Posted by: Jo | May 1, 2021

Sanctified Bait

“Come follow me”, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

(Matthew 4: 19)

My husband was an avid fisherman and when he was a little boy, in Australia, his father, also an avid fisherman, taught him how to feed the worms on the hook, where the best place in the lake to throw the line and then the patience to wait for that exciting tug on the line that signified a fish had taken the bait. When he grew up, the ocean was the next place to practice his skills, but when we moved to Canada, he then had to learn quite a different skill to catch trout in the cooler waters here, and again became proficient not only in casting, but in learning how to make the intricate little flies that attracted the trout.

I was thinking about him when Jesus spoke somewhat strange words to his first disciples, “I will make you fishers of men.” And another strange memory came back to me. When I was younger, I joined a group of women in my church who had a weekly Bible Study. Once a month we had a lunch to which we were encouraged to ask friends and neighbors to attend. The idea was to tell others who may not be believers to come and know Jesus. Our leader had a name, just between ourselves for this lunch, “Sanctified Bait”, to inspire us to become fishers of men.

The leader explained that when Jesus told his disciples that they were going to be fishers of men, he was telling them that they were to attract others, so they longed to find out who Jesus was. This was not for their glory but to glorify the Heavenly Father.

Jesus told this to his disciples.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15: 8)

When my husband was making replicas of those tiny insects that lived in the lake, he had to make sure they were exactly like the real ones so that the trout would be attracted to them. That was what our leader was telling us to be, a copy of Jesus and how he showed us how to live so we would exhibit his love /compassion/ forgiveness to others so they would want to seek him for themselves. Not for our glory but for the glory of the Heavenly Father.

So how do we do just that?

If we want to be true replicas of Jesus, we must look closely at how he lived while on earth, to listen to his wisdom, absorb his commands, and remember that he has given us his Holy Spirit to help us to do that and to keep in touch with him daily through prayer and reading God’s word.

Paul entreats the new believers to have the attitude of Christ.

“Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2: 5)

We can learn to become, “Sanctified Bait”

Posted by: Jo | April 17, 2021

Aging Gracefully

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another”

(John 1: 16)

I have definitely reached that stage in life when I am classified as old. In today’s society to be old is something we have to postpone as long as possible with the media swamping us with ways of how to do this. Perfect cream for wrinkles/ face lifts/ plastic surgery/ vitamin pills/ exercise. The other day I saw an article prompting this theory with this intriguing title “Aging Gracefully”. When I read it, I had a totally different idea of what that title meant for me. We can age gracefully without all the above because we are filled with grace from the Heavenly Father and that is the true meaning of graceful, filled with grace.

Scripture is very encouraging about getting older, especially if we are following in the Lord’s footsteps.

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92: 12 – 14)

What a wonderful promise, what an encouraging word that even as we grow older, we will still be able to bear fruit for the Lord.

When we look carefully at what it means to bear fruit, it is interesting to see that no mighty deeds are mentioned, no achieving greatness everyone will admire, no working day and night so God will notice what we are doing, but an incredible change in how our natures can change so we can reflect the grace of God to all those we come in contact with so they will feel his love and long to know him. The other encouraging thing to note especially for those who are old, is that all the fruit mentioned is equally possible without any physical strength needed. We do not need to be young to bear fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self – control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 22)

Paul often began his letters with this beautiful blessing and reminder.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1: 2)

Later on, he reminds them that this blessing of grace is not a one time thing, it continues through our whole lives.

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1: 6)

I do not see any promises of being able to run marathons when we are old (not that I ever could do that!!) but knowing the fruit of the Spirit is always there to fill our beings is a wonderful promise and when I become weary, I sing one of my favourite songs we sing at my church.

The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Posted by: Jo | March 24, 2021

Let The Sunshine In

“But they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength”

(Judges 4: 11)

I live in Vancouver, Canada. One of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its back drop is majestic mountains that overlook an equally, beautiful harbour, that leads out to the sparkling ocean where a rushing mighty river also exits from the land. Unfortunately, for me anyway, the climate leaves much to be desired, rain and grey days feature much of the winter and often spoil summer days. Friends who live in Eastern Canada are horrified when I say that as heavy snow and below freezing temperatures are their lot and they envy our mild winters, but I was born in sunny Australia and miss the sun! 

When we were children growing up, we had a song we loved singing and it went like this, 

Oh, let the sunshine in

Say it with a grin!

Smiles never lose.

And frowns never win.

So, open up your hearts and let the sunshine in!

The verse in Judges, (5:11), written thousands of year ago, echoes that sweet children’s song and when we love and follow the Lord, we can be that sunshine for all those around us even when it is a grey day. The world is experiencing a grey time, now, as the pandemic continues to attack humans and take away lives, it is hard not to feel downcast with restrictions in place, but when we think of being able to spread the joy of sunshine it gives us impetus when we know that the Lord will help us to do that. Also, our own spirits lift as mine did as a little girl when we began to grin while we sang that little ditty. 

Radiant faces are spoken of in scripture and sunshine and shining like the sun is contributed to our Heavenly Father and when the prophet, Habakkuk sees a vision of God this is the description. 

“His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hands where his power was hidden” (Habakkuk 3: 4)

Jesus who was the very essence of God, is transformed in front of Peter, James and John and his face shines like the sun. 

“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as the light.” (Matthew 17: 2)

Sunshine is proving to be beneficial in stopping the spread of this covid19 that is creating havoc in our world and health authorities are now offering hope that as summer arrives cases here will ease. 

Sometimes life does take on a feeling of gloom and if we allow it to overcome us it can do a lot of damage in our lives and sometimes of course we are justified in feeling low as circumstances overwhelm us, but if we go and read the verse in Judges (Judges 4:  11) we find that if we spend time with the Lord his warmth will give us strength. 

So, open up your heart and let the sunshine in!

Posted by: Jo | March 7, 2021

Not Alone

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(Matthew 28: 20)

I have been just reading an article on the tragic, effects loneliness has on people and in this present time of isolation and restrictions to social gatherings in our communities due to the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly obvious how widespread this is. Old people, and those living alone are being overwhelmed with sad thoughts and becoming deeply depressed.  

When Jesus was leaving his disciples, he knew they had each other, but he also knew they were going to be lost without him so his beautiful gift to them, and to those who would believe in him, was to fill them with his Holy Spirit to be with them for always (Matthew 28:20).

He also knew that we would not be able to make it through life on our own, so he graciously gave us his Holy Spirit to dwell right in our hearts. 

“We know that we live in him and he lives in us, because he has given us his Spirit.” (1 John 4: 13)

So, we are never alone. 

“he anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts, as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1: 22)

When we know that Christ’s Spirit dwells with us, now wherever we are, we can share that Spirit with others so they too do not feel alone. Thanks to modern conveniences we can still even though rules of in person gatherings are restricted, use the telephone/ Face time/Zoom send letters to those not familiar with computers. Just having someone contact us is a huge blessing. Even when I am out walking with my mask firmly on. I try to say Good Morning and I wave to neighbors I know. 

The book of Ecclesiastes emphases how important it is to have somebody in your life who cares for you, 

“If one falls down his friend can help him up…” (Ecclesiastes 4: 10)

I read a sweet story about a little boy who was in bed upstairs when a wild, storm started with thunder and lightning and he called out to his parents that he was frightened, They reply, Jesus will keep you safe and he cried out, I want someone with skin on. 

Although we may smile at the little boy’s response, there is a lot of truth to how often we and lots of lonely ones agree with the little boy. We can be the “skin on” for others and bring the warmth of Jesus Christ through looking out for others especially the lonely and shut in. 

Jesus also gave us the beautiful gift of being considered his friend and one of my old, favorite hymns has that title. 

What a friend we have in Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

So, these words assure us, we are never alone! 

Posted by: Jo | February 20, 2021

Perfect Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you”

(Isaiah 26: 3)

I grew up during the World War II. As a child and as a little girl I did not understand what was happening, but I do remember my parents straining to hear the latest news from the radio and we children were forbidden to make any noise while the news was on. I also remember being aware of my parent’s anxiety and remember their gasps of horror as they heard of yet another ship being sunk and our young soldiers dying.

The other thing I did not understand was how often I would hear the word peace. I wondered when this would happen and as the years dragged on, I thought that was something that would never happen. I also wondered what that word meant. Would there be no fighting ever again/ would there be no hate/ would the whole world just love one another? Would my parents stop gasping when they heard the news?

As I grew up, I realized peace was not a universal good will between all countries or between people, families, cultures and races, It was not until I began to really read the Bible that I found the only perfect peace was attainable through knowing and following Jesus Christ and living his way.

When the prophet, Isaiah, was prophesying about the coming Messiah, he said one of his titles would be, Prince of Peace.

“And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father Price of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

When the angels were announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, they promised that the beautiful gift of peace was coming with this new baby.

“Glory to God on the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2: 14)

The peace that is promised is extremely hard for humans to understand and when Paul is writing to the Philippian believers, he explains that this peace transcends all human understanding. It has one special quality we can all understand. If we choose to be blessed by this peace our hearts and minds will be guarded so Jesus Christ will always be foremost.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 7)

Sometimes there are bumps in the road of life and it is hard to understand why and to have that perfect peace. That is when we need to remember that our understanding is not enough and one of my favorite verses is in the book of Proverbs.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5)

And we also need to remember that peace is a gift from Jesus himself, but like any gift we have to accept it to experience it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27)

Posted by: Jo | January 30, 2021

The Ministry Of Reconciliation

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”

(2 Corinthians 5:  18)

Many countries in the world are in turmoil with the people being divided by hate, injustice, race, poverty and these emotions escalating into riots and warfare, at this time in history the United States of America, is exhibiting the terrible effects of what happens when mankind is no longer interested to hearing from others their grievances or even trying to hear what they are saying.

When Paul is writing to the Corinth church, he reminds them of how Jesus led the way and showed us what reconciliation meant, by his death on the cross he reconciled us to the Heavenly Father, so what is the important message for us?

The dictionary provides an answer to what to reconcile means:

To set estranged persons or parties as one again, to bring back into concord, to reunite in harmony.

When we can grasp that we were once estranged from our Heavenly Father we begin to understand the incredible act Jesus performed on the cross to bring about reconciliation between us and the Father.

When Paul calls believers to a ministry of reconciliation, he is, telling us that practicing reconciliation becomes part of our heritage of following Jesus Christ and what we must constantly strive to accomplish in our own lives.

Again, in the book of Romans we read Paul entreating his readers and that also means us, to accept one another

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15: 7)

I met a lady once who had had a bad experience joining a church and this is what she confided in me, “I never felt I was accepted into the congregation and nobody noticed when I left.”  I felt very, sad hearing that story and knew that even in our churches we do not practice the true ministry of reconciliation.

Even within our own family and our friends discord happens, but it does not need to develop into a wide gap that can never be bridged. James in his letter gives us some ways to prevent that happening.

He spends a lot of time telling his readers how our tongues can bring about division and destroy relationships, his advice is still very, true today.

“My dear brothers take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:  19 – 20)

We may not be able to solve huge discord in countries, but we can certainly pray for reconciliation for those divided by hate and Jesus tells us to pray for God to intervene.

“Deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6: 13)

Also, when we strive to bring about peace in our families, between friends, in our church families we are pleasing our Father and truly practicing the ministry he wants to see flourishing. 

“Peacemakers who sow in peace, raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3: 18)

Posted by: Jo | January 10, 2021

Whose Child Am I?

“You are the children of the Lord your God”

(Deuteronomy 14: 1)

I am reading a very thought provoking and sometimes sad book, written by a friend of my daughter. Her friend was adopted and although her adopted parents told her she was, she spent her childhood and well into her life agonizing about whose real child she was. Not only that big question haunted her, but she also lived constantly under the fear of perhaps if she wasn’t well behaved her adopted parents may give her back to where they had adopted her from. She constantly worried about why her mother decided to give her up/ was she an ugly baby/ was she sickly/ what was the bad thing about her that made her mother abandon her? Would her adopted parents after a while, realize, they had made a mistake and they too would stop loving her?

The book made me think deeply about how many of us might also have fears about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, perhaps thinking like the adopted girl in the story, that the Father would only continue to love us if we were good and pleased him, not completely understanding the amazing incredible everlasting love the Father has for his children.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with everlasting kindness.” (Jeremiah 31: 3)

What an incredible reminder! His love does not fluctuate to sometimes to hardly ever. His love is everlasting. Love so amazing we are overcome in awe at being the recipients of such love.

When we read Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah to come, we again see a wonderful reminder that Jesus Christ will have the same characteristics, assuring us again to expect that everlasting paternal love

“…He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

The other incredible happening because of Jesus coming to save us is that Jesus invites us to speak to God directly and allows us the privilege of calling him, Father. He tells us we are now allowed to speak to the Creator of the universe, as his child and can address him as, Father. Jesus actually teaches us the right way to pray.

“This then is how you should pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9)

We may lose our earthly fathers, but the comforting thought remains we cannot ever lose the everlasting love of our heavenly Father.

When we remember how great his love is, we never ever have to wonder if we are living up to a set of rules so he will love us.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” (1 John 3: 1)

Posted by: Jo | December 16, 2020

Come Let Us Adore Him

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord”

(Luke 2: 11)

One of my favourite carols always sums up the true meaning of Christmas for me and as we sang it last Sunday (of course at our virtual church) the same feeling of awe that sweeps over me encompassed me again and I am reminded of the enormity of this priceless gift. 

O, come let us adore him

O, come let us adore him

O, come let us adore him

Christ the Lord

Unfortunately, Christmas celebrations now look vastly different from how the simple shepherds reacted that very first morning. These simple peasants were visited by a choir of angels, imagine listening to angels singing, and so amazing that these people were the first to hear that a King had been born. Their response is also amazing they left no time in rushing to Bethlehem to find this royal baby not stopping to have some huge feast to celebrate among themselves. 

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Lets go to Bethlehem and see the thing that has happened that the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2: 15)

The Bible does not say this, but I think they would have been incredibly surprised about finding this precious baby, the King, being in a stable and not some grand and fitting location for this amazing royal Saviour, the Messiah. 

Their other reaction is also a wonderful lesson for us when we think deeply about how we react to this incredible gift from our Heavenly Father. They immediately ran to tell everyone they knew about this wonderous happening and everyone they told were equally amazed. 

“When they have seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds had told them.” (Luke 2: 17 – 18)

I looked up what the dictionary defined as the meaning of “adore” and this is what I found. 

To regard with utmost reverence and affection

To be in awe on Christmas morning is a wonderful response for us as well as we contemplate this as Paul says “an indescribable gift” 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9: 15)

I read an unusual Christmas card this year that sums what I have been trying to write, all it said was a simple sentence 

Celebrate the miracle of Christmas

This pandemic has made normal Christmas celebrations to be quite different and in a strange way it has scaled down a lot of what we must focus on/ less harried shopping/ huge meals to prepare/ office parties to endure/ etc. This year will give us all time to marvel at the miracle of this special baby born as a king, the Messiah, we can adore him in the true sense of what that word means.

Posted by: Jo | November 29, 2020

The Greatest Priority

“But seek first his kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well”

(Mathew 6: 33)

We all have priorities in our lives and of course they change as we grow older, study, beginning our long sought after job, marrying having children, retiring but there is one unchanging priority that we often overlook as life becomes busy and we become distracted by that long list of what we have to do today, and we forget if we fulfilled that one first, life would take on quite a different outlook. Seeking the Lord’s guidance is the greatest priority and Jesus promises us if we do this first, all those other pressing priorities will become manageable under his guidance. 

Jesus makes this truly clear when the people begin to question him about what is most important in their lives and this is what he says. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mathew 23: 37)

Of course, there are other important factors in our lives, but we can include them and include the Lord as well. Being a parent, running the home perhaps also working, demands we carry out the other priorities but when we are sending the children off to school we can have a brief prayer with them Meals have to be prepared but simply thanking God before we eat includes him. Scripture tells us to teach our children about his word. We can do this by reading the Bible to them. Moses encourages parents to do this. 

“Teach them to your children and their children after them” (Deuteronomy 4: 9) 

Exercise is important for our bodies, but again if we are walking or running outside it is a wonderful time to include the Lord by speaking to him while we exercise. Even on the treadmill or biking is a good time for prayer. 

Our jobs are important, but if we have a long drive to work, we can also spend time talking to him. It is amazing how modern man has devised smart phones that allow us to contact others when ever we want to, but it has always been possible to talk to the Father without a cell phone and whenever we need to.

One of my favourite verses that I have quoted many times on this blog, is such a good reminder on how to cope with the demands of daily life It has also been converted into a song and puts it quite simply. Recognise the Heavenly Father in all aspects of your life and all the other priorities will fall into place. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 4 – 6)

Posted by: Jo | November 16, 2020

Patience

“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and patience”

(Colossians 3: 12)

Patience is not very evident in todays society. We have all fallen into the trap of wanting everything instantly. Instant coffee, instant boiled rice. We open the microwave, so food is quickly warmed. Buy packaged food ready to eat. Order pizza. Letter writing is almost a thing of the past. Texting a person means the message is delivered immediately We fume if our computers are not giving us instant feed back, so it is interesting to read how many times patience and practising it is mentioned in Scripture. The other amazing thing to notice is that patience is a characteristic of God. 

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance.” (Romans 2: 4)

Paul realises this beautiful quality in the Lord Jesus and writes to Timothy and the church of new believers, so they too can recognise and practice this in their daily life. 

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus may display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1: 16)

Perhaps one of the difficult times to practice patience is with people. Being caught in the line up behind someone so slow at unpacking the buggy or someone having a seemingly endless argument with the cashier about a disputed price of an article can try our patience, or sadly, learning to be patient with those who are struggling with mental disabilities, the very old, the very young. Many of the epistles in the New Testament urge followers to be patient with one another. 

But the hardest of all is when we are facing daunting and sometimes very troubling circumstances in our own lives and we want an instant answer to our prayers from God. Paul again reminds us that is probably the most important time to be patient in affliction and to trust him. 

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12: 12)

Upheavals in or lives can make us very impatient waiting for solutions so solve our problems. We can become anxious, angry, even becoming very depressed.  We long for God to answer quickly often not realising that the quick solution we want may not be the right one. This is again when God speaks through his word and reminds us to stop this frantic worrying and to remember God’s patience and who he is. 

“Be still, and know that I am God….” (Psalm 46: 10)

We sing a beautiful song at our church that is based on Isaiah verses 28- 31 and wonderful  advice  for all of us living through the worry of a pandemic reminding us to be patient and wait for the Lord’s direction and he will hold us up while we wait 

Those that wait upon the Lord

Will renew their strength

They will soar on wings like eagles

They will run and not grow weary,

They will walk and not grow faint

Teach me Lord teach me Lord to wait

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