having total knowledge, the quality of knowing everything.” Although God is beyond our full understanding, He is omniscient. He is sovereign and knows all about all His creation. We serve a God who thinks about our lives, our world, and Yis creation on a completely different level than even the smartest human being can think. Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”
With this in mind, I have chosen Isaiah 55:8-9 as our scripture to describe how the omniscience of God is appropriate for the letter O in our acronym for HOPE. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

P = Perfect – Jeremiah 29:11
Psalm 18:30 begins by saying, “As for God, His way is perfectand Deuteronomy 32:4 declares,His works are perfect.” God is the only one who is perfect, being without sin or weakness. As I looked for a definition of perfect I read such phrases as “complete and right in every way; having nothing wrong” – “exactly right for a particular purpose or situation” – “being entirely without fault or defect.” I also think of the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy that describes the Lord as being “perfect in power, love, and purity.” God is the only one who is perfect!
When I want a reason to have hope in God, perfection is a good choice of words to use for the letter P in the acronym for HOPE. Jeremiah 29:11 supports this by stating, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

E = Emmanuel – Deuteronomy 31:8
When the angel announces that Mary will conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and have a son, it is declared in Matthew 1:23 that they shall call His name Emmanuel which is translated “God with us.” This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. In Genesis 28:15 the Lord says, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” Not only does He promise to be with us but He also promises to watch over us! So, if God is with us, we can rely upon His help because of what we previously said about the Holy Spirit being our Helper. And, we can trust His help because God is omniscient and perfect, also based on previous statements.
T
he choice of Emmanuel as an applicable word for the letter E of our acronym for HOPE is supported by the scripture found in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” It has been said that “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”

The anchor of HOPE prevented death from having a hold on Judy. I desire the anchor of hope to prevent hopelessness from having a hold on me. To us, our situation may look hopeless, but according to Mark 10:27, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” I like the New Living Translation of Hebrews 11:1 that says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” These are the words upon which I desire to anchor my heart to God’s heart.

I want to conclude by extending to all of you the message of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

 

Living in the Land of In-Between

 

between

The story of the Israelites being led out of Egypt into the Promised Land of Canaan is recorded in the books of Exodus, Numbers and Joshua. The accounts tell of a 40 year journey that should have taken only 11 days. Where were the Israelites during these 40 years? They were wandering and waiting in the wilderness. They were in the Land of In-Between. They were between Egypt and Canaan. What happened in the lives of the Israelites between Egypt and the Promised Land?

What took place for the Israelites back in 1436 BC still has significance for us in 2016 AD. I believe the experiences of God’s chosen people 1400 years before Christ was born were a foreshadow of what we will encounter over 2000 years since Christ was born. We live in the shadow of the Israelites and I want to learn from their experiences on both the physical and spiritual levels. Let’s look at some details.

The Israelites were in slavery and bondage in the physical land of Egypt. From the spiritual perspective, Egypt is often considered a symbol of sin. As human beings we are born into the bondage of our sinful human nature. Moses was sent to deliver God’s people out of Egypt and lead them into the Promised Land of freedom. God sent His Son, Jesus, to deliver us from sin. When we accept Jesus as our Savior (He saves us from sin) and Lord (He rules our lives and guides us in the freedom He purchased for us through His death), we travel from our personal Egypt to our Canaan. Our Promised Land is where we will dwell with God throughout eternity. Jesus says in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” So, if we have a personal relationship with Jesus, where are we? Like the Israelites, we are in the wilderness, the Land of In-Between. The Israelites sojourned there for 40 years. We will dwell in the wilderness, or the Land of In-Between, throughout of our earthly lives.

Join me as we look at some scriptures relating to the Israelites and to us. Let’s apply their experiences to our journey in the Land of In-Between.

First, God was with the Israelites throughout their journey in the wilderness and He made His presence known through the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night.
The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
Exodus 13:21-22
Today, Christ lives in us and we have the help of the Holy Spirit.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Second, as their leader, Moses could always talk with God and seek His guidance and direction.
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Exodus 33:11
Each of us can personally talk with God anytime we want. This is our privilege of prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

Third, God provided food in the form of manna for the Israelites each day. The Israelites set a good example for us in that they gathered their frosty flakes in the morning to give them nourishment throughout the day.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
Exodus 16:4
God has made provision for our spiritual manna in the form of scripture that we can feed on every day. May we remember to take time to gain new spiritual insight when our minds are fresh in the morning.
like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
I Peter 2:2-3

Fourth, the soles of the Israelites’ sandals did not wear out even though they wore them for 40 years.
Yet the LORD says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.
Deuteronomy 29:5
God watches over us so that our souls will not wear out for the duration of our journey in the Land of In-Between.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
I Corinthians 10:13

My Reader, every day of our lives is spent in the Land of In-Between waiting for Jesus to return so we can live with Him throughout eternity. While we are on the journey to this Promised Land, each of us will experience specific times of waiting that bring our attention to the fact that in a narrower sense we are also living in the Land of In-Between. We will feel like we are in the wilderness wandering and waiting. Life can be rather wild in the wilderness! The trials of some trails are more difficult than others. Maybe you have lost your job and you are waiting to find new employment. Maybe you are waiting for results from a medical test that will reveal whether or not you have cancer. Maybe you are waiting to see whether your spouse will go to marriage counseling with you or if you will be served divorce papers. You can give a name to the situation that accentuates your waiting in the Land of In-Between today. I know it is frustrating to wait. However, there are lessons God can only teach us in this Land of In-Between. The Israelites traveled around Mt. Sinai many times during their 40 years of waiting to cross over into the land of Canaan. So I encourage you to take another trip around your mountain or sit at the foot of your Mt. Sinai until the Lord reveals your next travels. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” The Lord will make our paths straight even when we are waiting and wavering in the wilderness of the Land of In-Between!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Note: The phrase about the land of the in-between resonated in my spirit when I first heard it. I do not know if there is a specific person to whom I should give credit for these descriptive words or not. However, I do know that what I have shared in this post are insights the Lord gave me when I thought about and prayed about the Land of In-Between.