A Cart Full of Blessings

Sometimes I grocery shop at a store that keeps it carts chained together. To retrieve a cart, I insert a quarter into a slot that releases a cart. When returning the cart and attaching it to the cart corral, a quarter is released.

Recently as I headed to the carts, a gentleman gave me his unchained cart. I offered him my quarter but he said it had been passed on to him and he wanted to do the same. I responded that I would follow his example. I thanked him for the cart and told him he was a blessing.

As I wheeled the cart up and down the grocery aisles, I thanked the Lord for the cart I had received. I also asked God to help me extend this cart to the right person. I prayed that God would bless my cart – and the next recipient.

When I concluded my shopping, I offered my cart to a lady. She thanked me and said she would pass it on to another person. I do not know what happened next.

Later, I reflected upon this encounter. God showed me something supernatural through this natural experience.

As I thought about the shopping cart corral, I realized that the locked carts could symbolize people in bondage. They were all locked up! A cart could only be set free when someone inserted a quarter in the little lock box. The Lord’s says in Jeremiah 40:4, “But now, behold, I am freeing you today from the chains which are on your hands.”

Our lives are of greater value than shopping carts. Jesus paid the price for our freedom.
I Corinthians 6:20 NLT says, “God bought you with a high price.” And Titus 2:14 NLT says,He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people.We are not required to stay chained up like carts.

Jesus paid the price of His life – much more than a quarter. If I had not been given a cart, I would have only paid twenty-five cents to receive one. And then, I would have gotten my quarter back when I returned the cart. Jesus does not take back His payment. According to John 8:36, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” He paid the price. The debt is canceled. Jesus will never return us to bondage.

At the beginning of the day, all the grocery carts were chained together. Because of one person’s generosity of a quarter, a chain reaction began. One person gave away one cart. By day’s end, numerous people had received a free cart.

God also gave. According to John 3:16, “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.” He still offers this gift of eternal life to anyone who will receive it. People did not reject a free grocery cart. How much more valuable is the gift God is extending?

I had the privilege of being part of a chain reaction that offered a free grocery cart to other shoppers. As Christians, we have the privilege of participating in a chain reaction that offers freedom from sin to those chained to the bondage of sin.

My Reader, do you desire to be set free? Ask Jesus into your heart and He will set you free.
II Corinthians 3:17 says,Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

If you are already free, I encourage you to be a part of the chain reaction passing along this freedom to those who are still in chains. Follow the command of Jesus stated in Mark 16:15, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

 

 

 

 

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Untangle What Is Tangled

A friend shared about her granddaughter getting a brush entangled in her hair. Way too many snarls! My friend was able to release the brush by massaging hair conditioner into her granddaughter’s locks of hair.

As Debbie and I talked, we compared her granddaughter’s experience with how we can become entangled in worldly situations. We need the anointing of the oil of the Holy Spirit to free us from our snarls of life.

Scriptures help validate this concept.

The Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin,
so we receive God’s promise of freedom
only by believing in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:22 NLT

My friend was able to free the brush from her granddaughter’s tangled hair. Hebrews 12:1 says sin easily entangles us. So, we need freedom from our sins – our entanglements with worldly ways. Faith in Christ is our solution.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Physically, a brush was no longer stuck in the little girl’s snarly hair. Spiritually, this verse confirms our freedom from spiritual snares and sinful snarls.

When people escape from the wickedness of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then
get tangled up and enslaved by sin again,
they are worse off than before.

II Peter 2:20

When trying to free the brush by herself, the little girl only created more tangles. The same is true for us. We need help to be released from our entanglements. Christ frees us from the snarls of sin. Nevertheless, we must be aware that it is possible to become entwined again. Then we would be in a worse situation.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Romans 8:26 ESV

Neither Debbie nor her granddaughter were able to release the entangled brush. Applying hair conditioner was the answer. Little by little, Debbie applied more conditioning solution. Little by little, she was able to untwist the brush from the knots in the hair. There are times when we are twisted by temptations and knotted in snarls of sin. We may become too weak to get ourselves out of these situations. However, there is help for us – the Holy Spirit is our spiritual conditioner. In John 14:16, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be our Helper forever.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Debbie hopes her granddaughter learned a lesson through the knots in her hair. However, she also realizes it could happen again. The same is true for us. Christ has set us free. However, knots of iniquities can again tie us up – we can become yoked to slavery. Be strong in the Lord – stay free!

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in
My name,
He will teach you all things and bring to
your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26 ESV

Grandmother helped granddaughter with her hair. The Holy Spirit is our Helper.

The Bleeding Rose

While on vacation, we left our car in a protected parking lot when we flew to our next destination. Upon our return, I climbed into the car and found a red rose wrapped in cellophane on the seat. I held it while we drove. The outside temperature was below 20 degrees. When we entered our motel, I cuddled my rose between a couple of pillows to protect it from the cold.

Once in our room, I placed the rose beside me as I sat on the bed. I saw more than a red rose. Symbolically, I saw the Rose of Christ. The red floral blossom gently spread it petals in a circle. Beautiful red petals. But wait – the pool of petals looked like a puddle of spilled-out blood. Red petals of a flower – red blood spilled from my Savior’s wounds. His blood always speaks of life – eternal life, not death.

I also looked at the green stem and leaves. They, too, symbolized life. Green is a color of life. Were there thorns on the stem? No, they had been cut off so not to stick me. However, the thorns on Jesus’ crown cut into His head. Those thorns painfully pierced the head of my Savior.

I checked to see if my rose needed water. No, the floral stem had been placed in a little vial of water. However, that was not the case for Jesus. While on the cross, He was thirsty. He was not given a drink of water. He was only given a sponge soaked in sour vinegar.

The following morning, I took the rose in the car with us. It rested on my lap as we traveled down the highway. Jesus walked the road to Golgotha. His wounded head was never held in the lap of a loved one. I took my rose into the restaurant with me when we stopped for lunch. The waitress commented on my flower. I wondered if I carried Jesus with me in such a way that others saw His presence in me.

Our next destination was a B&B where we stayed for several days. Since there was a bouquet of fresh flowers in our room, I nestled my rose among the various blossoms. It added beauty to the bouquet. Jesus mingled with men and women when He lived on the earth. He imparted love into their lives.  He added beauty.

After a couple of days, I noticed that my rose had begun to droop its head. I guess it was telling me that its life was being extinguished. As Jesus died upon the cross, He bowed His head and cried, “It is finished!” I saw one or two dark red petals on the table beside the vase of flowers. Was I simply seeing floral petals or were they symbols of the tears shed by Jesus as death approached? I sensed that I was observing tears of liquid love, tears of blood – drops of blood rather than just dried floral petals.

My blooming rose died. The bleeding Rose of Christ died and rose again. Hallelujah!

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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Common and Uncommon

name-of-jesus

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form
of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found
in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to
the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly
exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who
are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue
will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-9 NAS

As I begin reading Paul’s words in this portion of the second chapter of Philippians, I sense the development of a theme contrasting the common and uncommon, the natural and supernatural, the ordinary and extraordinary. Let me share with you what I am thinking.

Paul begins by portraying Jesus as the Son of God who also became the Son of Man when He left the supernatural realm of heaven to come down to the natural realm of earth. He set aside His spirit nature to take on human nature. To use Paul words in verse 7, “Jesus emptied Himself and came to earth in the likeness of mankind.” The uncommon became common. We celebrate this occurrence at Christmas when we honor the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary. This was when He became Son of God and Son of Man. Joseph was told by the angel to give Him the name of Jesus. At that time in history, Jesus was a common boy’s name. With the birth of Jesus, that name became a sacred name, an uncommon name. He was given an ordinary name that became extraordinary.

Going back to verse 6, Paul says that while the Son of God reigned with His Father in Heaven, He did not consider equality with God something to hold on to or take advantage of if His Father had other plans for Him. I am quoting the New American Standard Version of the Bible today because I like the image of the word “grasped” in this verse. While Jesus was born as a baby, I picture Him grasping, or holding on to, the finger of His mother Mary. When thinking of the transition for Jesus from heaven to earth, I picture Him letting go of the Hand of God and grasping the hand of Mary. This is a picture of the transition form the supernatural to the natural. It portrays the uncommon becoming common.

In verse 8, we see Jesus as a humble human being. While being Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus died a natural death by crucifixion to fulfill God’s supernatural requirements for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus died the ordinary death of a common criminal that resulted in an extraordinary, uncommon resurrection. I believe it took great humility on Jesus’ part for the uncommon to become common and the ordinary to be come extraordinary.

This leads us to verses 9-11 to conclude our scripture passage. With great humility, Jesus let go of His place in heaven and came to earth to die for all mankind. This was not a common occurrence – it was uncommon! Because of what Jesus did, His Heavenly Father has now placed the common name of Jesus above all names. Today, His name is an uncommon, sacred name. Now it is our turn to humble ourselves and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I seems appropriate to conclude with the words of the praise song Jesus, Name Above All Names by Bill Batstone. Sing it along with me if you wish.

“Jesus, Name Above All Names”

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

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Who Is a Mother?

(Reader – There is one more blog in my trilogy of “Try for Tri” which will appear next Wednesday. This week I wantfree OK Mom to take time to honor our mothers.)

This coming Sunday will be the day set aside for us to honor our mothers.  When thinking about what I wanted to blog about relating to Mother’s Day, I was reminded of a book I used to read to our children entitled Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman.  This is a story about a little bird who fell from his nest while his mother was gone getting him some food.  Throughout the book the bird proceeds to ask several animals and machines if one of them is his mother.  Of course, they are not.  Finally he reconnects with his mother.  His desire for and need of a mother         Happy Mother’s Day was so strong that he would have been willing to connect with  anything or anyone
 who would fulfill the mother role for him.                                                                        

free OK Mom if smallMy Reader, you and I most likely know who our biological mother is or was and we do not need to ask, “Are you my mother?”  Exodus 20:12  tells us to honor our mothers, and it also gives us the promise of long life if we do so.  So, my Reader, honor your mother today.  If you are privileged to still have your mother living, let her know how important she is to you. If you only have mom memories, let those memories honor her.

However, my Reader, have you ever asked the question, “Are you my spiritual mother?”  In I Timothy 5:2, Paul says we are to treat older women as mothers.  The women Paul is referring to are the spiritually mature women.  Just like the little bird in the story who desired to find his mother, God has placed within you and me the desire to have a Christian mom who will help provide for spiritual growth.

free OK Mom if smallI have always related to what Paul says about Timothy in II Timothy 1:5, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”  With this being my situation, my biological mom was also my spiritual mom.  However, my mother died when she was only 56 years old and since then God has blessed me with other godly women who have each been a spiritual mom to me.  These are women who have loved me and spoken words of encouragement and guidance into my life at key times.  My spiritual mom may be chronologically younger or older than I am, but she is definitely more mature in her spiritual walk.  Without these women, I would not be the woman of God I am today.  I like to take time on Mother’s Day to remember my spiritual moms and let them know how they have helped me grow spiritually. How about you, my Reader, can you identify a woman in your life who is your spiritual mother?  Choose a way to honor her this Sunday.

free OK Mom if smallNot only have I been blessed to have biological and spiritual mothers, but I am also blessed to be a biological mom to our children. Now I ask myself, “Has the Lord expanded my motherly instincts for me to be a spiritual mom to others as well?”  Do I have some godly wisdom to share with other women? If so, I must be willing to embrace this role and reach out to these children of God that He has placed in my midst. In Titus 2:3-5, Paul talks about older women teaching younger women to be reverent in the way they live. If I am to teach younger women to live reverently, my lifestyle must be an example.  I must remember that spiritual age is not calculated by the number of years one has lived, but upon the way one has lived as a woman of God.  Being an older woman from this perspective comes with a responsibility.  Now I ask you, my Reader, “Is God calling you to be a spiritual mom?”  If so, I encourage you to make a commitment to the Lord this Mother’s Day telling Him that you are willing to be a spiritual mother. Watch to see who He places into your life.

free OK Mom if smallMay 12, 2013 is Mother’s Day.  I speak to myself as well as to you, my Reader, when I say, “Take time to wish both your biological mom and your spiritual moms a Happy Mother’s Day.  Also remember to be the mother God has called you to be whether it be to your biological children or your spiritual children all year!”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl