Posted by: Jo | December 9, 2018

An Unending Gift Of Prayer

“Pray continually”

(1 Thessalonians 5:17)

PrayContinously01I read a beautiful story recently about an old Christian lady whose health had forced her to live in a Care Home for seniors. She had been an active servant for Christ, constantly involved in all the activities of her church and working in the community with various groups helping the needy, the poor and the disadvantaged. One of the members of her church came to visit her and asked her if she was missing not being involved working for the Lord and how did she now fill her days. Her answer totally surprised the questioner.

Oh no,” she said. “I am busier than I have ever been for the Lord. I now have lots of time to use my gift that never ends, prayer. My friends and visitors keep me busy with their prayer requests. My days are spent in communion with him.

What a good reminder that prayer is really a gift from God. When Moses is talking to the children of Israel, he tells them of the incredible privilege they have of being close to God when they pray.

“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deuteronomy 4: 7)

James also tells us what happens when we use that gift.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you…” (James 4: 8)

Being near to God constantly, means we can hear his voice all through our day. We won’t PrayContinously02be blindly turning down the wrong path because our companion, The Holy Spirit, will be close by to remind us not to make any decisions in life without first consulting him.

Unfortunately, life, in our present age has become more and more frantic, activities, work, exercise, social events, even Sunday is no longer considered a day of rest, so talking to the Lord gets pushed down the priority list of things to do and sometimes the loud voices of the world block out the sound of our Saviour’s voice.

But, like all habits, if we start by making prayer a habit, it slowly becomes something we do every day and we begin to look forward to that special relationship we develop and the benefits we reap can change our whole lives and the lives of others.

Sometimes a quick prayer is needed before we answer a question, Nehemiah was in just that quandary when he was the cup bearer to King Artaxerxes and was asked a question and the answer would mean restoration for his people, but because he was already a man of prayer, he had a quick prayer to God before answering;

“The king said to me, “What is it you want?” “Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king.” (Nehemiah 2: 4 – 5)

Nehemiah’s answer covered by prayer, pleased the king and Nehemiah was able to go back to Judah to help his people with the king’s blessing.

Our answers to questions don’t always carry the responsibility of Nehemiah’s, but we can thank God for his gift, when we remember a quick prayer before we answer those difficult questions, can prevent a lot of heartache for us.

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Posted by: Jo | November 21, 2018

A Plentiful Harvest

“Then he said to his disciples. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers in to the harvest field”

(Matthew 9: 37 – 38)

PlentifulHarvest01I had a very exciting day, this Fall, as my son-in law and my daughter with their two young children, asked me to accompany them on a trip to the Pumpkin Patch to select pumpkins to decorate their house for Halloween.  I had never actually done this before and the adventure began with a beautiful drive into the countryside along winding roads lined with stately trees in their full magnificent Autumn colours.

When we arrived, we met with another daughter and her children, and I was amazed to see so many young families on the same mission. We climbed on to carts filled with hay bales (I needed a bit of help to get on) and a tractor pulled us out to the field of pumpkins. What a sight. Pumpkins lying on the ground as far as the eye could see, a plentiful harvest!

Jesus used this term to describe the number of people longing to hear the good news, but there weren’t enough of his family who were willing to tell them. He was urging his disciples and of course us as well, to begin harvesting. His listeners were very aware of what harvesting meant and especially the term plentiful.

PlentifulHarvest02One of the special celebrations was the Feast of Harvest, also known as the Feast of Weeks. This special Feast was to celebrate God’s special providing of food and the best of the first harvesting was to be brought to the temple and dedicated to him

“Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field.” (Exodus 23: 16)

Harvesting of course requires effort. Effort, first, to sow the seed then to water and cultivate and then the final act of gathering the harvest. If any of the steps are left out, a poor harvest will be the result.

Jesus tells the well-known parable of, The Sower, (Matthew 13: 3) this illustrates the first step always lies in God’s word and the spreading of that word.

The next step is to spread that word with love. God speaks through his prophet, Hosea, telling his people that the seed has to be first planted within ourselves, then it can spread with love.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed land; for it is time to seek the Lord…” (Hosea 10: 12)

The watering and cultivating comes with how we live that loving word so that others are nurtured PlentifulHarvest03through our example and we will witness a plentiful harvest. James gives us some good advice on how to exactly accomplish that.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peace makers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3: 17 – 18)

So, the message is simple, if we allow the word of God to be planted first in our own hearts, and allow it to grow, we will be capable workers to help reap that plentiful harvest for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Jo | November 4, 2018

Saying Sorry From The Heart

“…unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

(Matthew 18: 35)

Forgiveness05When my husband was running his busy Dental Practice, he had wonderful, instructions to all the receptionists who met patients at the front desk, as sometimes they had to deal with angry confrontations, usually concerning billing related to insurance companies. This was his advice to diffuse anger and to calm whoever perceived some sort of wrong doing

“Always begin with the word, Sorry!”

It was amazing that agreeing with the person who was angry, before retaliating with defensive remarks, always allowed a better discussion of the problem.

Forgiving others who are really, angry with us, is often very hard to do and retorting with equally angry words is often the first thing we feel like doing. James has some wise words that somehow need to be imprinted upon our minds, (I seem to forget them often);

“My dear brothers, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1: 19)

Meaning that you are truly sorry is also very difficult that is why Jesus emphasises that when we are saying we forgive somebody it has to genuinely be heartfelt. (Matthew 18: 35)

Forgiveness04I have two granddaughters who were born very close to each other, six days apart, and as they were growing up little spats broke out between the two cousins, I remember witnessing one, when they were three years old, where both mothers were trying to teach them to say sorry. The punishment was for each to go to their room and when they were ready, to come out and say sorry. The elder of the two opted to say sorry first and as she stood in front of her cousin, with hands on her hips, she shouted and made a rude face as she said sorry. Obviously that lesson failed, but even if we don’t go to that extent just mouthing sorry without coming from the heart, negates any true forgiveness.

Too often we have heard the words, “I forgive you, but I won’t forget!”  I love the verse in Jeremiah, where the Almighty God is speaking to his people and assures them and of course us as well, that when we say sorry to him he promises to forget what we have done all together!

“…because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31: 34)

SaForgiveness03ying, sorry, begins the forgiveness cycle and when we practice both being willing to say sorry and being willing to forgive one another, we are blessed by living out Jesus’ beautiful example of loving one another as he commanded us to do.

 

Posted by: Jo | October 28, 2018

Shining Like Stars

“…so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life…”

(Philippians 15: 16)

Twinkle001My little granddaughter is going to a Day Care and I was so pleased to discover they are teaching her the same sweet songs that I sang as a small child. The other day I was travelling with the family and sitting in the back seat next to her car seat, when she offered to sing a song for me. I was thrilled to hear the words of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” emerge from this little mouth, accompanied by all the hand actions.

I have always been fascinated by the stars and as I was born in Australia the Southern Cross, in all it’s spectacular beauty could be observed from where I lived, and I too wondered just like the words of that old song “how I wonder what you are

Ancient peoples were intrigued by the stars and old mariners used them to plot their way across vast expanses of water and of course we have the story in Scripture of that wonderful Star leading the wise mem to find the new born Saviour.

“…Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)  

Stars, and who created them are often mentioned in the Bible;

“And what were it’s footings, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.”  (Job 38: 6 – 7)

God reminds Job of who made the stars Twinkle002

“…He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” (Genesis 1: 16)

Stars and their light led people through the darkness. This is why Paul, when writing to the Philippians, urges them to be like stars shining and showing the true Light of the Lord to lead others through the darkness of a crooked and depraved world.

The same analogy is used in the book of Daniel as he listens to God warning him of what is to come for all mankind;

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12: 3)

So how do we shine like stars?  We have probably heard this statement used when praising someone for what is seen as a worthy action.

He is a shining example of doing it right!

Paul was encouraging the followers of Christ to shine by exhibiting the word of life to others, by being an example of what it means to live Jesus’ words and when others see what a difference that makes they will be drawn to the light they can see shining through those who love the Lord. Another little childhood song I remember, tells us to shine where ever we are, a good reminder to shine the light to others;

in this world of darkness so we will shine

You in your small corner and I in mine

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Posted by: Jo | September 7, 2018

Opening The Door

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me”

(Revelation 3: 20)

OpenTheDoor01One of the churches I attended many years ago had a beautiful stained, glass window which I loved looking at, while seated in church. It was a depiction of Jesus, holding a lantern in his hand and knocking at a door. It was only just recently, while reading a study on the verse in Revelation 3: 20, that I discovered the history of this much, admired window.  It was originally a painting by an English artist, William Holman Hunt and hangs in the Keble College Chapel in Oxford, England and is entitled, The Light Of The World, converting it to a magnificent stained glass window, has brought joy to countless viewers in churches scattered across the world.

The remarkable thing to discover while studying this beautiful depicture of the Saviour, standing outside the door, is that on Jesus’ side there is no handle.  The door must be opened by the person on the other side who hears that beautiful voice and is willing to allow Jesus to enter and share his/her life.

Hearing that voice is sometimes difficult over the clamour of the world’s voices that can block his tender loving words of invitation, asking us to let him come in and be with us. Our lives can become so frantic that we can forget we need to hear his voice through his word, and our relationship begins to falter, and we neglect to open our side of the doorOpenTheDoor02 and miss out on his loving fellowship. When Paul was telling others the good news in Antioch, the city realised they needed to hear the word of God, so they too could have the same wonderful relationship they could see Paul had with his Saviour.

“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” (Acts 13: 44)

The beautiful painting of Jesus standing at the door and knocking is called, The Light Of The World, and we are encouraged by the Psalmists to remember that through God’s word we can be guided by that all illuminating light:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)

Being immersed daily in his word is a wonderful way of keeping that door constantly open and allowing that light to shine through our lives.

Having that desire for that close relationship needs to come from our hearts. It cannot be a superficial casual one, that has no meaning. We sing a beautiful song in our church that I love and always reminds me to keep that door open

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord

I want to see you

I want to see you.

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Posted by: Jo | August 4, 2018

Sending Out His Word

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire…”

(Isaiah 55: 11)

SendWord02Sending out words is vastly different as to the way it was when I was young. Handwritten letters were personal methods of communicating and for more official letters, a typewriter was used. Today the quickest way of getting your message across seems to be the most important point of any communication from emailing, texting to Twitter and Facebook. My sister and I played a little experiment this last few weeks to go back to sending a letter to each other. She lives in Australia and I live in Canada and while chatting on the phone to each other we were sharing some favourite recipes with each other. We both decided we would like to have each other’s recipe to try so my sister offered to send me hers by mail and I decided to send mine to her. Just for fun we posted them on the same day and waited to see which country had the best postal service. I received hers in exactly 7 days she is still waiting for mine 12 days later!!!

Repeatedly in Scripture we read of the importance of knowing God’s word and spreading the good news of the power in his word;

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23: 29)

SendWord01We tend to forget the incredible power of God’s word and sometimes fall into the error of thinking the Bible is just words written in a book. The Psalmists considered them so important, they wanted to absorb God’s words into their very being, the centre of the human heart;

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119: 11)

Again, they so want to absorb them and write about such powerful words they relate this desire as to eating his words

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119: 103)

So how do we send God’s word out so that it will accomplish what he desires?

Firstly, we need to know his word as deeply as the Psalmists, so all our actions are governed by that inner knowledge and guidance we get from keeping his word alive within us. This also needs a constant refreshing by reading and praying his word back to him.

SendWord03When we are constantly spending time with the Lord and his word we are blessed by producing fruit which in turn blesses others and sends out his word in a mighty way. Somebody once remarked, people don’t need a sermon to find out what it means to be a Christian, they just need somebody demonstrating what the Lord’s love produces. Paul aptly describes how to do that in his letter to the Galatians;

“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 – 23)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | June 24, 2018

Dealing With Discouragement

 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”

(Joshua 1: 9)

Discouraged01!!! DISCOURAGEMENT !!!

It can certainly be a powerful obstacle for us in achieving many things we are striving to do. Others can increase this in our lives by being negative or critical about what we can do, perhaps reminding us of our lack of skill in handling a situation. One of the stories in Scripture is a wonderful example of how to deal with discouragement and to overcome it. In the Old Testament Nehemiah has gone back to restore Jerusalem to its former glory and the most important job was to restore the walls around it to defend it from enemies. I spoke about mending walls last week, but it is fascinating to see how Nehemiah dealt with being discouraged by surrounding neighbours, as he attempted to mend those broken walls.

The surrounding peoples mocked him unmercifully, reminding him how weak and feeble his own people were, even laughingly telling him even a fox climbing on the wall would break it, (Nehemiah 4: 3) but Nehemiah remembered the mighty God they served and reminded the people; Discouraged03

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4: 14)

The result of trusting in the Lord was wonderful to see. The walls got built and were able to protect the city and its people. They had fought back discouragement by seeking the Lord’s guidance.

We can follow that incredible example.  The Psalmists remind us that the Lord hears us when we are bowed down in discouragement;

“You hear O, Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” (Psalm 10: 17)

It is very easy to be influenced by the voices of critics and of those who somehow feel the need to set you straight, but it is good to be reminded that the Lord is always ready to listen to us and all it takes is to seek him in prayer. If we have ever been discouraged by others it can be a very good lesson to look Discouraged02carefully at our own lives and strive to be one who brings encouragement to those who need it and to be careful in offering unsolicited advice that may discourage others.

When Paul is writing to the Christian churches, just getting on their feet, he stresses the importance of encouraging one another.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 11)

I read a great little saying about being discouraged

Don’t look down.

!!! LOOK UP !!!

 

Posted by: Jo | June 24, 2018

Mending Broken Walls

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work”

(Ecclesiastes 4: 9)

Takes-a-Village01Perhaps one of the most amazing stories about mending broken walls, is the recording in the book of Nehemiah of how the Israelites bonded together with the return of the exiled ones and those who had been left behind, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It was certainly a team effort with everyone pulling together with a common goal which was the centre of everyone’s activity.

We witnessed a similar purpose driven event just recently when spring rains and rapid snow melt brought about major flooding in rural towns.  The television recorded the chaos that unchecked water can bring about and the danger to unprotected houses.  It was so uplifting to see how the people in those towns responded to the need and picture after picture showed men, women and young adults filling sand bags and building up walls with these sand bags to stop the flow of water to homes and other buildings. There were wonderful stories of neighbours going the extra mile, not just worrying about their own properties, but helping others to build those all, important sand bag walls, mending others if the bags gave way, a great example of mending broken walls.

Sometimes in our spiritual walk we have broken walls in our own lives and in lives Takes-a-Village02around us. A loss of a job can collapse a family’s ability to survive, also causing a collapse of one’s self confidence. A loss of a dear one can make us feel that life is crumbling around us. Within our church family others may have doubts about their own worthiness and need to have their faith strengthened. Paul writes to the Ephesians urging them to build each other up and to be aware of who needs this help.

“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4: 16)

Somebody was remarking on how disaster draws people together, just as the floods drew neighbours together, but as followers of Christ we are asked not to be motivated only by major events that happen, but to have our minds and our hearts open always to be aware of those that the Lord is especially wanting us to help. Paul encourages the Thessalonians in doing just this and urges them to keep on building one another up;

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 11)

During the worst of the flooding there were emergency numbers set up for those in distress to call and we too have an emergency number that is always available for us. We too may feel that walls Takes-a-Village03of safety around us have cracks in them and need mending. God’s word is the sure foundation we need and again it is Paul that gives us this good advice;

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20: 32)

Posted by: Jo | June 8, 2018

The Breath Of Life

“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”

(Genesis 2: 7)

JustBreathe01Allergy season is upon us here in North America and those who suffer from allergies are at the mercy of the pollens swirling around them. The results are sneezing, eyes watering and for some, difficulty in breathing. I was watching a television ad for tablets that promised to rid the sufferers of all their terrible symptoms and one vowed that this particular one would relieve those with breathing problems and give them “good breath”. I thought the phrase was incorrect grammar, but it made me think what good breath was. The following Sunday, we sang a beautiful song with ended with these beautiful words for the repeated chorus;

His breath in our lungs

Then I realised I knew what good breath was!

In the book of John, we understand how we can receive this good breath

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” (John 20: 21 – 22)

The other beautiful sentence came in the same song we were singing, and as I sang with the rest of the congregation I started to grasp the incredible privilege Jesus bestowed on his disciples and all of us who choose to follow him by breathing on us. Here are the other powerful words;

It’s now your love I am breathing

JustBreathe02Breathing love! What a gift to be able to use our very breath to spread love to others. We need breath to speak, so when we are breathing the Lord’s love our words will be filled with love not anger, bitterness or hatred but with understanding, love and sympathy.

Breath ensures life.  If we are aware of breathing God’s love our lives will become meaningful. We will be living the way he designed us to live. Lives pleasing to him.

When I was young we sang an old hymn written in 1878 and I was reminded of this hymn while singing the modern version of the same theme.  I found an old dog- eared hymn book from my youth, found the hymn and the words were just as beautiful as I remembered. Here they are;

Breathe on me, Breath of God

Fill me with life anew

That I may love what thou dost love

And do what thou wouldst do

Breathe on me, Breath of God

Until my heart is pure

Until my will is one with thine.

To do and to endure

Breathe on me Breath of God

Till I am wholly thine

Until this earthly part of me

Glows with fire divine

Breathe on me, Breath of God

So shall I never die

But live with thee the perfect life

Of thine eternity.

 

Posted by: Jo | May 30, 2018

Overflowing With Joy Peace And Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

(Romans 15: 13)

Overflow01That beautiful word – overflowing – is often used in Scripture, and often to describe God’s gifts to his loved ones in bountiful crops etc., but the most powerful way it is used, is when the Psalmist’s and other writers use it to somehow capture his love. In Psalm 65, the Psalmist recognises God’s love in his gracious abundance of gifts;

“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow, the hills are clothed with gladness.” (Psalm 65: 11 – 12)

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about followers of Jesus overflowing with God’s gifts of joy peace and love. The other day I got a wonderful example of how this could happen. I was watering one of my hanging baskets on my balcony when the water overflowed, I wasn’t dismayed, as underneath the basket on the floor, was a huge pot with a plant in it and the water from my basket, already full, splashed down on the plant below nurturing it.

Overflow03We can do exactly that in our lives when we overflow with God’s love. We can in-turn spread that love to others who may be in desperate need of some joy in their lives, bereft of happiness. Others may need to find peace in a turbulent situation and yet others may need hope when they have given up in despair.

Just as my basket was only able to water the plant below when it was already full, so we too can only overflow into the lives of other if we too are full of the Holy Spirit and seeking God’s will constantly.

In that well-known Psalm of David’s, Psalm 23, he realises that he has walked closely with the Lord to the point that his cup was overflowing with the beautiful realisation that the Lord had filled him with all good things.

“…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23: 5 – 6)

I was watching a beautiful photo on the television of a fountain, in the middle of a city, and the water flowed endlessly over a commanding statue, over and over. It was fascinating to see that the water splashed below soaking everything in its path. Our lives too can overflow with God’s love the same way if we make sure we are filled with his love. The Psalmists knew how important this is.

“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:171)

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