Hem and Hand

c. 1570

c. 1570 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

hands 10 mfRecently I was reading part of Madeline L’Engle’s And It Was Good and the following statement stuck in my mind:

The hem of Jesus’ garment must often have been dirty.”

hands 10 mf In turn, I was reminded of the story about the healing of the woman with a flow of blood for twelve years recorded in Mark 5:25-34.

 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve
years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors
and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak,  because she thought, “If I just touch his
clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she
felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned
around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples
answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the
woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and,
trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter,
your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 hands 10 mfMadeline L’Engle was talking about how Jesus never turned anyone away no matter who they were or what they had done.  Symbolically she was saying that Jesus constantly came in contact with sinful people, “dirty people”, and it did not bother him.  If his being with others resulted in their coming to know him in a personal way, then, as God’s son, his purpose in coming to earth was fulfilled.

 hands 10 mfThe story recorded in the gospel of Mark tells of how the woman with a flow of blood had faith enough to press into the presence of Jesus and touch the hem of his garment even though she was in the presence of a large crowd of people.  The scripture says that she touched his clothes. I think it may have been the hem of his robe she touched as that would have also been a sign of humility.  In verses 28 and 34 the words “made well” come from the Hebrew word “sozo” that means saved.  This can mean saved from physical death by healing or saved from spiritual death by forgiving sin and its effects.  I have also heard this term used for being made whole.  I like this interpretation because wholeness can refer to my complete being, my body, soul and spirit. Jesus offers me healing of my body, restoration of my soul, and new birth of my spirit.

hands 10 mfMy thoughts now return to what I read by Madeline L’Engle.  If Jesus was willing to let the hem of his robe get dirty by such people as this woman with the flow of blood, then am I willing to do the same?  Am I willing to let people who think and act differently come near enough to me and spend enough time with me, that they can truly see the presence of Jesus in me?  Am I a willing vessel through which the power of Jesus can flow into the lives of others?  I am humbled by these options and want to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe more frequently if I can then lead more people to being made whole in body, soul and spirit.  Maybe I even need to reach in and touch the clothes of Jesus myself in order to receive all His healing in my life.  There were many people around Jesus that day who did not take the time, or have the faith, to get as intimately close to Jesus as this woman.  I wonder how I would have reacted if I were in that crowd  and Jesus showed up.  I admire Jesus for allowing the hem of his robe to get dirty and I admire this woman for having the faith to press into His presence for her healing when so many people were watching.

hands 10 mfMy Reader, would you have been willing to reach out like the woman with the flow of blood or would you have been part of the crowd who stayed back?  Are you willing to be like Jesus and risk getting your hands or the hem of your clothes dirty?  I would appreciate any thoughts or comments you might be willing to share with me.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Water and a Sponge – A Pictorial Parable

sponge mf

While washing dishes with a sponge in a sink full of warm sudsy water, I began to think about the sponge I was using. Before I could wash the first dish, I had to retrieve the dry, hard sponge from the corner of the sink. Once the sponge was in the water, it became soft and pliable as it soaked up the sudsy water. Two scriptural phrases that are similar, yet different came to my mind as the sponge was in my hand. The first phrase tells me that I am “in Christ” while the second one says “Christ in you.” What is the difference between these two phrases? Is not the end result the same with Christ and me becoming one? What difference does it make if I am in Christ or Christ is in me? While pondering these questions, God gave me a pictorial parable with physical facts for the mind and spiritual facts for the soul to help answer my questions. Let me share with you what I learned. I will write the spiritual facts in regular type and the physical facts will be noted in italics within parentheses.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
II Corinthians 5:17

 The “in Christ” scripture from II Corinthians 5:17 is the first one that comes to my mind. However, I have read that “in Christ” is used by Paul in his epistles 172 times, so this is not the only “in Christ” reference in scripture. When Paul uses the phrase “in Christ,” he is referring to the relationship that occurs when I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior. At the moment of salvation, there is a blending of the life of God into my life. A oneness in will and purpose results in a vital union between Christ and me. I am now known as a Christian because my life is Christlike with Christ living in me and not just influencing me from the outside. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ and sin cannot occupy the same space. Consequently, my sins were forgiven and forgotten when I accepted Christ as my savior and He now is in me.

 (A dry sponge is placed into a sink of water and it then has the position of being in the water. This is similar to my being “in Christ”.)

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

According to Galatians 2:20, now as a believer in Christ I am not only “in Christ” but “Christ is in me” and I exemplify this when I live by faith and not by sight. Christ as the Holy Spirit now dwells in me and has the power to mold my character into the likeness of Christ. Acts 17:28 says, “for in Him (in Christ) we live and move and have our being.” However, the extent to which this happens depends upon how much I allow the “Christ in me” to have control of my life. Ephesians 5:18 concludes by saying “be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek word for filled means “to fill and disperse throughout one’s soul.” This word also implies that the filling is an ongoing process rather than a one time experience.I like the Amplified Bible translation that says, “ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.” The ongoing experience of being filled with the Spirit infuses me with everything I need to live like Christ!

(The water is in the sponge only to the extent that the sponge soaks up the water. If the water is squeezed out of the sponge, it may be damp but it does not contain as much water as when it remained totally immersed. If the sponge is left on the edge of the sink where there is no water, it can completely dry out. In order for the sponge to be wet, it must be in water that it can absorb. This can be applied to the phrase “Christ in you”.)

Remain in me (Christ), and I (Christ) will remain in you.
John 15:4

John 15:4 is a scripture verse spoken by Jesus Christ that combines the two phrases of “in Christ” and “Christ in you.” I found a personal place “in Christ” when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and now I am in Christ who is immeasurably bigger than I am. However, at the same time, I know Christ is in me. Since Christ is so much bigger than I am, I can only have a fraction of who Christ is actually living in me. I need to be constantly filled with Christ so I can be more like Him.In order for my life to be fruitful, I need both positions of “me in Christ” as well as “Christ in me.” In John 15:5 Jesus goes on to say, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus created me for a partnership with Him just as there was a union between Jesus and His Heavenly Father. Jesus says in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Then listen to these words of Jesus found in John 15:9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” It amazes me that Christ wants to be a part of me whether it be that I am “in Christ” or “Christ is in me”.However, scripture proves this to be true!

(The sink full of water is much larger than the little sponge. When the sponge is in the sink full of water, it is comparable to being “in Christ”. The sponge can only absorb a certain amount of the water at a given time which determines how much there is of “Christ in you.” If the sponge is out of the water it will dry out. If the sponge were a person, I could say that the sponge was thirsty for water. In John 4:10, Jesus refers to Himself as being living water. This is further developed in John 7:37-40The sponge can absorb liquid water.)

 
My Reader, do you know your personal position “in Christ” and “Christ in you”? I don’t know about you, but I know there are times I feel like a dry sponge. I know I am “in Christ” but I do not always take the time for the Holy Spirit to fill me so that “Christ is in me” to the fullest extent possible. Some churches offer times of “soaking” when people can come simply to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit and be saturated through taking time to pray, read scripture and listen for the voice of God. Don’t be a dry sponge, jump into the Living Water with me! Remember, in John 13:20 Jesus says, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you!”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Little is A Lot

plandt i hand 2 mf

My Reader, two weeks ago I presented you with the question, “What does the Lord want to help you make new in 2014?”  Did you seek the Lord for an answer?  If so, have you been working towards this “something new”?   Another way of asking this question would have been for me to ask if you were making any New Year’s resolutions. If you did this, are you fulfilling your goals?  Maybe you were too busy with the holidays to explore new options for the new year at that time, but now you may want to think about something new.  Whatever your response is, let me give you some encouragement today.

 As a new year begins, I often make big plans to do something new, or at least to do something more consistently than in the past.  My agenda may include such things as keeping in touch with a lonely neighbor, spending more time in prayer, eating better with less snacking (how about fasting?), setting aside time for physical exercise, being more diligent with Bible reading and studying, or learning how to do something I have never done before.  (Blogging was my “something new” a year ago.)   My intentions are good and I am excited for a few weeks and then I revert to my old lifestyle. Although this is frequently the pattern of my life, this past week God has been reassuring me that He will help me achieve my intentions.  I would like to share with you what the Lord has shown me.  

plandt i hand 2 mf

Who dares despise the day of small things?
Zachariah 4:10

 That’s awesome!shouts the Lord to my spirit.  God is my best cheerleader.  The Lord wants me to know that He is aware of every little thing I do for Him. I tend to look at the negative side of things and get discouraged the first time I fail to fulfill a promise I have made to Him. God looks at my heart and He sees the positive.  He is pleased with even my intent when I am striving to live closer to Him.  I Samuel 16:7 says, “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  If my heart is aligned with the Lord, He thinks it is awesomeeven when I succeed only a little bit for a little while. God is pleased with my efforts when my efforts are to glorify Him. 

plandt i hand 2 mf

Let nothing be wasted.
John 6:12

A little is a lot,” speaks the Lord to my spirit. The amount of effort I put forth or the length of time I actually devote to the effort is not as important to God as is the fact that I am willing to exert any effort or time at all. The gospel of John records how Jesus multiplied a boy’s lunch of five small barley loaves and two small fish to feed 5000 people with even 12 baskets of leftovers. That is when Jesus said, “Let nothing be wasted!”  In comparison to Jesus’ part, the boy’s offering was miniscule, yet it was necessary.  I must remember that I do not have to do much until Jesus will help me, but I must do something!  When I choose to do something, I am showing God that I am willing to take a step of faith in order to have a closer walk with Him.  My steps may falter as I try to succeed with my new thing for 2014, but even my baby steps can become big steps with God’s help.  I say with David in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”  I may get discouraged and anxious when I fall short of my intentions, but I can ask God to look into my heart.  That is when He will see that my ambition is to be faithful to Him. To God, my little is a lot!

plandt i hand 2 mf

Behold, I make all things new.
Revelation 21:6

I’ll help,” whispers the Lord to my spirit.  God is always willing and able to help.  He will allow me to try to do it on my own as long I want, but He will also let me know that He never leaves me alone to accomplish a task.  I notice in the scripture quoted above that it is God who makes things new, not me!  Once again it becomes a heart issue. Psalm 37:4 says,Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  This verse informs me that God implants desires into my heart and then He continues to work with me for their completion.  My part is to consistently take pleasure in who God is. Providing that my “new thing for 2014” is aligned with the Lord’s plans for me, He will help me succeed.  I can’t do it alone, but I can do it with His help.

My Reader, I pray I have given you some incentive to pursue something new in 2014.  It is not too late to grasp hold of a goal nor is it impossible for you to revive a desire that has already been forgotten. God shouts, speaks and whispers to you. So, take time to whisper a prayer of intent to the Lord right now. Your little prayer will mean a lot to Him. He will also help make your little offering into a lot.  He will think it is awesome; and He will think you are awesome too!

Joyfully,
Cheryl

From the Manger to the Tomb

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nativity set LINK pd

I have now packed away our Christmas decorations for another season. However, one thing caught my attention in a special way as I was putting away our nativity scene.  At Christmas I read about Mary wrapping Jesus as a baby in swaddling cloths and lying him in a manger.  (see Luke 2:7 NKJV) The next time I read of Jesus being wrapped up is when Joseph of Arimathea wrapped his body in linen grave cloths and laid it in a tomb.  (see Luke 23:53)  Big changes took place in the life of Jesus between the time when Luke records the Christmas story and the Easter story:  a baby to a man – swaddling cloths to grave cloths – a manger to a tomb!  I ask myself, does my understanding of Jesus allow him to grow up? Do I look beyond the manger to the cross and even beyond the cross?

Jesus did not stay a tiny baby.  He was soon kicking off his swaddling blankets and crawling around the feet of Mary and Joseph rather than just being held in their arms.  The only thing scripture that really tells me about Jesus growing up is Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  The next thing I read about Jesus is his baptism and ministry when he is 30 years old.  Three years later Jesus is again wrapped up, but this time it is after he has died on the cross. Jesus kicked off these grave cloths three days later at his resurrection.  Jesus grew up during those 33 years.  He could not have died as my savior as a baby; He had to grow up.

Now I have to ask myself another question.  Am I too wrapped up in my daily life to take time to grow in my relationship with Jesus?  Do I keep Him wrapped up in swaddling cloths as a baby?  If I desire to grow in my relationship with Jesus, how do I do it?  It is interesting to note the difference in the way I am able to grow spiritually and how I grow physically.  When a baby grows physically, he or she grows bigger and becomes more independent.  In order to grow spiritually, one grows smaller and becomes more dependent.  John the Baptist says in John 3:30 NKJV, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.”  If I am to grow up spiritually I must become smaller in how I perceive myself.  I must think less about what I can achieve and more about how I can glorify God.  This is the only possible way for Jesus to grow in me.

My Reader, I ask you, at what age does Jesus live in your heart?  It is fun to celebrate Christmas, and indeed we should celebrate the birth of Jesus.   However, do not let Jesus stay a baby.  Allow Him to grow up by growing in your faith.  A baby must be fed to grow, so must you feed on His Word in order to grow in your knowledge of Him.  God’s Word can be both milk for spiritual infants and meat for men, so feed on the Word.  (see Hebrews 5:12-14)  As you allow your understanding of Jesus to grow from his being an infant to being a man, you too will grow spiritually. Then He will be able to live more powerfully in you.  In fact, the resurrection power that allowed Jesus to throw off His burial cloths will be available to you.  (see Philippians 3:10)

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Prayer Talk

prayer- hands mfLike most days, I started today talking with the Lord in prayer.  However, now I am thinking about the whole concept of prayer.  How do I perceive prayer in contrast to what God designed prayer to be? Yes, I include praise and thanksgiving in my prayers, but there are times when I hurry through this portion of my praying so that I can present the Lord with my needs and the needs of others.  My tendency can be to allow prayer to become a grocery list of requests rather than a two-way conversation with the Lord. I tend to limit God because of my limited concept of prayer.  Is it not amazing that God who is so high bowed so low in order for me to be able to draw near to Him in prayer?  This fact in itself should cause me to bow my head and heart in prayer.  God loves me so much that He wants to have an intimate conversation with me through prayer!  He wants me to talk to Him, but He also wants to talk to me.  Actually, God most likely wants to answer my prayers more than I want to take the time to pray the prayers.  He wants to bless me with His presence and His voice.

 My Reader, my desire today is to share two kinds of statements with you in the form of couplets.  The first statement will help us grasp a better understanding of what prayer can be through the words of people.  The second statement is from scripture which is God’s Word, God speaking to us Himself, revealing His desire for prayer.  I pray these thoughts will help you in your personal prayer life.

You cannot find time for prayer, you have to make time for prayer.”
by Josiah Cruz
Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer {life}, being {both} alert and intent in {your praying} with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:2 Amp.

 The secret of praying is secret prayer –  an invitation to love Him more…
to go more deeply into His heart.”
by Lenard Ravenhill
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:6

Praying helps me remember that the Lord is in charge.
from A Light to My Path by Lynn Austin
Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.
I Samuel 3:9

All prayer is to change the human will into submission to the divine will.”
by Frederick W. Robertson
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what
we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Romans 8:26

“My mother said that if there are any tears shed in heaven, they are going to be shed
over all the answers to prayer for which no one ever bothered to ask!
What blessing is God waiting to give you, but you haven’t asked Him for it?”
by Anne Graham Lotz
Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer {life}, being
{both} alert and intent in {your praying} with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:2 Amp.

The answer to prayer depends on the faithfulness and power of the One
who hears the prayer, not of the one who prays the prayer.
by Ann Voskamp
Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant
and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.
Nehemiah 11:1

Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God,
instead of seeking God who gives the answer….
The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not the answer.
Oswald Chambers
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me.
 When Thou didst say, “Seek My face,”
my heart said to Thee, “Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Psalm 27:7-8

Don’t waste time worrying – spend time praying.  If I start thinking bad things
or being afraid and worrying, then I know it is time to start praying.”
from A Light to My Path by Lynn Austin
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-8

As I contemplate on what I have learned about prayer, I come to the conclusion that when I pray I am acknowledging that God is in control and that He is with me.  I also realize that prayer is having faith to ask God for something. If I did not believe that God would listen and answer me, why would I bother to pray?  However, I can say with David in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me.”  I believe in prayer, and I believe it to be more than a grocery list of needs.  My Reader, I want to close with a challenge for you with a quote by Ann Voskamp, “Imagine if each time you had the urge to text, tweet, email, log onto Facebook, or phone a friend to share some heartfelt need, you stopped and prayed instead.  Really prayed, trusting God to answer.”  Try it this week!

Joyfully,
Cheryl

GRACE – What or Who? (Part 2)

WhatGRACE  Who?

bluebutterfly (MF)

(Part 2)

Last week I blogged about “Grace – Who or What?”  This week I will continue with  “Grace – What or Who?”.  M Reader, if you did not read last week’s post or would like to review what was shared, feel free to check out last week’s post before you continue reading here.

Gbluebutterfly (MF)race What?
Last week I developed my understanding of the definition of grace given by Don Meares.  Let me restate this definition for us this week to refresh our memories. 

Grace is the
empowering presence of God enabling you to be what God has
created you to be and to do what God has called you to do.”

Another explanation of grace that I like is defined by John Bevere in A Heart Ablaze.  He says (p.97),

Grace is His (God’s) bestowed ability to do what His truth demands.
  It empowers us to obey God’s words.” 

 What is God’s bestowed ability?  It is God’s empowering presence!  What does God’s truth demand?  It demands me to be who God created me to be and to do what He has called me to do!  These two definitions fit together perfectly.  I realize that God never asks me to do anything He does not equip me to do.  That is the fulfillment of grace.

 The other important fact about grace that I want to remember from last week is that grace is a gift.  I learned this in Ephesians 2:8:

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith –
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

 Ephesians 4:7NKJV tells me another fact about the gift of grace.  This verse states:

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

God’s gift of grace to me will differ from the gift of grace He gives to you, my Reader.  God gives each of us just the right amount of His power through His presence needed for each unique experience of life you or I will ever encounter.  In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  So, if Jesus is always with me, His presence will always be there to empower me to do what His truth demands.  When my desires are God’s desires, I cannot fail.  Wow!  That gives me confidence! However, my confidence must be in God and not in myself.  I like II Corinthians 12:9 that says,

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

As I continue to search the scriptures for references to grace, I find a warning about how I am to use grace in II Corinthians 6:1,

And working together with Him, we also urge you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.” 

Referring back to A Heart Ablaze, John Bevere further explains that to receive something in vain means not to use something to its full potential. (p. 97)  I certainly do not want to misuse or not use what God has placed within me!  I feel an accountability for God’s graciousness to me.  I not only want to utilize the gift of grace that He has given to me, but I also want to thank Him for this abounding gift that He has bestowed upon me!

bluebutterfly (MF)Grace – Who?
I began this two-part blog about the word spelled “g-r-a-c-e” by referring to two of our granddaughters, Grace Elizabeth and Anna Grace, who claim Grace as part of their names.  I would like to now suggest that, in a spiritual sense, each of us can proclaim Grace as  a part of our name because the Lord offers this gift to everyone. God is no respecter of persons; what He does for one of His children He will for all of us who call upon His name.  My Reader, Grace can be your name. Ask for it, receive it, and thank God for it!

candy 2 mfThe Sweetness of Grace
Again this week I make a comparison between grace and candy.  The giver of a gift of candy may choose to give a different piece of candy to different people.  It does not mean the giver likes one recipient better than another but chooses instead to make each gift similar yet unique according the to need of each individual. The giver of the gift may realize that one person needs more energy so gives that person a bigger piece of candy. The giver may know that another person likes one kind of candy better and would enjoy it more so this influences the kind of gift given.  The giver desires that the gift will not be received in vain, or without any benefit.  In turn, the recipient must remember to be thankful for whatever candy is received because it is a gift.  In relation to grace, have I not previously stressed that grace is a gift to be received?  Have I not commented about how God gives grace uniquely to each person according to the need?  Have I not shown that God bestows the ability to a person to do what His truth, or His Word, demands? Whether it be grace or candy, the giver of the gift should be shown appreciation and the gift should be used properly by the receiver.

My Reader, I close my blog today with the same words to you that John closed the last book of the Bible in Revelation 22:21,

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Joyfully,golden apple #2(MF)
Cheryl    

Challenge for this week: Sing the song Amazing Grace and think about the meaning of the words.