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

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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Jesus, Chickens and Mothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Liquid Love

liquid-loveI recently awoke in the night repeatedly hearing the phrase Liquid Love in my mind. With the observance of Good Friday taking place in a couple of days, it seems appropriate for me to share thoughts with you about our Lord’s Liquid Love. I have chosen to elaborate upon this phrase by using various alliterations for love. I pray these thoughts will allow you to linger in our Lord’s presence. May you feel His Liquid Love being poured out for you and upon you.

Lavishing Love

According to I John 4:8 God is love. Consequently, He reveals Himself to us through His love. In I John 3:1, we are told that the Lord lavishes His love upon us. When He lavishes His love on us, He imparts His nature to us. The Lord is lavishing His love upon us because He sees us as ravishing in beauty according to His words as the Lover of the Beloved in Song of Solomon 6:10. The Lord has lavished His love upon us by shedding His blood for us. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Lamb of Love

In John 1:20, Jesus is described as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Lamb of Love. He is known as a lamb because He was the final sacrificial lamb offered for the forgiveness of sin. Many lambs were constantly being offered as sacrifices in the Old Testament, but Jesus came as the Lamb of God who died once and for all for all our sins. He is the sacrificial Lamb of Love.

Liquid Love

Liquid Love is love colored red. Liquid Love is the blood of Jesus. He shed His blood because of His love for us. Our Lord’s love was manifested as liquid love as He poured out His blood for us. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.:  I John 1:7 says that Jesus’ blood cleanses us of all unrighteousness, all sins, assuring us of everlasting life. We have everlasting life because of the Lord’s everlasting love. In Jeremiah 31:3 we are assured that we are loved with our Lord’s everlasting love.

Laver of Love

Within the tabernacle, the laver was the basin where the priests cleansed themselves before they offered sacrifices. Sacrificing animals was part of their function, their labor. The labor of the priests began at the laver. Connecting the Old and New Testaments, we read in Ephesians 5:26 that we are washed in the water of the Word. The Word informs us of how Jesus was the Lamb of God who poured out His life, His love, His blood for us. It was definitely a labor of love for Jesus to die upon the cross for us.

No Lack in Love

Love is lovely! In Hosea 4:6, the Lord says that His people can be destroyed from lack of knowledge, but there is no lack in the Lord’s love for us. According to I Corinthians 13, love is kind and according to Romans 2:4, the Lord’s kindness leads us to repentance. Repentance leads us the cross where Jesus shed His blood. The Lord has poured out and continues to pour out His blood as Liquid Love. There is no lack in what He offers us today!

Liquid Love Lives

According to Leviticus 17:11, there is life is the blood. There is life in Jesus’ Liquid Love. On Sunday we will celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. Our Lord lives! Our Lord loves! Because Jesus is alive, we too can live. Romans 8:37-39 says, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All of this is possible because of the Lord’s Liquid Love !

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Denial

cross-for-denialHe (Peter) began to call down curses, and he swore to them,
“I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Mark 14:71

Peter denied Jesus he denied Him three times! Mark 14:71 records Peter’s third denial. A synonym for deny is refuse. In this case, Peter refused to admit that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. I think Peter may have refused to admit that he knew Jesus because he felt confused. Making a slightly different interpretation of the word deny, I suggest that to deny can mean to forget. Did Peter have spiritual amnesia causing him to forget what Jesus had explained to the disciples about His upcoming death? When Peter witnessed what was happening to Jesus, he may have become worried about what might happen to himself. For his own safety, he may have have felt the need to deny any association with Jesus. Anxiety can cause us to not think clearly and to do strange things.

A short time after denying Jesus, Peter heard a rooster crow two times. Oh, oh! Peter then remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him as recorded in the beginning of Mark 14:72, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72b

The crow of the rooster may have cured Peter’s amnesia and caused him to reconsider who Jesus truly was. Peter wept with remorse when he realized he had denied Jesus.

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
John 21:15

Fast forward to a few days after Jesus’ resurrection and we find Jesus having breakfast with His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Although Peter denied (or forgot) Jesus three times as recorded in Mark 14:68-70, Jesus does not deny (or forget) Peter. Jesus knew Peter and He knew his strengths and weaknesses of character. While Peter forgot Jesus three times, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to remember who He was. I wonder if Peter needed to be asked this question three times because it took him that long to remember who Jesus truly was. Peter had to have his mind remade – he had to be re-minded.

It is worth noting that the first two times Jesus questioned Peter about his love, He used the Greek word agape for love while the third time He used the term phileo. Agape love is God’s love, a spiritual, selfless love while phileo love expresses love on a friendship level. In His first two inquiries, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with God’s kind of love. The last time, Jesus lowered his type of love to friendship. It is also interesting to note that each time after Peter assured Jesus that he loved Him, Jesus gave him a command of something to do, such as “Feed my lambs.”

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24

These words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 16:24 are also words being spoken to me. I want to consider what Jesus has to say to me by applying Peter’s experiences with denial to what denial entails for me today.

It was not OK for Peter to deny Jesus but it is OK for me to deny myself. In fact, for me to be a disciple of Jesus, I must deny myself – I must forget about my selfish desires. Numerous times I have denied Christ by focusing upon my own accomplishments rather than His accomplishments upon the cross. If I do not deny myself, I may deny Jesus.

Peter denied Jesus only a few hours before He was crucified upon the cross. The Matthew scripture tells me to take up my cross. What does my cross look like? Most likely I will not have to die upon the beam of a cross like Jesus, but I still need to die to myself. I need to crucify my own plans and purposes to fulfill God’s plans and purposes. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus and what Jesus had said to him. He was
re-minded. The cross has been described as a memorial, or a reminder, of who Jesus is and of what He has done for us. For me, to take up my cross allows me to be re-minded.

Although Peter denied Jesus, Jesus still had a job for him to do. Jesus told Peter to “feed His sheep.” Jesus tells me to follow Him. Only then will I know where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do.

For Peter to deny Jesus was a bad thing but for me to deny myself is a good thing.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Valentine Prayer to Send

valentines-day-1My Reader, are you planning to send any valentines in the upcoming days? Although I do not like the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, I want to challenge you to think about extending appreciation and affection to those around you. Many people think more about receiving valentines than sending them, but unless these tokens of love are sent by someone how can they be received by anyone? In Acts 20:35, Paul reminds us of words spoken by Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

To whom would you like to send a valentine? Most first responses will be to name family members such as a spouse or children. My traditional valentine to my husband and children used to be large heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies that I baked. (The one for my husband was larger than those for our two kids!) I also taught our children the gift of giving by having them make and send valentines to their out-of-state grandparents. However, today I want to make a different suggestion to you. Would you be willing to send a Valentine Prayer to the Lord for someone with whom you struggle or for a person with whom you have a strained relationship or someone who has hurt you? You may not immediately like my suggestion but please hear what I am saying. It is not only what I am suggesting but it is what Jesus tells us to do. Matthew 5:43 -44 quotes Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We are not only to love others but we are to show our love to them. Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity for us to extend love to not only those whom we love, but also to those we do not love so much.

Several scriptures in the book of I John give us reasons to extend love to those who may not be so loving towards us. I John 4:19 says,We love because he first loved us.” God did not wait until we loved Him before He loved us. Love is described in I John 4:10, “And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” We are all familiar with John 3:16 that says, “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.” We were sinners – we hurt God – we disobeyed God, and yet He sent us the greatest Valentine possible in the form of His Son, Jesus, to die for us. If we send a prayer of love for an “unfriend,” we are only following the example of God. I John 4:20 states, If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

When questioned about what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied in Matthew 22:37-40 saying, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Both commandments are based on love. First, we are to love God, and then we are to love others. “The others” are not just those who love us, but everyone. In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus showed us how to love. Now it is our turn to love according to His example. His love did not exclude anyone whom we might consider hard to love.

In John 21:16, Jesus questions Simon Peter about his love for both God and others, “Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’” My Reader, please read the first part of this verse and replace Simon’s name with your name. Hear Jesus asking you if you love Him. How will you respond? Will you tell Jesus that you love Him? If so, listen to hear if Jesus is telling you to feed His sheep by sending a Valentine Prayer for someone who is hard for you to love.

Meanwhile, be sure to receive God’s Valentine to you because I John 4:8 assures you that “God is love.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Fragile Word

All was quiet around me. I was in bed but not asleep. My mind was still drifting over thoughts of the evening’s experiences of the retreat I was attending. Then my spiritual ears heard the following words from the Lord. “I have entrusted My child, Adam, to you. He is fragile. Just love him. I am working. Walk with Me.” I felt like I was the boy Samuel fulfilling Eli’s instructions of I Samuel 3:9,”Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” I was listening! In what I share in the following paragraphs, I have changed the name of this individual to Adam representing the first human being God created. Adam can be any one of us. I am not referring to a male or female person, but I have chosen to use the masculine pronoun. Although this was a very personal word, I think many of my readers will be able to insert the name of their own Adam into these brief statements. My Reader, search your life and see if you are called to apply these statements to a special someone in your life as I expand upon the insights I discovered.

fragile-birdsI have entrusted My child, Adam, to you.

The first word that caught my attention was entrusted. It was humbling to think that God was investing me with responsibility for someone’s life. Then I remembered Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” I praised the Lord that He desired me to partner with Him for the fulfillment of His plans and purposes for this individual.

fragile-roseHe is fragile.

Since the Lord chose “fragile” to describe this particular child that belonged to Him, I pondered the meaning of the word. Two characteristics came to mind: vulnerability and the ability to be broken.

If a person is vulnerable, he is susceptible to being wounded physically, emotionally and spiritually. There is most likely a weakness within the character and personality of this person. I want Adam to know that according to II Corinthians 12:9 the Lord says to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” My husband and I often watch Antique Roadshow on TV. There is a commercial of an active boy running back and forth in front of a table where an expensive vase is placed. Hands come and grasp the vase to keep it from falling and being broken. To me, this depicts the vulnerability of the object to be broken. I apply this to Adam. Paul says in II Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” As I think about a person being breakable, I sense both the negative and the positive possibilities. When something is broken, its original condition is lost. The specific vase in the TV commercial could never have been replaced if it had broken. However, when thinking about a person being broken, it can be a good thing. The Lord is able to take the vulnerability and weakness of a person and repair him to be better than he was previously. David says in Psalm 34:18 NLT, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Also Psalm 51:17 NLT says, “You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

loveJust love him.

When I first heard the Lord’s words regarding Adam’s life, I was overwhelmed. However, then the Lord gave me guidance as to what He wanted me to do. Love is a simple four letter word but it not necessarily an easy task to fulfill. I turn to the love chapter of the Bible for guidance. I highlight words from I Corinthians 13:4, 7,8, and 13, “Love is patient, love is kind….It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I am particularly assured and strengthened by the fact that love never fails. I have heard it said that love is wanting what is best for the other person. Yes Lord, help me love my Adam!

handI am working.

The Lord has entrusted me with a responsibility for this Adam but I am not alone. God said to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” For me, I AM is one of the greatest names of God. In my particular present situation, I AM is working with me. I rely upon Psalm 147:3 that says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God is doing the work – not me. All God asks of me is to love my Adam. I can say to Adam the same words Moses spoke to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.”

footprints-in-sandWalk with Me.

The the last words the Lord spoke to me that evening were words for my personal guidance. I was assured of His presence and help as I accepted the call He spoke to me. With the writer of Psalm 86:11 NKJV I say, “Teach me your ways, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to Your name.” May I fulfill the directive of Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit.”

I have embraced the words God spoke into my spirit that evening. I am now in the process of partnering with the Lord for His work in Adam’s fragile life. As God entrusts me to walk along side Adam, I strive to “Trust in the LORD with all my heart And do not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I acknowledge Him, And He will make my paths straight.” according to Proverbs 3:5-6. (italics are pronouns personalized by author)

My Reader, do you sense the Lord calling you to love someone who is fragile? Remember, the Lord will walk with you wherever He leads you.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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