Childlike or Childish?

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So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
Galatians 3:26

Through faith in God, I became part of His family and now I am known as a child of God. Daily, it is my choice as to how I behave as His child. I can be childlike or I can be childish. Childlike is defined as resembling a child showing pleasing qualities such as innocence and trust. In contrast, childish is described as being marked by immaturity and a lack of poise.

Most young children trust their father and run to him with open arms ready to receive his love. They are not consumed with cares and worries because they know Dad will provide. As a child of God, I have the same privileges from a spiritual perspective. My Heavenly Father desires a personal loving relationship with me. My thoughts and actions reveal whether I am childlike or childish. If I am childlike, I will love my Heavenly Father and trust Him with my life. If I am childish, I will demand my way and I may cry if I do not feel like I have my Father’s complete attention. Yes, I desire to be childlike, but if I am honest, there have been times when I not felt loved by my Heavenly Father. There have been times when I have cried out to God in my prayers asking “Why?” or “Where are You?”

Young children grow up and eventually leave their childhood homes to become independent adults. However, as a child of God, I do not want to grow up and move away – I only want to grow deeper and closer to Him.

But Jesus called the children to him and said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Luke 18:16

In this section of scripture, people were bringing their children to Jesus desiring Him to bless their little ones while the disciples felt this was an imposition upon Jesus and they told the people to leave. Jesus contradicted His disciples and reached out to the children surrounding Him. Oh, how I appreciate the privilege of coming into the presence of Jesus and receiving His blessings because I am a child of God!

Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore,
whoever then humbles himself like this child, he is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4

This chapter of Matthew begins with the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by pointing out the characteristic of humility – not necessarily a quality of the disciples at this time. James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” I desire to be a humble King’s kid!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12

Being a child of God does not mean that I just get to play – that would be childish. John 6:1-13 tells of Jesus feeding the 5000 because a boy offered Him five small barley loaves and two small fish. This child did something no one else did that day. He was not worried about what Jesus would do with what he had, he just gave it trustingly. I want to follow the example of this young boy and set an example by my speech and conduct as to how to live as a child of God.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’
You must go to everyone I send you to and say
whatever I command you.
Jeremiah 1:7

Jeremiah was a young boy when the Lord touched his lips with a coal to prepare him to speak. As a child of God, I can expect my Heavenly Father to equip me to do whatever He calls me to do. If I am afraid, I would be more childish than childlike. In Psalm 139:13, David tells about his Heavenly Father creating his inmost being and knitting him together in his mother’s womb. Then in Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord tells Jeremiah of His plans and purposes that would give him a hope and a future. Exodus 2:1-10 gives the account of how Moses as a baby was left in a basket in the river, but God took care of him. Neither will God neglect me because He has a plan for me just as He had plans for David and Jeremiah and Moses.

Then you will call on Me
and come and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:12

When reading this verse from Jeremiah, I picture myself as a child of God climbing into the lap of my Heavenly Father and having a two-way conversation with Him. This is known as prayer! Our Heavenly Father wants to embrace all of us as His sons and daughters. No matter what our biological age, we can be His spiritual children. Most of us may tend to have times when we act childish if things do not go the way we want physically or spiritually. However, our Holy Father is always ready to help us be more childlike in both respects. My Reader, do you live as a child of God? Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you.


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A Tenderized Heart

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In a recent conversation with my daughter-in-law, she made reference to there being a time when God tenderizes our hearts while He prepares us for something more. When I first think of tenderizing something, I relate it to the process of breaking down tough spots in meat before it is grilled. Can I find any similarities between tenderizing a steak and tenderizing our hearts? Let us answer this question by looking at a couple of scripture verses in Ezekiel.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes
Ezekiel 36:26-27

A heart of stone is a heart full of sin. Jeremiah 17:9 NLT describes the condition of the heart by saying, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This verse confirms my need of a new heart! A heart of stone refers to a hardened heart that refuses to hear from God. Ephesians 4:18 NLT states, “Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him.” Only God can change this condition of a person’s heart. Being born again is how God replaces a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” (To apply the meat tenderizing process, I might say that thawing a hard frozen steak is similar to removing the hardened heart of stone.)

By accepting the new birth offered to us by Jesus Christ, we can be born again and our sins are forgiven. God’s forgiveness removes the sin and stone from our hearts. Going back to my primary scripture for today, Ezekiel describes the heart now as a heart of flesh. Flesh is softer than stone but the Lord offers more. Paul warns in Philippians 3:3 that we are to “put no confidence in the flesh.” (For tenderizing meat, I can say that when the steak is thawed it becomes a pliable piece of beef.)

Referring back to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus says in John 3:5-6, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” One’s heart can still be tremendously influenced by fleshly, or earthly, desires even though the heart no longer is a hardened stone. The flesh continues to require the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises us in John 14:26, “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.

Now looking closely at the words of Ezekiel, he promises not only a new heart but also a new spirit in verse 26. This new spirit is the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” This Old Testament promise of a new spirit recorded in Ezekiel is fulfilled in the New Testament scripture of II Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come. (The work of the Holy Spirit symbolizes the tenderizing process. When meat is allowed to marinate in specific ingredients, “tough stuff” is broken down.)

I want to further develop this concept of tenderizing our hearts. Before I put a piece of meat into a marinade, often I will pierce it with a fork so the marinade, acting as a tenderizer, will penetrate into the meat more deeply. Now consider this from a spiritual perspective. We all encounter experiences when our hearts of flesh feel as if they are pierced with challenges. However, the Lord works in these poked holes of our sensitive hearts. He will also convict us of any sin that might piece our hearts so we will confess our sin.  The Lord’s desire is to pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that not only is the Holy Spirit upon us as a seal but the Spirit penetrates our hearts and flesh. We are baptized, or immersed, in the Holy Spirit. This is first recorded in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” I believe the Spirit works within us to tenderize our hearts towards Him before He can move in our lives through more manifestations and revelations of His nature and character. Once again looking at Ezekiel, we notice in verse 27 that the outcome of our tenderized heart is that “He will cause us to walk in His ways.” The New English Translation says, “I will take the initiative and you will obey.” This is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. We no longer have a hardened heart or just a heart of flesh but a heart controlled by the Holy Spirit. We may have to chew on a tough steak, just like we may need to meditate upon what the Lord is showing us. However, it is easier for us to enjoy and digest a more tender steak. Similarly, we can more easily comprehend the will of God and enjoy serving Him for kingdom purposes when the Holy Spirit has softened our hearts toward the things of God. One final similarity I find interesting is that many marinade recipes include olive oil, and oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in scripture. Acts 10:38 says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him.”

Colossians 3:12 NLT admonishes us, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” A tender heart has a softened quality of being gentle, affectionate and compassionate. It is sensitive, pliable and yielding to the Spirit of God. Tenderizing one’s heart is part of the process of a deep commitment to the Lord. Let the tenderizing begin!

 

 

 

Jesus Sees

Jesus . . . watched the crowd
Mark 12:41

These words are found within the account often referred to as “The Widow’s Offering.” Jesus watched a multitude of people putting their money into the temple treasury, but His attention was drawn to the widow who offered only two small copper coins. Why?

Jesus saw from two different perspectives as He watched this scene play out. Visually He saw a crowd of people giving what was required out of their material wealth and a lowly woman giving as much as possible out of her lack. While spiritually seeing the hardened hearts of men who gave out of pride, Jesus’ spiritual eyes were keenly attracted to the heart of one lonely, humble woman. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Jesus saw with physical eyes but He also saw with spiritual understanding. Many within the crowd wanted their actions to be seen while in actuality, they only gave out of necessity with a hardened heart. The widow did not want her small contribution to be noticed because she was embarrassed by how little she could give. However, Jesus saw her generous heart and was pleased. Paul gives us some guidance in II Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

One of the names of God is El Roi, translated “the God who sees.” God’s eyes are never shut. He is awake and aware of everything and everyone He has created. He not only has visual perception but He also discerns our thoughts and intentions. His spiritual vision includes spiritual knowledge allowing Him to see with divine understanding. God is omniscient – He knows everything. We cannot hide anything from Him. He knows and sees everything about us – our thoughts, intentions, feelings, and desires as well as our actions. It has been said that we can fool some of the people some of the time but we cannot fool all the people all of the time. When it comes to our relationship with God, we cannot fool Him any time! I John 3:20 says, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”

One additional definition of “to see” refers to meeting with someone. For example, I will see you at a specific location. With this perspective in mind, how can we see and meet with the Lord personally? James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

I ask myself the question, what does God see when He watches me? Does He see agreement between my actions and the desires of my heart or does He discover some discrepancy? These are sobering questions. Too often I may be more of a Pharisee while sincerely desiring to be like the widow. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”

In conclusion, we can say that Jesus not only sees our actions visually but He also sees spiritually the intents our hearts. The amazing thing is that He is still willing to see and meet with us. May we be willing to fulfill Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Jesus watched the crowd, and He is still watching us.


 

 

God’s Recipe for Lemonade

We have all heard the quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is a phrase of encouragement for anyone who is encountering difficulty in life. Lemons taste sour, and so can adversity. A verse of scripture that we can apply to this concept is Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The evil would be the lemons while the good is the lemonade. So, how do we make lemonade? I want to share with you God’s recipe for His revitalizing spiritual drink while also using a recipe of a common refreshing summertime drink.

Lemonade requires only three ingredients: lemons, sugar and water. The first ingredient I want to consider is the lemon. If life gives me a lemon, I have to do something with it in order to make lemonade. I cannot just put the whole lemon into a glass with some sugar and water. Initially, the lemon must be cut to enable me to access the fruit. I need a knife, so I take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God according to Ephesians 6:17. God’s Word helps me to cut through all my bitter and difficult experiences. Next I squeeze the lemon to extract the juice. Romans 16:20 says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Crushing reminds me of squeezing. God’s peace squeezes out the sourness within my disposition. The lemon juice is now available.

To the juice I add sugar. Sugar adds sweetness to the tartness of the lemon. I find sweetness depicted in scripture as love. Summarizing I Corinthians 13: 4-7, love is described as being patient, kind and not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, nor is it provoked. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered but rather rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Then Luke 6:35 tells me to love my enemies. The sweetness of sugar and love counteracts the sourness of lemons and hatred caused by my enemies.

Water is the primary ingredient of lemonade. In Revelation 22:17, the water of life is described as a free gift. And in John 7:38, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Here is the water to be combined with lemon juice and sugar to complete our lemonade.

Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life, while lemonade is a sweet drink. Jesus says in John 16:33 NLT, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” This suggests that we can expect to find some lemons during our lives, but we also have the assurance that the Lord will take these sour pieces of fruit and help us make lemonade. According to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” – that includes making lemonade! Romans 8:28 confirms, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” God will help us make lemonade out of our lemons of life. So, do not become bitter when you encounter a sour experience but remember Romans 8:37 NLT, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” The Lord has a glass of sweet spiritual lemonade for you rather than a sour lemon! “Taste and see that the LORD is good,” Psalm 34:8.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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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

 

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What’s Bugging You?

It is summertime and I enjoy sitting on the deck with my husband in the evening until we start to hear the hum of insects in our ears. I brush the little flying creatures away with my hand. It helps for a little bit but soon I hear a concert of buzzing sounds. The melody of the mosquitoes crescendos and becomes more persistent. Then I feel a prick on my ankle – I have been bit. We can only ignore these irritations for a limited amount of time. The song of the insects and their itchy irritations reveal to us that the mosquitoes have arrived. Our peaceful evening has been disturbed by these persistent pesky predators. We decide to go indoors for the remainder of the evening in order to escape the consequences of these summertime pests.

Once inside, I am reminded of the phrase “insect worries” that I have heard. Although the mosquito is a small insect, its bite can be very irritating to the skin just as worries can be bothersome to our hearts and minds. What can I learn from our encounter with the mosquitoes?

First of all, a mosquito bite can be hard to ignore. I want to scratch the itchy area where there is a visible welt from the bug bite. However, scratching only irritates the site of the insect’s poison and the more I scratch it, the more sensitive my skin becomes. The same scenario can occur regarding worry because when I yield to the temptation to worry about something, my anxiousness increases rather than decreases. One little irritating thought can create concern in my mind. If I dwell upon this aggravation, I become exasperated. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? And He concludes this passage in Matthew 6:34 saying, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Scratching will not help a bug bite and neither will worry help our concerns.

Most everyone will experience a few encounters with the mosquito during the summer. Although not a cure, my mother had a home remedy for treating these bites. She would put a little baking soda in her hand along with a couple of drops of water to make a paste that she would then apply to the welt of the insect’s attack. It actually drew out the poison of the bite and relieved the itchiness. Maybe there is a lesson for me on how to handle my worries. I Peter 5:6-7 NLT says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” Instead of the paste in my mother’s hand, I can find the cure for my worries when I yield to the hand of God. Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The Lord will handle my worries like my mother helped my itchy mosquito bites.

One way to avoid mosquito bites is to apply insect repellent to the skin before going outdoors. Being proactive against bites from irritating bugs can be beneficial. The same is true regarding worries that want to invade my mind. Luke 21: 14 says, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.” Philippians 4:6-7 NLT says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” My spiritual repellent guards my heart similarly to how insect repellent can guard by skin against insect bites.

Will I get mosquito bites during the summer? Yes. Will I worry at times? Yes. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” My current thief may be as small as a tiny summertime insect or as big as the most overwhelming anxious thought within me. I do not want either a mosquito or a worry to steal my peace and joy in the Lord. I can slap a mosquito in hopes of killing it before it bites me. I can also destroy worries by focusing upon Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” The psalmist says in Psalm 73:25, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Throughout life, my flesh will experience the discomfort of mosquito bites and my heart will fail because of worry. However, God will always be my strength for whatever I encounter.

Most likely the phrase “insect worries” originally referred to the fact that our worries are only as small as insects when placed in the hands of God. I agree with that concept but it has been fun to compare how we react to bug bites and how we react to what is bugging us.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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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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