Grab Your Paint Brush for 2019

Yesterday was the beginning of 2019. A new calendar year started with 12 months containing 365 days ready to be filled. I challenge you to think of the new year as a blank canvas that God offers to you. It is your privilege and responsibility to create a new scene. You are the artist.

God places the paint brush in your hand. You create. However, God does not remove His hand. Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Imagine each stroke of your brush’s bristles representing a word you speak, a thought you think or an action you do during 2019.

You have a pallet of paints. The primary pigments are yellow, blue and red. The variations are unlimited. Red and yellow produce orange. Yellow and blue result in green. Red and blue become purple. Then there are light and dark shades of every combination.

You will dip your brush into diverse colors as the days and months progress. Some days will begin with a splash of bright yellow portraying the Son of God shining brightly upon you. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I love Sonshine! Then Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Your painting will most likely include many hues of blue. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” This verse depicts a sense of serenity. However, blue can also portray a more boisterous scene. Mark 4:39 says, “He (Jesus) got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

Next, you may reach for red. Red can be a vivid, vibrant color displaying a vital promise. Red reminds me of the blood of Jesus. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Maybe your painting will portray some red flowers bursting into bloom that look like droplets of Jesus’ blood. Each flower might symbolize an outpouring of God’s grace.

Your masterpiece will reflect light and dark shadings. There will always be contrasts in one’s life as well as in a painting. Isaiah 45:7 says, “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.There will be times when your paint brush is submerged in darker colors but lighter colors will also emerge. Isaiah 60:1-2 says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you.”

How about some fruit trees in your 2019 scene? Galatians 5:22-23the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” What a beautiful tree you will paint with these colorful characteristics. Colossians 1:10 NLT says, “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”

Some days you will create clusters of clouds in the sky. Remember Psalm 104:3, “He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” Clouds are also mentioned when Jesus ascended into heaven. Acts 1:11 says, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” The clouds you paint will give you a beautiful promise even though things may appear a bit cloudy at the moment.

Neither your painting’s landscape, nor your life’s landscape, will be level. Hills and mountains will arise. Psalm 121:1-2 declares, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” Then, valleys will dip low. Psalm 23:4 is a good reminder, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Both scriptures are valuable verses for your various encounters throughout the year.

Each of us is beginning to create our own personal painting. Throughout the year, the scenes of our lives and paintings will depict diverse landscapes and seascapes. The hills and valleys will appear in different locations. Our waters will vary in depth. All will be different. God created each of us uniquely. Philippians 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God will help you from the start to the finish with your 2019 masterpiece. What will it look like on December 31?

 

 

Advertisements

No Messy Manger for the Magi

 

While packing away our nativity scene for another year, I reminisce about the significance of each figure. I hold the Magi, or Wise Men, a little longer because I have not blogged about them in the past weeks. I must take time to ponder and print a few words about these men before this season is complete.

According to the Christian calendar, Saturday, January 6, 2018, is the church festival of Epiphany which commemorates the Magi coming to see Jesus. This was the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles because the Magi were not men of Jewish background.

Little is known about these mysterious Magi except that they were seeking a specific baby. Matthew 2:1-12 is the only scriptural account. For an extended time, these men determinedly followed a star. I think they would have visited a messy manger if God’s star had led them to that location. However, we can assume that they were still traveling when Jesus was born in the messy manger. Some say it possibly was as long as two years before the Magi found Jesus. Maybe these Magi represent those who are still traveling the road of life looking for Jesus today.

Although not historically accurate, these men have sometimes been referred to as kings. (Maybe because of the Christmas carol We Three Kings.) Chuck Missler has said that over time the truth and traditions about these men have been embellished. By the third century, the Magi were viewed as kings. I wonder if this perspective has anything to do with the fact that the day is coming when Jesus reigns as King of kings. (See Revelation 19:16) Missler has also written that these ancient men were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They were known for having profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. Here is another correlation – Jesus becomes the great high priest. (See Hebrews 6:20) If we associate kings and priests with the Magi, maybe we are types of Magi because Revelation 1:6 NKJV says, “(Jesus) has made us kings and priests to God his Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever!”

The Wise Men may not have been totally wise about whom they were seeking. They simply expected to find the one born king of the Jews by following a star. These men even stopped in Jerusalem to ask Herod what he knew about the baby. (see Matthew 2:2) While the Wise Men were not necessarily looking for an infant king in a castle’s cradle, neither were they expecting to find him in a messy manger. They just wanted to find Jesus! Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Although the Wise Men may not have been wise in every respect, they were wise enough to seek him. There is truth in the quote, “Wise men still seek Him.” Today, Jesus wants us to seek and to find Him.

John 1:11 says, “He (Jesus) came to that which was His own (the Jewish people), but His own did not receive Him.” John MacArthur points out that the Magi were “God-fearing, seeking Gentiles.” They followed a star that led them to the Messiah they had heard about since the days of Daniel. Through scripture, we know that Jesus came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. (See Romans 1:16) In a previous post, “Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger,”  I noted that shepherds were the first to visit Jesus when he was born in a messy manger. They were of Jewish lineage. Significantly later, the Magi worshiped Jesus –  they were Gentiles. According to Romans 14:11, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – that includes both Jews and Gentiles. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they (the Magi) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

The word “epiphany” originated in the Greek language and means “manifestation.” The worshiping Magi portray the picture of Epiphany because this season of the church celebrates the appearance or “manifestation” of a divine being, namely Jesus. However, an epiphany can also be defined as a sudden perception or revelation. In others words, a new understanding is “manifested.” Each of us encounters our own epiphanies when we come to illuminating discoveries or realizations. An enlightening fact of faith is an example of an epiphany. Or, it might be a moment when we become increasingly aware of Jesus’ presence. Since it is the beginning of the new year of 2018, now is a good opportunity for each of us to set the goal of becoming more receptive to personal epiphanies. May our epiphanies cause us to bow down and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Manger to Mansion for Me

Christmas is past but our house is still a mess because of our celebration. Consequently, I continue to think about the messy manger. What a mess! Messy manger – messy world – messy house – is there a “messy me” as well?

Throughout Advent, we unpacked how Jesus was born in a messy manger. We came to the conclusion that He is not uncomfortable in our messy hearts or the messy world today. However, Jesus does not leave us in a mess. Philippians 3:20a assures us, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Yet, there is a preparation process. Acts 3:19 tells us to, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Another verse to consider is I Thessalonians 3:13, “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” When Jesus returns, whether our hearts are messy or cleaned up will determine where we will spend eternity. Listen to what Jesus says about His coming again in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

As a young girl, I heard a fictional story of a little boy who reminisced on Christmas night about the joy of celebrating the holiday. At the end, the boy said, “Now I have to wait 365 days to celebrate Christmas again!” According to the calendar, this is true. However, Christmas is more than one day of festivities. While Christmas is a celebration of the first coming of Jesus to earth as a baby, He promises to come again. No one knows the time when He will return – it may be tomorrow or it may be in another 365 days or it may be more years than we can comprehend. Luke 12:40 informs us, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

While living on earth, Jesus promised in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. When Jesus first came to earth, we gave Him a messy manger. Now, He is preparing a majestic mansion for us in heaven. What a contrast! When I refer to the manger of Jesus, I am speaking of the natural world, but when I refer to the mansion Jesus is preparing, I am speaking of the spiritual world. Continuing with this comparison, we can say that Jesus experienced a natural birth to make it possible for us to be spiritually born again. In John 3:3 NLT Jesus emphasizes, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” John 3:16 clearly states, “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.” When our spirits are born again, we are assured of eternal life. Today, we are waiting for Him to come again to earth to take us to His spiritual mansion. In summary, we can say that Jesus humbled himself when He came to earth and lived in a temporal home as a human being so that we can be lifted up into the mansion He prepares as our eternal home. John tells us in Revelation 21:3-5, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

When Jesus was born as a baby, most people missed His coming. As far as we know, many residents of Bethlehem were oblivious to His birth. However, when He comes again no one will miss Him. Luke 21:27 says, “they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” And, within Revelation 1:7 we are told,”… every eye will see Him….” During December we have taken time to prepare for Christmas. Now as we near the beginning of a new year, may we take time to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ second coming. Let’s clean up our messy mangers. We do not want to miss His return!

Let Jesus Grow Up

nativity-silhouettecross-and-crownIt is the second week of January and my Christmas decorations are now packed away until next Christmas. While wrapping up the figures of our nativity set, I held the wooden Jesus figurine in my hands and felt the prompting in my heart that I must be diligent to not put Jesus away in my life. We have just celebrated the birth of Jesus, but I must carry Him in my heart and allow Him to grow throughout 2017. I want to grow in my faith, and in order to do that, I must keep Jesus at the center of all I think and do.

The world may tend to think of Jesus only on December 25 but that was not God’s plan when He sent His Son to earth as a baby. During this past Christmas season, our son-in-law, Jamey, commented that the world is not threatened by Jesus as a baby. They just do not allow Him grow up. A baby is innocent and represents the nature of mankind as God created it to be before the serpent and sin entered Adam and Eve. Jesus’ innocence is not threatening to the world when He is an infant. However, as Jesus matures into His ministry, He becomes a threat to those of the world because He continues to be holy and innocent and sinless in contrast to the fallen nature of mankind today. Those with a worldly view celebrate the birth of Jesus in their own way, but not from a spiritual perspective.

Notes in the Life Application Bible point out that “Every birth is a miracle and every child is a gift from God. But 20 centuries ago, there was the miracle of miracles. A baby was born, but he was the Son of God. With a divine Father and human mother, Jesus entered history.” This baby was God in the flesh. Jesus was born as an infant who could do nothing on his own. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus grew to become a man able to fulfill His mission on earth. He was fully human. Although He developed in all the ways like us, He remained fully God. He took no shortcuts and was not isolated from the pressures and temptations of life. There are no shortcuts for us either as we prepare for a life of service to God.

We must not be afraid to let Jesus grow up. Also, we are created to grow up with Him and in Him. God gives us the reason He sent His Son to earth as a baby in John 3:16, “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.” Jesus came to earth as a baby to grow up and die as a man to give us eternal life. When we ask the grown up Jesus to take away our sins, we are born again and we become new creations in Christ. Then we can mature from newborn babes in Christ to men and women of God. II Peter 3:18 tells us to, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!” We can only grow in our faith in Christ as we allow Jesus to grow. The Christmas season is past but Jesus is present. Jesus assures us of this fact by saying in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My Reader, may 2017 be a year of spiritual growth for all of us!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Don’t Just Do It!

just-do-itdo-whatever-avJust Do It” is a trademark of the Niki brand. As a sports logo, it is an encouragement for all athletes to just go out and do whatever sport they may choose. Not a bad slogan, but I want to do more than just do it. I want  to “Do whatever He tells you.” To clarify, “He” is Jesus and these words are recorded in John 2:5. Mary spoke these words to the servants at the wedding in Cana when the supply of wine was depleted.

“Do whatever He tells you.”
John 2:5

I am thinking about these words as we begin 2017. I am not fond of New Year’s resolutions because most of us, myself included, tend to break them before many days have passed. However, this time of year offers me the opportunity to re-evaluate my life goals. I try to prioritize such things as how much time I will spend writing my blogs and how many days a week I will commit to volunteer endeavors. Family and friends, household duties and errands rightfully occupy significant space in my time. I just need to do whatever He tells me! But, how do I know what He tells me to do? I find my answer in Psalm 32.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
Psalm 32:8

This promise was spoken to David by the Lord. It is also a promise that the Lord gives to help me know what He wants me to do. However, I must make it a priority to listen for Him if I am to hear from Him! So, here is something for me to add to my To Do list for every day of the new year just as David did in another Psalm.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3

Beginning each day with prayer must be a priority! As I look closely at David’s words, I become aware that he not only spoke to God but He also expected to  hear from God. I must follow David’s example if I want to do whatever Jesus tells me to do. This is the only way I will know what He is telling me to do! However, I cannot just lie in bed all day. It is time for action and I follow the guidance of James.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says.
James 1:22

Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus said and now James tells those reading his letter to do what the word of God says. It doesn’t matter if I think I can do it or not because Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The Lord will equip me to do whatever He tells me to do! One day God may just tell me to put one foot in front of the other while another day He may tell me to contact a friend I have not seen in a long time. Ann Voskamp has said, “Miracles keep happening in the mundane.” The Lord may just be telling me to do something simple. Ann Voskamp also assures me that my Heavenly Father is infinitely bigger than my fears, so I do not need to be afraid of anything He may tell me to do. Surprisingly though, the most important thing He is asking me to do is to deepen my relationship with Him. My goals for 2017 are not simply a “just do it” list. My life goal is “Do whatever He tells me to do.” This requires much more commitment than New Year’s resolutions.

May God bless and guide you throughout 2017!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

 

End the Year with Gideon

 

colored-candlesHow do I describe the month of December? Busy! A good busy, but busy. Now it is time for me to take time to reflect upon not only the past few weeks but the whole year in general. Listen to the message of the quote below taken from the December 24 entry of Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman.

Yet our time is never more profitably spent
than when we set aside time for quiet meditation,
talking with God, and looking up to heaven.”

When I first read these words, I was too busy to do what was suggested. I know it would have been to my benefit to sit by the manger and look into the eyes of Jesus, the baby who became my Savior, but I did not choose to tarry in His presence. Now at the end of the year, I want to accept the challenge of setting aside time for quiet meditation. And, My Reader, I challenge you to do the same.

spread yourself like Gideon’s fleece,
allowing itself to be soaked with the moisture of the dew of heaven.
We should have intervals of time when we do nothing, think nothing,
and plan nothing but simply lie on the green lap of nature and “rest awhile.”

These words are also from December 24th reading in Streams in the Desert. I like the image of my lying down and soaking in the presence of God. After all the commotion of Christmas, I tend to have a feeling of spiritual dryness regarding some aspects of my life. The dew of heaven is very appealing! I want to drink in the Lord’s nearness. I desire to sit in the lap of my Lord. I open my Bible to the story of Gideon.

Then Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel
by my hand as You have promised –
look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.
If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry,
then will I know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You said.”
And that is what happened. Gideon arose early the next day;
he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a bowl full of water.
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me.
Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test
with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground
covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry;
all the ground was covered with dew.
Judges 6:36-40

Commentators have criticized Gideon for testing God, but that is not my focus today. I want to think about what happened for Gideon with his fleece. I reread some handwritten notes in my Bible that suggested the fleece represented Gideon himself. When the fleece was wet, it promised Gideon that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit who would empower him to fulfill the task the Lord was asking of him. When the fleece was dry, it assured Gideon that even though he felt dry, God could and would still use him. The message for me today is that even though I feel tired and dry at the end of 2016, if I will bring myself before the Lord, I will experience the presence and power of His Spirit. He is just waiting for me to lie down in His green pastures in order to be refreshed with His quiet water. (see Psalm 23:2)

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31

This is how I want to end the year of 2016. I want to take time to be alone with Jesus in a restful quiet place. Judges 6:24 tells how Gideon had made an altar to the Lord and had called it “The Lord is Peace.” I find it interesting that Gideon knew God as his source of peace before he made his petition to the Lord regarding the dryness and wetness of the fleece in Judges 6:36-40. He may have needed this extra reassurance of a sign from the Lord as to how God worked in his life. Maybe he had been busy working on the threshing floor and needed a touch from the Lord before he began his next assignment. Maybe he needed an additional anointing. I have been reading the words “Peace on Earth” on Christmas cards and singing about it through the words of the traditional Christmas carols. However, I have not been experiencing the peace that passes understanding to its fullest extent. I, like Gideon, need a fresh anointing.

My Reader, how are you feeling today? Are you still too caught up in the busyness of Christmas celebrations? I pray you will find a quiet place and take time to drink in some of the dew of heaven. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with His presence so that you will be able to spend your time more profitably in 2017.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

My Reasoning about Resolutions

 

new-year-1

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,
the Beginning and the End.
Revelation 22:13

The end of 2015 will be tomorrow and the following day will be the beginning of 2016. The end to an old year and the beginning of a new year. Revelation 22 makes reference to the Lord being the beginning and the end. I find it interesting to relate this scripture verse to this time of the calendar year. Can I correlate these beginnings and endings?

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Making New Year’s resolutions is a common practice during this season of the year. After reading Proverbs 16, I want to consider New Year’s resolutions from a different perspective. This year, rather than my choosing what resolutions I want for my life, I am allowing the Lord to inspire my resolutions. Ultimately, if the Lord is the one to direct my steps, I will benefit from allowing Him to plan my ways. God has created me with a freewill to make my own choices but I will be wise to yield to His will. I want to follow His leading.

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.
Isaiah 55:8-9

This verse reveals my shortcomings. If the Lord’s thoughts and ways are so much better than mine, then I want to seek His thoughts and ways. What He has in store for me is better than any resolution or intention I might perceive. It is exciting to think about what the Lord may be thinking about for me!

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me
Psalm 138:8 ESV

If I make my own New Year’s resolutions, I will most likely keep them for only a limited period of time. It has been said that New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. However, the Psalmist assures me that the Lord will not fail to fulfill His purpose, or His resolutions, for me. Why should I try to do something I probably will not be able to consistently do throughout the coming year when I can rely upon God who will help me to accomplish His plans and purposes?

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.
Jeremiah 29:11

This is a reassuring promise! The Lord knows best! If I want the Lord to fulfill His plans for me, then I want to make my decisions according to His desires. It is futile for me to create my own list of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I will spend time this New Year’s Eve in prayer asking the Lord to reveal His plans to me.

And he that sat upon the throne said,
Behold, I make all things new.
Revelation 21:5 NKJV

The Lord makes all things new – that includes the New Year of 2016! My Reader, will you join me in allowing the Lord to direct your steps and fulfill His plans for your life in the coming year? This is the best way to make 2016 the best year possible!

Happy New Year!
May the Lord Bless You throughout 2016!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new