Posted by: Jo | October 10, 2019

Growing Spiritually Inwardly

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”

(Ephesians 1: 18)

OpenEyes01We sing a beautiful song at our church, “Open The Eyes Of My Heart, Lord”, which is taken from Paul’s expression in his letter to the Ephesians. It is very thought, provoking if we start to think deeply about it. In our present society, outward appearances assume the upmost focus in our Western world. Constantly the media blasts us with messages of how we look to the outside community in which we live, what clothes we should wear to impress others, not only clothes signs of how successful we are need to be shown by lovely homes, and expensive cars. We must display happiness, even if we are breaking up inside. We are reluctant to show the world our true selves and constantly pretend so we fit into what society expects.

This can also happen in our Christian life. It is very easy for us as Christians to start being influenced by how we appear to other Christians and pleasing them becomes more important than pleasing our Father. We forget that the Lord longs to have a personal relationship with us on a one on one basis as well as loving one another in our Christian family.

In fact, God is not interested in outward appearances at all and he tells Samuel that when he is choosing a king for the Israelites;  OpenEyes02

“…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16: 7)

The Lord, our Saviour, does not want us to dwell on outside appearances. He is more interested in our hearts, in fact David writes a beautiful Psalm about how God knows our inmost being;

“O Lord, you have searched me and know me.” (Psalm 139: 1)

Just as the Lord knows us intimately, he earnestly wants us to know him like that as well. We know that human relationships can remain on a very superficial level and it is not until we share our inmost thoughts and heart felt emotions does a relationship progress to that deep everlasting level and when another person we love, shares with us it deepens even further. The same is true for our walk with the Lord. We need to have our hearts open to hear his deepest, thoughts so they fill our every day lives.

So how do we open the eyes of our hearts to the Lord. When we spend time with the Lord, it is good sometimes to just sit quietly and listen to what he might be saying to us. Most young parents or busy workers are pressed for time, but we can clear our minds when we are doing mundane tasks and leave them open for the Lord. One young lady told me that when she is in the shower, she disciplines herself not to think of the OpenEyes03problems of the day, but she has a short prayer to God and then spends time listening to him.

David discovered this;

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139: 17)

A wonderful way to begin a prayer and then to wait and listen to the Lord.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | September 29, 2019

God Will Never Abandon Us

“And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel”

(1 Kings 6: 13)

Abandon01I had the lovely task a few weeks ago of minding my seven-year-old grandson for the day and just like all countless grandmothers before me, I spent the day spoiling him. Firstly, we walked to McDonalds hamburger shop for lunch, then to the ice cream shop for a huge ice cream and then of course to a toy store, where we left with a present, by the time we wandered back to my place it was mid-afternoon and as a special treat he was allowed to watch cartoons on the T.V.  When his mother came to pick him up he announced loudly, “I want to live with Nana.”  I tried to explain to him that was not possible as I lived in an apartment and not near his school and was getting too old to look after a little boy every day. He just looked sadly at his mother and said, dramatically, “Nana has abandoned me”. How he knew that word I don’t know, but of course I consoled him by telling him that I loved him and another time we would have another fun day together.

My little grandson, probably had no idea what the word, abandon, really meant but when the Heavenly Father uses that word it has great depth of meaning for all of us. When God makes a promise, it lasts forever. His promise carries great weight, promising to be close with us, to dwell with us, to cover us with grace and mercy, to forgive us, so when he promises to never abandon us, we can expect those mercies to follow us all the days of our lives if we decide to follow him, in fact they are renewed every morning; Abandon02

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22 – 23)

Forever, is another word used over and over again in God’s word, and is often used to describe the depth and power of God’s love

“The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voice in praise to the Lord and sang, “He is good his love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 5: 13)

No human can ever promise us this sort of all, encompassing love, but the more we trust the Lord and his word, peace can pervade our lives as we hang on to this incredible promise of our loving Heavenly Father

 

 

Posted by: Jo | September 8, 2019

Drenched In Love

“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”

(Psalm 86: 15)

DrenchedInLove01When one  of my daughters was a little girl, she was fascinated with water and I remember one incident when all my three daughters were playing in our garden, my eldest daughter ran inside to tell me that the youngest had managed to turn on the hose and was busy hosing herself with the water. When I came outside, she was laughing with delight as the water soaked her hair and of course all her clothes. She was drenched from head to foot! 

God tells his people repeatedly of how much he loves them, a love so amazing it surpasses any human understanding and covers us completely. 

David saw the Lord’s love as abounding. When I looked up the meaning of this word, I read 

Abounding: Overflowing and plentiful  

I thought immediately of my little girl as she laughed with delight as the water flowed all over her and thought that is how God would have us enjoy being drenched with his love. 

DrenchedInLove02Jesus talks about this amazing love in terms of water when he is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well when he asks her for a drink of water. She is surprised by this request, as he is a Jew and Jews did not associate with Samaritans. She is more surprised when he talks about living water and asks him to explain; 

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13 – 14)

Water is essential to sustain life, and God’s promises often mention water. He promises to send water even into the driest desert. A beautiful thought for us who sometimes think of ourselves trapped in the desert by the problems of life.  

“Each man will be like a shelter in the wind and a refuge from the storm, and streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” (Isaiah 32: 2)

Jesus himself chooses to be baptized in a river and when he emerged, he would have been drenched from head to foot and a mighty voice came from heaven declaring that this was God’s son.

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son who I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3: 16 – 17)

DrenchedInLove03God was sending a message that his Son would allow the Father’s love to surround us and we could take delight in that incredible knowledge. 

Posted by: Jo | August 31, 2019

From The Lips Of Children

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”

(Matthew 21: 16)

ChildrenLips01We recently celebrated a wonderful family wedding. My granddaughter was getting married and it was to be held in a beautiful mountain side location. The site chosen was surrounded by huge mountains and as the ceremony was being held outside, the mountains provided a majestic type of cathedral created by God’s own hand It was impossible to sit there and not be awe inspired by God’s creation. Many members of the family were to be part of the ceremony and my little seven-year-old grandson and his little four-year-old sister were to be the ring bearer and flower girl. My grandson had confided in me the day before the wedding that he was frightened, about his role in the ceremony and was nervous about how he would perform, I told him I had asked God to bless the wedding.  He was perfect! I was staying with them and that night after all the celebrations, I was saying a prayer for the little ones before they went to sleep, just as I finished my grandson began to pray by himself and his prayer brought tears to my eyes. This was his prayer;

Thank you, for giving me the confidence I needed.

Jesus told us that often from children’s lips come beautiful words of prayer, they may be simple words, like my little grandson’s, but when they are heartfelt, they rise like incredible praise to the Father. We also need to be more childlike in our attitude when we talk to our Heavenly Father, we don’t need to impress him with flowery language, we only need to have simple heartfelt words to share with him and saying thank you is one of the important ones.

Jesus spoke many times about child like faith and urged his listeners to emulate children and how they knew the true meaning of believing;

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things form the wise and learned and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11: 25)

ChildrenLips02Once we become adults, we tend to shake off the shackles of childhood and revel in making our own decisions and taking control of our own lives. This often becomes a barrier to trusting a loving Father to teach us his paths and walk with him allowing him to direct us. Once again Jesus speaks to the crowds and reminds them of the pitfalls of doing this and is very definite about us all returning to child like faith;

“I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18: 17)

I find these words very comforting. I no longer have to carry the responsibility of decisions or I no longer have to have elegant sounding long-winded prayers, I can simply come to him like a little child and tell him I am frightened and he will hold my hand and give me the confidence I need just as I saw him do for my little grandson.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | August 24, 2019

Joined Together

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man t be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him…”

(Genesis 2: 18)

JoinedTogether01One of my darling granddaughters was married this weekend and as I looked at this beautiful woman, dressed in flowing white gown with such a sweet smile, her face covered with happiness, I started to remember this young woman as a little girl and memories flooded my mind. She had a child like faith in God and one of the stories her mother had relayed to us was about quite a serious snowstorm the family were trapped in, on their way to visit us at our cabin.

They were stuck on the side of the road and the driver, her father, was not sure they could get through a pile of snow they had to get over to get back on the road.  The mother turned to the children in the back seat and said, “We have to pray.” Then she heard quite loudly her little daughter saying “Please Dod” I don’t think God minded being called Dod, he knew that this little one was confident he could get them through the snow, and he did. The car climbed the pile of snow and they were back safe on the road.

JoinedTogether02As she grew older her faith deepened and she had to remind me of the Father’s power. The family were again visiting us in our cabin and this time my daughter became ill. I was worried as we were in an isolated place and a long way from any help. My little granddaughter noticed how worried I was and said quite simply, “Nana just ask God to make her better” Simple child like faith and I prayed with her and the other children and once again God responded.

God blessed marriage from the start and meant it seriously as being joined together;

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 24)

The New Testament also emphasises the importance of a loving marriage and in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds husbands to love and respect their wives in chapter 5: 25. He tells them to love their wives like Christ loved the church

JoinedTogether03During the ceremony the pastor used these well-known words still so important today as they were when the apostle Paul wrote them;

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7)

Wonderful words not for the just newly married, but for all of us. I cried during the service, but they were tears of thanksgiving for God’s incredible love for us.

Posted by: Jo | August 5, 2019

Taking God’s Love For Granted

“He will love you and bless you…”

(Deuteronomy 7: 12)

Gratitude03When my youngest daughter was about 6 years old, I was giving her a big hug before she left for school and said jokingly, “Have I ever told you I love you?”  She came back with a quick retort, “About a thousand times!” This story has become a favourite one in our family and told over and over with much laughter. Some of my granddaughters are now young ladies, and if they are visiting me, before they leave my home I always say, “Have I ever told you I love you?”   And they always reply with much laughter. “About a thousand times!

Our Heavenly Father tells us over and over how much he loves us, but sometimes we take that for granted and neglect to acknowledge the beautiful gift this is and just expect it. His love is so permanent and powerful he tells us that we will be loved though the earth be shaken. Nothing can destroy God’s love.

“Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” (Isaiah 54: 10)

Just in any relationship, love needs to be returned to the lover and so it is so important for us to return the Lord’s love to him. Too often in our prayers we concentrate on ourselves and our needs and problems and of course the Lord wants us to share our lives with him, but we also need to return love to him, who is so generous in his love towards Gratitude02-Largeus. Praising him is one way to do that, while we are going through experiences where we have been so aware of feeling his love, such as

  • When we needed it the most
  • When we felt unloved
  • When we were ashamed of what we had done and came to him for forgiveness
  • When we were grieving, sad or lonely

Just stopping to allow that love to cover us and tell him how much we love him, builds a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father.

In human relationships, one of sweetest ways of acknowledging another’s love is to simply say, “Thank you for loving me.”  I am very much aware of that at this time of my life as I grow old and am so grateful for my family who love me and show that in so many ways. I try not to ever just take their love for granted but thank them for loving me.

Jesus reminds all of us that loving our Heavenly Father is the most important part of being part of his family and if we remember his words, we won’t take God’s love for granted, but tell him over and over how much we love him and thank him for loving us.

“Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22: 37 – 38)

Gratitude01

Posted by: Jo | August 4, 2019

Listening For That Whisper From God

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”

(Psalm 107: 29)

GodSpeaks01Just recently I was fitted with hearing aids as my family had insisted, I needed them, I agreed with them, but thought of them as another reminder of how old I was becoming and reluctantly, went ahead with the procedure. My daughter told her young son that I would now be able to hear all the stories he wanted to tell me about school and all the exciting things a six-year-old boy did every day. When he saw me for the first time, he ran towards me and said, “Where are they?” I think he was very disappointed that I was not wearing heavy black earphones like a helicopter pilot. I had to explain they were inside my ears so then he decided to put them to the test. His first test was a faint whisper which I had to bend down close to him to hear, next he shouted a question which made my head spin. Normal voice, his mother explained.

Scripture speaks about God himself whispering, but his whisper is so powerful the Psalmist tells us that storms and wild sea are hushed. There is a beautiful story in the first book of Kings where we read about Elijah who had been zealously working for God, but was exhausted and ran away to hide from the king Ahab, and prayed to God to let him die as in his own words,  he had had enough.

“He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die, “I have had enough, Lord” he said…” (1 Kings 19: 4)

GodSpeaks02God decides to speak to him, himself and the story takes an unusual twist, suddenly there is a mighty wind. God does not speak. Next an earthquake. God does not speak, then a roaring fire. God does not speak.  Then amazingly God speaks to Elijah in a whisper. (Wonderful story to read to get the whole picture)

It is a wonderful example for us to take note. Life might bring all sorts of upheavals in various forms and we can feel that we have had enough like Elijah, but it is often those situations that if we stop and concentrate on listening to God whispering, and shut out all the noise of the world with it’s false accusations, we hear words of comfort and encouragement.

Just as we need to be close to anybody who whispers to us, so we need to listen very carefully to what the Lord is saying to us and the only way to do that is to stay in close contact with him and believe he is powerful to quell any storm threatening us, just with his voice, just as Jesus slowed this power to the disciples.

“…He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.” (Luke 8: 24)

GodSpeaks03I read a beautiful saying in a study I was reading

Jesus whispers through all God’s word

That is how we can hear God’s whisper. Through reading his word.

Posted by: Jo | July 13, 2019

The Weak Made Strong

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Corinthians 1: 8)

WeakStrong01We sing a song in our church, that always lifts me up and makes me realise that I can make it through another week, with the help of the Holy Spirit holding me up. The refrain of each verse says;

The weak made strong through the Saviour’s love.

The permission to be weak is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a follower of Christ Jesus. In a world that often despises weakness and actively preaches another message of be strong and achieve your goal and promote stories of people going off into the wilderness by themselves, camping, foraging for food, living off berries, giving all the glory to the person and making all those who could never accomplish this a feeling of being weak and useless.

We have often heard this deriding of weakness in these sayings;

  • He is such a weak person, never standing up for himself
  • She is so weak she just gives in to everybody, she has no backbone

It is so refreshing to read in Scripture, that the Lord does not judge us on how strong we are.

Paul has quite a different slant on what weakness means to him. He revels in his weakness because he knows that when he succeeds, glory will go to the Lord; WeakStrong02

“That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians12: 10)

The Psalmists knew where to find the strength to get them through whatever was happening around them. We too can call out to the Lord when our strength is failing;

“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” (Psalm 31: 3)

We often come across in our own lives, of people who are genuinely weak through a physical handicap, or from some terrible trauma, or a mental problem, these are the ones who need to hear the wonderful news, that the Lord does not see them having to be trapped in their weakness , but is willing to make them strong in his love. We too by our actions need to see them as children of God, deeply loved by him and to tell them this.

Sometimes life overwhelms us so powerfully that we feel we cannot even pray and feel weak and helpless. This is when we can remember that we have a powerful advocate, the Holy Spirit who offers to pray for us if we just come and ask him; WeakStrong03

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself, intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8: 26)

Then the Saviour will make us strong through his love. 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | June 29, 2019

Good News

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

(Isaiah 61: 1)

GoodNews01Watching the television news lately can be very depressing with every story bringing ugly descriptions of “man’s inhumanity to man” (Alan Paton) from wars and abuse, to human trafficking to senseless shooting of school children. The internet is not much better with the hidden challenge of now for all of us, having to decide if this is fake news or real. It can be very disturbing to read of people who have ben fooled by what they think is real and only to find out they have been hoodwinked by evil people extracting money from them. We, the followers of Jesus must be constantly aware of the false news that begins to cause doubt about the truth of scripture and so easily fall onto the trap Eve fell into when Satan whispered these words, cleverly bringing doubt on the veracity of God’s words

 “…He said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3: 1)

Others can lead us astray by saying the same question in a different form, implying we don’t need to really believe what the Bible says.

The prophet Isaiah said in Chapter 25: 7 that the people had been covered in a shroud that was hiding the truth from them and the coming Saviour would destroy that shroud. We need to remember that verse and remember the power we must discern and disregard false news.

GoodNews02The news about Jesus Christ is described over and over in scripture as, good news. The angels told those shepherds long ago and they believed and worshipped that new, born king;

“But the angels said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2: 10)

Jesus himself begins his ministry telling the people the good news about their God;

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1: 14)

After Jesus had shown himself as the risen Saviour to the apostles, they never stopped preaching the good news wherever they went despite opposition, persecution and gaol. They knew this was the real news everybody needed to hear; GoodNews03

“Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5: 42)

Once we know that good news, we need to tell others and not keep it to ourselves. This sometimes shared the best way by living that good news. Our actions often can reflect the message of that good news, so that others will desire the peace and love we display in our lives and ask us what prompts our actions.  So wonderful to have good news to share despite what ever is raging around us.

 

Posted by: Jo | June 8, 2019

Accepting God’s Gift Of Peace

“And the peace of God which transcends all human understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4: 7)

Peace04Peace, the word itself, carries deep depth for every human being, but when it is joined with God’s name it transcends all human understanding. It outweighs every human concept of humans who struggle to find peace in their own lives, relying on their own capabilities. The world battles against all odds to bring about peace between nations, cultures, religions, mostly failing as history proves, only resulting in an on-going saga of wars.

When I was growing up our church had a lovely practice of just before the prayers for communion began, the congregation was asked to turn to the person beside you and “pass the peace”. This meant shaking their hand and saying, Peace be with you and they would respond likewise. A beautiful message, but sometimes lost its power as it became routine like saying “good morning” and the real meaning became lost.

David remembered the power of the Lord and reminded the people of where their strength would come from.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  (Psalm 29: 11)

A wonderful reminder for us as turmoil overtakes our lives and anxiety leaves us troubled and making decisions becomes clouded with fear, we need to accept that gracious offer of peace and ask the Lord to provide it for us.

Peace05Jesus himself knew the troubled world was going to be hard for those who chose to follow him and left this blessing behind him not only for the disciples, but for us as well.

“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” (John 14: 27)

And again, he reminds us of his great strength and urges us to accept his gracious gift and to remember that he has overcome the world and his peace is way beyond any earthly power;

“But I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 6: 33)

Just like any gift, it needs to be received and opened. Too often we feel that we should be able to deal ourselves when difficulties arise and become like my little two-year-old Peace03grand-daughter, who spurns any help we offer her, but replies, I can do it! By acknowledging God’s beautiful gift, we can rest assured that rusting him will alleviate our fears and allow that incredible peace to encircle us as we walk the paths of life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)

 

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