Gladiolas of Gladness

It is summertime and I love the beauty of fresh flowers. Gladiolas are a blossom I remember my mother planting. These bulbs need to be placed in the ground each spring and dug up in the fall, so they do take extra effort and special handling. Gladiolus are often referred to by the nickname of glads. In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp tells of sharing gladness with people by taking them bouquets of glads.

The gladiolus is a flowering plant in the iris family. It is sometimes called the sword lily. When I think about a sword, I am reminded of the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17 says, Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” A spear of gladiolus flowers is a beautiful sword just as the Word of God is a beautiful sword of the Spirit.

Let me share some verses of gladness from God’s Word as well as some images of the floral glads. While you read the following scriptures, I want you to imagine yourself receiving a bouquet of glads filled with gladness.

You (the Lord) have put gladness in my heart
Psalm 4:7 NASV

This is the day the LORD has made.
We will rejoice and be
glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 NLT

Don’t be afraid, my people. Be glad now and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things.
Joel 2:21 NLT

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be
glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14 NIV

For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with
gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and His bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 19:7 NIV

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
Psalm 16:9 NIV

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Barefoot

bare-feet-1bare-feet-2Since warm weather has arrived, I have exchanged my winter shoes for summer sandals. These summer shoes reveal more of my feet and provide a little less protection. However, I also like to throw off even my sandals and go barefoot. There is something special about being able to run barefoot through a thick lawn of green grass on a summery day! It is freeing to feel the grass between my toes. Maybe I can identify with Moses and Joshua who went barefoot in the Lord’s presence. In fact, they were personally instructed by God to take off their sandals in His presence.

In Exodus 3, Moses was intrigued by a bush that appeared to be on fire and yet was not being consumed. As he went closer to the bush, God spoke to Moses saying in Exodus 3:5, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” In the following verses, Moses and God have a conversation regarding God’s desire for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When Moses argued with God, God had an answer for him that revealed His willingness to help Moses in all he asked Him to do. In a sense, taking off his sandals signified Moses’ vulnerability to what God asked of him. I wonder if God is asking me to take off something so He can better use me according to His plans and purposes. I do not have to provide my own shoes, or my own strength. In contrast, God asks me to remove any confidence I have in my flesh. In II Corinthians 12:9-11, Paul records, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” … Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

In Joshua 5 while Joshua was preparing for the battle of Jericho, he encountered a man with a sword. When Joshua inquired about whether he was for them or against them, the man revealed himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. In Joshua 5:15 it says, “The commander of the LORD’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’” Joshua obeyed this command out of reverence and respect. I want to follow Joshua’s example and take off my shoes in the presence of the Lord. Like the soles of my shoes that pick up the dirt of the ground around me, my soul within me can pick up sin from the world in which I live. Out of reverence to my holy God, I want to remove sin from my life. I Peter 1:15-16 says to me, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” Taking off my sandals or shoes can be an outward expression of worship revealing my inward reverence for the Lord.

While walking barefoot, I feel a closeness to the God of all creation who has created the grass upon which I walk. I am aware of being in touch with the Lord when my feet are touching His creation. A few scriptures come to mind that inform me of how to walk with the Lord. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Then II Corinthians 5:7 KNJV tells me to “walk by faith and not by sight,” while Paul reminds me in Galatians 3516 NKJV to,Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Bare feet and summer seem to go together, but I need to remember that in order for me to walk with the Lord I should be barefoot in His presence no matter what season of the year. I John 2:6 NASV says, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” In order for me to walk as Jesus walked, it will be beneficial for me to be barefoot so I can place my footsteps in His footprints.

My Reader, do you want to go barefoot today?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Only One Left

,,, began to go away one at a time, … until only Jesus was left, with the woman ….
John 8:9

I have chosen only a couple of phrases from the entire verse of John 8:9 for reflection today. These words are taken from the account of Jesus with the sinful woman who was brought to Him by the Pharisees. The religious leaders wanted her stoned for adultery while Jesus wanted to forgive her. However, it was only after everyone had left that Jesus had a One on one conversation with this woman.

I may not be an adulterous woman but I have to admit that I am a woman who can sin. Although I strive to live a godly life, Romans 3:23 points out that all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. Two things become evident to me through this account in John 8. First, I require Jesus’ forgiveness. Second, I hear Jesus speaking to me best when I am alone with Him.

In John 8:7 Jesus says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus is pointing out that all of us have sin in our lives that needs to be dealt with. The Pharisees were in the same category as the adulterous woman. Jesus did not condemn anyone but He did acknowledge the frailties of human nature. The Pharisees responded by simply leaving Jesus and the woman according to John 8:9. They walked away from their sinful natures by walking away from the presence of Jesus. They did not deny that they could have committed a wrongful act at some point in their lives but neither did they acknowledge their sinfulness to Jesus and ask for forgiveness.

In John 8:10 Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Jesus waits until He is alone with the woman before He confronts her about her lifestyle. Even then, He does not place condemnation upon her but He does point out that her actions have not been righteous. When she admits her sin, Jesus forgives her. And He goes to say in John 8:11, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” He instructs her not only to confess her sin but to repent which includes a change in lifestyle in addition to acknowledging her wrong doing. What I want to emphasize is that Jesus dealt with this woman alone. He did not confront her in a public surrounding.

This leads me to look at my daily lifestyle to see if I allow for personal time with the Lord so He can convict me of changes I need to make in my life. If Jesus is considerate enough to wait and deal with me privately, then I must be considerate enough of Him to give Him time to speak to me. What do I allow to crowd around me that prevents me from hearing the Lord? Who and what do I need to dismiss from my life so I can hear what Jesus is saying?

George Matheson has asked the question, “Have you ever pictured yourself as the last remaining person on earth, or the only person left in the entire universe?” He then goes on to say, “If you were the only person left remaining in the universe, your every thought would be, ‘God and I…. God and I …!’” Yet in reality, this is how God perceives each of us today. God desires to be close to us and be with us if we will give Him that time and place of honor. Matheson challenges us by saying, “Practice dismissing the crowd!” If I dismiss the crowd, Jesus will personally speak to me. He most likely will convict me of my sin but He will also forgive me of my sin. Then He will guide me and empower me to live my life in a way that will glorify Him.

I desire to be the only one left in the presence of Jesus! I want to have a one on One conversation with Jesus like the woman in the account of John 9. He will not embarrass me about my shortcomings but He will make me aware of them. According to I John 1:9, if I confess my sins, He will be faithful and just and will forgive my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness. I never need to be afraid of being alone with Jesus. Rather, I should desire to be with Him and listen to His voice. Jesus assures me in John 15:4 that if I remain in Him, He will remain in me.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Freedom Is Not Free

Next week, we as Americans will be observing a National Day that is unique to our country. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence declaring our independence from the British empire and giving birth to the new nation known as the United States of America. Through multiple military battles, the United States of America gained independence but it was costly in many respects. Our freedom was not free.

According to Wikipedia, “Freedom is not free” is a phrase first used by retired United States Air Force Colonel Walter Hitchcock. When using this phrase, Hitchcock expressed gratitude for the service of members of the military, implicitly stating that the freedoms enjoyed by many citizens in many democracies are only possible through the risks taken and sacrifices made by those in the military. The saying is often used to express respect specifically to those who have given their lives in defense of freedom. The slogan “Freedom Is Not Free” is engraved into one wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. As Americans, our freedom has been at the expense of many lives whether it has been during our War of Independence or the Korean Conflict or any other war in which our nation has been involved in from 1776 to 2017. The cost of lives continues to mount today and into the future.

Freedom is not free” is an applicable phrase for us today. We need to be mindful of our responsibilities as citizens of a free nation. The price we pay for our freedom includes fulfilling our rights and responsibilities as citizens of our country. We pay for our freedom when we exercise our right to vote and execute our responsibility to serve on a jury. By honoring and supporting our elected officials, we obey our laws of liberty. Financially, we pay for freedom when we pay taxes to our government. We may complain about some of these requirements but we need to realize the privilege of these obligations as well. Those living under dictator type governments would gladly pay for the freedoms we take for granted. When we help our fellow citizens, we are paying a portion of our price for freedom. We must consciously consider our responsibility to pray for our nation as a privilege we fulfill for our freedoms of worship and speech. I believe our freedom is worth the price we pay.

I echo the sentiments of the fact that freedom is not free as I look forward to celebrating Independence Day on July 4th next week. I am thankful for the free land in which I am privileged to live. I am thankful for our military men and women who have given their lives and for those who continue to serve our country through active and reserve military duty. I am thankful for the opportunities to serve my country as a citizen of the United States of America. Freedom is not free physically or spiritually. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The freedom we attain in Christ cost His life. Freedom was not free for Christ and it is not free for us today. Value your freedom – it is costly!

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Breathe!

One of summer’s special gifts that I enjoy is the fragrance of flowers filling the air. In May I sense the smell of lilacs and in June I fill my lungs with the aroma of roses. I love to sniff the sweet scent in the air. Respiration is an automatic function of my lungs but when I smell a delicate floral fragrance I become aware of my body’s task of breathing.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

The ability to breathe is a God-given gift. Through His breath, God gives life. If I can breathe, I am alive. If I cannot breathe, I am dead. These are facts relating to the human body. We know there is life in a newborn baby when he cries and inhales oxygen into his tiny lungs. I wonder what it was like for Jesus to take his first breath as a human being. He was God and He participated in the first act of breathing life into mankind. Then when he was born as the son of Mary, like all babies, he took his first breath of oxygen. Inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is essential for all of mankind.

And with that He breathed on them
and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20:22

While living on earth, Jesus breathed the atmospheric air. When He died upon the cross, He quit breathing. After His resurrection and before His ascension, He breathed a new life into His disciples. He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. They received a presence and power of the Trinity never before experienced by mankind. In this passage of scripture Jesus extended peace to those around Him and He still offers that same peace to us. If I am uptight and anxious, I take a deep breath to calm down. I am actually inhaling the peace of God. Then as I let our my breath, I am exhaling the worries of the world. In both cases, I am breathing spiritually as well as physically.

Just as there are physical and spiritual benefits of breathing, there are physical and spiritual ramifications of breathing. Paul refers to these in his second letter to the Corinthians.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us
as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma
of the knowledge of him everywhere.
II Corinthians 2:14

Rochester, New York is known as the Flower City and Highland Park is internationally famous for its wide variety of lilacs. When we go to see the lilacs in bloom, the aroma of the various shrubs leads us from one bush to another. While the flowers vary in colors from light lavender to deep purple, we are also aware that some bushes are more fragrant than others. The entire park emits the floral fragrance of lilacs. The bushes seem to lead us in a procession just as Paul tells us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ. I like the conclusion of this scripture in the New Living Translation, “Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.”

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

Several years ago we were in Melbourne, Australia for an extended period of time. While my husband was working, I had free time. Since this city is known for its many gardens, I spent time wandering in these beautiful spots. The roses were in bloom and their fragrance would overtake me at unexpected times. I would simply stop and breathe in their perfume because I was not in a hurry. As the saying goes, I took time to smell the roses. Just as the rosy aroma in the air was pleasing to me, Paul informs us that we are to have the same influence upon those around us. The beginning of this verse in the New Living Translation says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” We are to be the aroma of Christ infiltrating the world around us.

Currently, I become aware of the gentle breeze blowing through the window near my computer desk. The breeze is breathing on me and the room is being filled with floral scents of the rose bushes outside. While I inhale the fragrance of the atmosphere around me, my mind is filled with the aromatic scriptures I have meditated upon.

My Reader, I extend to you the perfume of a bouquet of posies and promises. Breathe in the breath of God while you inhale your required oxygen.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Heavenly Father’s Day

This coming Sunday we will be observing Father’s Day. How do you feel about that day? For some of you, it will be a time to get together with your family and celebrate dads. While others of you may try to forget that the day even exists. Are positive or negative images reflected within your mind when you think about your biological father? Will you feel lonely on Sunday because this will be the first Father’s Day that you do not have your dad beside you? Or, maybe you are excited because this year will be your first opportunity to celebrate fatherhood with the birth of a baby. Personal circumstances and experiences affect our outlook towards Father’s Day.

Our relationship with our earthly father not only affects our attitude towards Father’s Day, but it also can influence our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. If you feel like you cannot trust your biological father, it may be hard for you to trust your Heavenly Father. However, no earthly father’s feelings or actions can compare to the holiness of God. Our Heavenly Father invites us into a relationship with Him that is more rewarding than we can ever imagine. A healthy understanding of God as our Heavenly Father is essential to having this relationship with Him. Allow me to help you get better acquainted with your Heavenly Father by creating for you a portrait of your Heavenly Father’s heart through a few specific scriptures.

And, “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
II Corinthians 6:18

God is love.
I John 4:8

the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
I John 3:1

Love is patient, love is kind
I Corinthians 13:4

The LORD is like a father to His children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:13 NLT

your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Matthew 6:8

Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

We must remember that earthly fathers will disappoint us at some point in time. Only our Heavenly Father is perfect. May we fulfill Ephesians 3:`4-5 that says,I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives it name.” Whether or not you are able to celebrate Father’s Day with your earthly father, I want to encourage you to celebrate Father’s Day with your Heavenly Father because in Psalm 68:5 God promises that He will be, A father of the fatherless.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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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
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