Posted by: Jo | February 10, 2019

Carry Each Other’s Burdens

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”

(Galatians 6: 2)

Burden01The word “burden” even has an air of heaviness when we say it, and the immediate thought is something very heavy and we even get a mental picture of someone staggering while carrying a heavy load. The extension of the word, burdensome, sums up our mental picture. When I was doing some research on what the word meant, I found an interesting description of what the word meant long ago, to lay a burden against a person, implied that a court charge had been laid against that person. When one of us today feels burdened by life it can also feel like a charge of some sort or other is hanging over our heads, something worse, looming over us about to happen.

I learnt last week how powerful that verse, urging us to carry one another’s burdens, can be when we are willing to share what is weighing us down. I am struggling with a burden, at the moment, and I have a friend who is struggling with an entirely different burden, but when we agreed to meet for coffee and shared with each other, it was amazing the effect on both of us as we both found a sympathetic listener and could be honest about our feelings. We both left after the coffee feeling that load had become much lighter.

Burden02Jesus is very much aware of how life can burden us and knows that carrying that burden can result in great weariness and is willing to carry that load for us.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28)

Sometimes we find it difficult to give up that burden, even lapsing into thinking the effort of releasing our burdens to someone else requires too much effort on our part and end up suffering the burden which in time becomes even heavier than before, The Lord is the perfect one to begin sharing what is really troubling us and the Psalmists remind us that burdens need to be shared daily, giving them over to God every morning as he is ever ready to help us carry the load;

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68: 19)

Sometimes one of the heaviest burdens we carry can be those we saddle ourselves with and one of the common ones is guilt. We feel we don’t live up to other’s expectations and feel that we are failing the Lord in some way. God’s law was never given to burden us down, but to help us to lead full lives the way God had designed us to live. In Johns’ first Burden03letter he assures believers that God’s laws were never intended to be burdensome;

“This is love for God to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5: 3)

Getting rid of some of our burdens is often hard to do in our own strength, but one of my favourite verses offers us divine help, we just need to ask.

“So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strength you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10)

 

Posted by: Jo | February 3, 2019

I Think We Need To Talk

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening”

(1 Samuel 3: 10)

listen01Just recently I found a charming cartoon in the newspaper from the series Family Circus. It depicted the little sister kneeling on her bed with hands clasped in prayer and saying, “I think we need to talk”. It was left to the reader to imagine what had prompted her to need to talk to God, but several options came to my mind, perhaps she needed to say sorry for some bad behaviour during the day, or perhaps some thing had happened at school that had bothered her, or perhaps she suddenly realised she had forgotten lately to keep in touch with the Lord and was desiring a fun time sharing with him.

The phrase is often used by adults to indicate to the other party that there is a problem between them, and it needs to be sorted out by sitting down together and talking it through.

I was thinking that it also applies to our walk with the Lord, just as the little girl in the cartoon implied. We all need to be in constant conversation with the Lord to avoid any coolness in our relationship.

Often when something serious comes up between people and one says I think we need to talk, often the outcome is one sadly saying but he didn’t listen to what I was saying.

Samuel was ready to listen carefully to what God was saying and obeyed him. Too often our prayers become the opposite of Samuel’s prayer and sound like this;

Listen Lord. Your servant wants to speak!

AnswerMe03Moses has some very sound advice for the children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land and the same advice is still good for us today

“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him….” (Deuteronomy 30: 19 – 20)

Listening to somebody requires clearing of one’s mind so the thoughts of the speaker are heard clearly. Too often we are thinking of our reply while the other is still speaking. We need to practice listening.

This also applies to speaking to the Lord. Too often we have a list of requests and woes to tell the Lord and forget that in any relationship talking means sharing thoughts. The Lord is longing to hear what is troubling us, but he also wants us to listen to what he wants to tell us.

AnswerMe02Learning to sit quietly with the Lord without speaking, clearing one’s mind of extraneous thoughts cements our relationship with him, and beginning the day that way, clears the day of all the obstacles and gives us clear minds to cope with whatever comes our way. The Psalmists knew this only too well and advised us to do exactly that

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him….” (Psalm 37: 7)

 

Posted by: Jo | January 20, 2019

Taking That First Step

“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord…”

(Proverbs 20: 24)

firststep01The Old Testament has such exciting stories of God intervening on behalf of man. The two I find the most fascinating are when God dramatically shows his power over nature, by parting the Red Sea and then equally as astounding the parting of the Jordan for Joshua and the Israelites. The part that intrigues me about both stories is that even though the people witnessed the waters parting, it was up to them to trust God and take that first step between the walls of water. When I read it, I often wonder if they were hesitant about that first step, thinking what if the water begins to flow again will we be washed away?

Taking that first step on a new path in life is very similar to both the stories. Often we are presented with something new in our lives that requires us to step out in faith and pursue what may look daunting,  It may be a new job/ a totally new direction for our lives/ the Lord may be calling us to work for him/ we may have endured a devastating loss and need just to face the future with courage.

The Israelites were facing leaving everything familiar behind and entering a new firststep02country, but none of their dreams or hopes would eventuate unless they took that first step through the water. They trusted the Lord God Almighty would be there with them, protecting them, and bravely stepped between the waters.

Later Solomon reminded their descendants, and of course us, that trusting the Lord and asking him for guidance is a wise thing to do before we undertake any new path in life;

“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 – 6) 

Fear and doubt about any new path can prohibit us from taking that first step, but if we have the Lord walking right beside us casting his protective shadow over us, we can have the courage to keep going.

Noah’s story is another wonderful example of trusting God and taking that first step in building the ark, which must have seemed impossible to him, but he trusted God and began to build. This verse gives us a clue to Noah’s relationship with God;

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6: 9)firststep03

Many years later Paul writes the same advice to his readers. If we are facing nay sort of challenge in our lives, remember who will be walking with you on that first step, if you just ask him to accompany you.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5: 25)

 

Posted by: Jo | January 12, 2019

The Fog Of Distraction

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said, But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made”

(Luke 10: 39 – 40)

fog01As the New Year begins to take shape, all the activities that were temporarily put aside for the holidays, now have to be begun again, the children are back at school, exercise classes begin, soccer practice, basketball, swimming, all the after-school classes start, grown ups sign-up for new programmes, issues at work need to be addressed, life begins again in earnest.

I read an interesting description of what this can mean not only in our day to day life, but our spiritual walk, “the fog of distraction”. When we are distracted by multiple activities, a fog descends upon us and we lose sight of what is really important to see. Here in North America the use of cellphones has become such an obsession, that people use them even when driving a car and hence the term, distracted driving which can and does bring about terrible accidents and multiple injuries, they become immersed in a fog which hides the hidden danger of what they are doing.

Distractions can also blind us to the importance of our relationship with the Lord and Luke records a very telling example of this which occurs in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha becomes distracted by impressing Jesus with a beautiful meal while Maryfog02 listens intently to what Jesus is saying.

Here in Vancouver we live by the water and have a beautiful view of the city skyline, but during the wintery mornings a thick fog settles over the water and creeps around our windows, so the city view is obliterated and all we see is fog as if the city does not exist. The fog of distraction can stop us from keeping the Lord in full sight, and we might forget he is there right with us while we are so caught up with everything we are doing.

Isaiah describes us as sheep who have gone astray;

“We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way….” (Isaiah 53: 6)

We know that sheep are not the most intelligent of animals and if they get distracted and wander away from the flock, they lose sight of the shepherd and find themselves in all sorts of predicaments.

So how do we deal with all the distractions of modern life and not lose sight of our fog03Shepherd?  Jesus himself answers that question when Martha begins to complain about her sister, Mary.  He points out what is important not only for Martha to realise, but us as well. Worrying about schedules, and all the other distractions of life creates a fog between us and the Lord.  Making time to sit with him and listen to him through his word, is the most necessary task to accomplish in a day;

“Martha, Martha, “The lord said, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41)

Posted by: Jo | December 30, 2018

Bruised Reeds and Smouldering wicks

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out”

(Isaiah 42: 3)

Bruised01As another new year approaches, many of us have doubts about how we will face the challenges the new year will bring. Some of us have been damaged by many different events happenings this past year which have created havoc and ravaged our lives. Some have lost dearly loved ones, some have lost jobs, their reputations, some have experienced failures and have lost confidence in themselves, some have begun to think they are worthless. Scripture has a beautiful picture of what this might feel like…

bruised reeds” What a revealing picture this expression paints. A reed trampled upon until bent over unable to think about standing tall again

a smouldering wick” Again a fitting description of one whose light has nearly been extinguished, and has no strength left to create any warmth.

The incredible, good news for all of us who love the Lord is this!

The Lord knows and sees all those bruised reeds and smouldering wicks and has compassion on us.

He promises the bruised reed will not break under pressure but will once again stand tall. The smouldering wicks will not be allowed to be snuffed out but will once again shine brightly.

The Lord has been called the God of Comfort and in the book of Lamentations he reminds us of his great compassion for his loved ones Bruised03

“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) 

The part I like the best in this verse is, “new every morning” Healing always takes time and the Lord doesn’t expect instant results that is why he reminds us that he will be ready every morning to help that bruised reed stand tall and every morning he is ready to brighten that smouldering wick.

Jeremiah, who wrote the book of Lamentations, certainly needed God’s help to survive the day as he was constantly attacked for his faith. But he also wrote these words to help him remember who his help was when he felt downcast;

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” (Lamentations 3: 21)

We sing a beautiful song in our church entitled. Our Hope Is In You Lord and depending on the Lord to help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of faith in the one who loves us just the way we are. David had a beautiful prayer to keep him upright through life and one we can say to guide us through this coming year;

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25: 4 – 5)

Bruised02

 

Posted by: Jo | December 14, 2018

Who Do You Say I am?

““But what about you,” he said. “Who do you say I am?””

(Matthew 16: 15)

WhoAmI01The Christmas season has started with a blast of activities and shops filled with all the glitz of decorations and huge ads urging us all to buy, buy, buy! Our city begins the festivities with a huge Santa Parade down the main streets on, ironically God’s day, a Sunday morning in early December. I was amazed to see on the television the crowds of people, rugged up from the cold, lining the streets.  One of the commentators spied two little girls, hopping up and down with excitement and peering anxiously down the street. He asked them who were they waiting for and they both shrieked, Santa!!  I was suddenly overcome with sadness that this incredible moment of time, when God became man, in the form of a baby who was to be the Saviour of the world, had been forgotten and replaced by some jolly fat figure in a red suit.

Perhaps if the commentator had asked the little girls who Jesus was, they may have replied, that he is that little baby in the straw, hardly comparable with big fat jolly Santa.

The shepherds knew who that little baby was, because the angels told them, and they ran to find and worship him;

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 11)

WhoAmI02The Magi knew who he was because they were following the star also to find and worship him, the king of the Jews, and they asked King Herod where he was;

“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)

When Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is, Peter boldly proclaims the truth that had been revealed by the Father in heaven;

“Simon Peter answered.  “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”” (Matthew 16: 16)

The incredible birth of Jesus has been turned into a sweet story of a little baby being made to sleep in a manger with the livestock because the inn was overcrowded, undermining the true meaning of this miraculous gift of a Saviour, to all mankind.

When we look at all the displays of Nativity scenes, this Christmas, if we listen carefully, we will all hear that soft whisper,

Who do you say I am?

WhoAmI03

 

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.

PrayContinously03

 

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

Twinkle003

Older Posts »

Categories

%d bloggers like this: