Posted by: Jo | May 31, 2023

Clinging To God

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go on the heights.

(Habakkuk 3: 18 – 19)

I am at the stage now where my mobility is not good, and I need to use a walking cane to balance me and even then, I can become quite unsteady. Just recently I was invited to a birthday party which was going to be held in a garden. The garden was spacious, and the weather was beautiful, but I was still very nervous about my walking ability. I was anxious that I might stumble and fall over, embarrassing everybody including myself, but help was at hand. One of my daughters, who is strong and much taller than me, assured me she would be with me at the party. She said that I could hang on to her and she would steady me. That is exactly what happened, with her being my strength I could safely walk and enjoy the party. 

One of my Bible studies was about the prophet, Habakkuk. When I read the above quote, I realized that the Lord had arranged for me to have his strength on the day that I needed it. I was surprised that some references to Habakkuk say his name in Hebrew means “to cling”. What a beautiful picture that conjures up for us, as God’s children to know we can cling to him in any sort of stress we are encountering. 

Habakkuk was living through a very turbulent time in Judea, they were surrounded by enemies and morale was very low and yet he could write these amazing words. 

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food and there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3: 17 – 18)

Paul realized this truth when he was writing to the Philippian believers, and he wanted to impress upon them that it was only through the Lord’s strength that he was able to persevere. 

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 13)

There is no shame in needing strength. We often imagine foolishly that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. In fact, my own children often say to me, you must ask us for help when you need it. We are always ready to help you and we must remember that is exactly what our Heavenly Father is saying to us. Ask and you will receive! 

One of my favorite songs we sing at our church has this beautiful line. 

The weak made strong in the Savior’s love. 

Posted by: Jo | May 22, 2023

Good News

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.

(Luke 2: 10)

I get very few letters in the mail as letter writing seems to have become unnecessary with the current use of emails and texting and even though I am old I now use online banking to pay bills that no longer come by letter. So, when there is a letter in my box, I am surprised and somewhat nervous as government notices still come in letter form. So, when I opened the letter which I could see came from my bank, also making me nervous, I was pleasantly surprised. It said a mistake had been made and I would see a refund returned to my account. Good news! 

When we watch the news lately, there doesn’t seem to be much good news. We are inundated with stories of violence, murder, and warfare. It can become very unsettling, and we tend to forget the most incredibly good news ever happening to mankind. The birth of Jesus Christ was the beginning of the story of redemption. The four first books of the New Testament are all called, gospels which means they are full of good news for all of us. 

The disciples knew that this good news was so incredible they spent every day telling others. They wanted to share it and spread it through out the whole region 

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

When we hear and understand the enormity of the truth behind these words, what is the result? Isaiah has a beautiful way of putting it. We become beautiful messengers when we share this good news with others. 

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings and proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52: 7)

So how do we who are believers and follow Jesus and know the good news spread it to others? 

The Bible study I belong to at our church have been studying the letter of Paul to the Colossians. He had never met these people or knew them. Yet he wanted them to be able to live the good news, but what resonated with me was the final chapter where he asks them to pray for him. At this time Paul was in prison bound in chains and dependent on others to help him. My first thought was surely he will ask the believers to pray for God to release him, but no he asks them to ask God for more ways to spread the good news. 

“And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” (Colossians 4: 3)

What a wonderful message for us, when we are in prayer, don’t let us bombard God with our problems, but ask him every morning to show us how and to whom he could use us to spread the good news, then we will truly become beautiful messengers for him. 

Posted by: Jo | May 3, 2023

We Need Each Other

“Two are better than one for they have a good return for their work. If one falls down the other can help him up.

(Ecclesiastes 4: 9)

During the ugly covid virus racing through the world the rallying cry here in Canada was “We are in this together”. I think we all learnt a lot about looking out for others especially the old and the shut-in, but life is returning to normal, or somewhat, but I was reading a very interesting article about how loneliness was escalating everywhere. I live in a city and my neighborhood is made up of many high buildings where hundreds of people live in apartments. Nothing like when I was a child where we all knew our neighbors and my mother would pop in to see how others were getting on and thought nothing of hearing a knock on the door and seeing a friend wanting to borrow a cup of sugar she needed and had run out of it. 

The other troubling group experiencing loneliness was young people. Teenagers. This surprised me until I read further to see that the cause was often the current use of cell phones and the internet to keep in touch. The writer explained that it was very hard to share hurts or deep feelings with others in these abbreviated messages and if they ever did social media would broadcast it and they would be mocked and bullied.  

Proverbs reminds us of the importance of having that true friend to support and love us whatever we are going through. 

“A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17: 17)

I was very interested when my friend told me about her granddaughter’s Sunday school teacher. She was aware of this problem and as her class was Pre-Teen group, she had a lesson on true friendship and asked each one of them to reach out in person to somebody who needed a friend and asked them if they were willing to share with the class next week. When my friend was telling me this story I was impressed with the teacher, but when I heard the granddaughter’s reply I was very impressed with her. She told her grandmother that she had done this and when she ended her story the teacher was very pleased and handed her a candy. The little girl’s reply amazed me, and I thought all of us adults should follow her example. This is what she said. 

No, I don’t need candy to do good.

I thought this was a wakeup call for all of us. Sometimes we see doing good for others is a great way to earn praise from fellow believers, like candy, but the young girl’s reply is how we should look at following the Lord’s commands, it is him we are pleasing and the warmth that we feel is his approving love sweeping over us. 

“A new command I give you. Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men shall know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13: 34 – 35)

Posted by: Jo | April 4, 2023

Praying For Others Even If We Do Not Know Them

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

(James 5: 16)

Just recently one of my dear friends had to undergo a very serious operation and unfortunately a severe infection invaded the site after the procedure. She was very ill and needed a powerful antibiotic to help combat it. Eventually she was allowed to go home but still the infection persisted. Our church placed her name on our prayer team’s list then as we all contacted other churches in our area three more large churches also began praying for her When she was being sent home her family took her to the local Red Cross, who lent essential equipment to patients who needed it. One of the volunteers came to help her and was amazed to see the name on the list, she exclaimed with joy, “I have been praying for healing for you, I am so grateful to God for allowing me to see you.”  My friend was equally touched to meet one of the Lord’s faithful prayer warriors who would pray fervent prayers for someone she did not know. 

When James is writing to the followers of Jesus, he impresses upon them the pressing need to pray for others and he also reminds us that we can go to ask for prayer for ourselves. 

“Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5: 14)

The answer to that prayer is so reassuring. 

“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise him up.” (James 5: 15)

Often when watching the news, we see horrific happenings impacting people their children and loved ones. Just recently there was a terrible shooting at a school in the United States. Pictures of grieving parents was heart breaking to watch, but even if we don’t know them, we can pray for comfort and compassion for them 

As well our world is in a turmoil with war and inhuman treatment of others, so sometimes we feel there is nothing we can do, but there is. When Jesus was teaching his disciples and us how to pray, he says these powerful words.

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

Some versions use these powerful words.

“Deliver us from the evil one.” 

We may have said those words countless times without really thinking of the deep meaning of what they mean. Jesus would not have given us those words unless they were meaningful. We can ask God to intervene where evil is rampant. We can also add our prayers to those words praying for believers all over the world to shine a light in the darkness to stand up boldly for God’s word.  

So, let us practice praying for others even those we do not know.

Posted by: Jo | March 12, 2023

The Incredible Gift Of Prayer

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.

(Hebrews 4: 16)

We are having a fascinating study in our Bible study on an in depth look at the significance of the Lord’s prayer. This prayer is so familiar to us that we can fall into the trap of reciting it like something we learnt at school and miss the divine meaning of these precious words. The first amazing realization is that Jesus himself taught his disciples and us these words and they would have surprised his listeners. Jesus now says we can come into his presence and call him, Our Father. He is mentioned a few times as the Father, but not in the intimate wording, Our Father. Later John assures them and us that we are his children and can address him in that endearing way. 

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

We have only been granted that beautiful intimate relationship because Jesus paid the debt of sin by dying on the cross for us. This amazing realization came about when Jesus uttered his last breath and the heavy curtain guarding the Ark of the Covenant split in two. Signifying the gap between us and the Heavenly Father had been taken away. 

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that time the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.” (Matthew 50: 51)

There were strict rules as to who was allowed to address the Lord God Almighty. Only the chosen high priest was allowed once a year to go behind the heavy curtain into the Holy of Holies, so for this curtain now removed all of us believers can now approach the throne grace and call the Heavenly One, Father. 

We sometimes forget this and may even feel that prayer is something we should do, forgetting that spending time with the Father is the most beautiful time we ever spend. Human relationships pale between the peace that floods us when we come into his presence. We are surrounded with his amazing grace that allows us to be ourselves to share our inmost thoughts, our worries, our problems and to realize that even if we have failed in following him closely, we are renewed by his forgiveness. What an incredible gift! We are told to pray constantly by Paul which means wherever we are, walking, in the car etc. we can still talk to the Lord who is never too busy to chat with us. 

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17)

One of the beautiful old hymns realizes what a gift prayer is and singing these words keeps us aware of that. 

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Posted by: Jo | February 18, 2023

The Majesty Of God

“O, Lord. Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.

(Psalm 8: 1)

Just recently one of my friends had a trip of a lifetime, she was able to travel to one of the most Northern parts of Canada to see the Northern lights. She had dreamed of doing this since she was a little girl and suddenly a chance to do this came up and she lived her dream. She kept me posted with photos of her exciting time and a particular one overwhelmed me with its beauty and actually made me recite this verse as I took in this splendor. 

“O, Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.” (Psalm 8: 1)

Then it surprised me when our songs at our church that next Sunday morning, contained this same theme of God showing his majesty through nature. One song said these words. 

I see your smile in every sunrise. 

I see your love in every starry night. 

Here in Vancouver, Canada, we are surrounded with examples of God’s majesty, our backdrop is mighty mountains, that sparkle with snow in the winter, the city is built beside the majestic ocean with its own special beauty, beautiful forests cover our mountains, mighty eagles fly through the air, little tiny humming birds entrance us with the constant flapping of their wings, the majesty of the Creator is evident.

Scripture acknowledges this Majesty and David begins Psalm 19 with realizing that nature is expressing this by declaring it. 

“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19: 1 – 2)

The majesty of God brings awe and respect, but also instils in us a sense that his presence is constantly with us all, but sometimes we forget to acknowledge this and take what we see for granted. There is a common saying in our society, “stop and smell the roses”, this is also good advice for our spiritual health. Life can become very frantic sometimes with pressure of work, family commitments, just fitting in our daily schedule, but the beauty of nature can release this stress, we need to take time to recognize  the majesty of God in what surrounds us. Next time we see the sunrise, don’t see it as a command t leap out of bed and begin the daily grind, but marvel at the beautiful colors and feel the warmth of his smile. 

I love these verses in Job, where The Lord God, after Job has been complaining and moaning, shows him how creation was made by him with great joy and reveals his majesty. 

“Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know. Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set or who laid it’s cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted with joy.” (Job 38: 4 – 7)

Lovely to think of this the next time we see the twinkling stars and marvel at God’s majesty. 

Posted by: Jo | February 5, 2023

Learning To Love One Another

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

(Leviticus 19: 18)

We are studying a fascinating topic in our Bible study at my church. We are delving into the characteristics of God and if we are to be an image of him here on earth how do we do we practice his characteristics.  Last week we were exploring his love and John tells us he is the supreme definition of love. 

“God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.” (1 John 4: 16)

The beginning of the study was to discover what the word, love, means. The word in English is casually used in all sorts of ways, we can say we love chocolate and at the same time tell a loved one how much we love them. In Scripture written in Greek, different words are used for different types of love. Relationships are very important for humans and lack of human contact can cause serious emotional results. The Heavenly Father wanted us all to understand this and gave us all this law, Love One Another. 

In our study we looked at the different Greek words used for different relationships, there is one to describe romantic love, one for love between brothers and sisters, one for parental love. All these are important, but the most powerful word is attributed to God. This word is Agape. This is the perfect love described by John in his first letter. Our task was to discover how we as humans could a deeper understanding of this and practice in our everyday life style so our image of this will show in our relationships. 

Agape is an active love. God doesn’t just say he loves us, he shows us over and over how he loves us. He forgives us, he is willing to listen to us whenever we want to. He protects us when we call out for help. He is our rock we can lean on. He has given us his word so we can get to know him. We can never achieve this perfect love he has, but we can learn from it, so our love becomes active not just telling someone we love them but showing them by our actions. When Jesus was telling his disciples how to do this, he says these words. 

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Luke 6: 40)

God’s word is the source we can turn to when we want to learn how to represent this beautiful characteristic of God’s and our teacher is the Holy Spirit, he is called Counsellor. We also need to keep in close contact with our Heavenly Father so that Agape envelopes us so our relationship with loved ones, friends and even those difficult people, becomes more active and represents who we serve, spending time in prayer and reading his word, helps us absorb this incredible love. 

Posted by: Jo | January 22, 2023

My Cup Overflows

“You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows

(Psalm 23: 5)

One of my friends sent me a beautiful poem My Cup Overflows, written by a senior. As both my friend and I are seniors it was very meaningful for us, as we remembered our old relatives shakily pouring tea into their cups. Inevitably the tea overflowed into the saucer and then to our surprise, they drank the spilt tea from the saucer. This poem recognizes the problem of getting old, but at the same time sees the symbolism of being able to still drink spilt tea and not to moan about what is wrong, but to count our blessings instead. David says this in such a beautiful way in Psalm 23, when he begins with the most important message for all of us to remember. 

“The Lord is my Shepherd.” (Psalm 23: 1)

We don’t have to struggle alone in this world as believers we know Jesus is our Shepherd and we are his sheep, always in his care and his blessings never cease, but recognizing them is the most important part. The beautiful little poem does exactly that, adding up the blessings until the author can also say with David, my cup overflows. 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quite waters.” (Psalm 23: 2) 

Life maybe turbulent, but when we put our trust in the Lord, he calms us, ensures we rest and stop being anxious and whispers to us, “Be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46: 10)

When we take heed of this beautiful advice once again our cup overflows. 

The Old Testament has wonderful examples of how the prophets witnessed how, when they stopped, even in disastrous happenings in their life, and remembered the mighty God they served, they too were able to count the blessings of beings in God’s hands. 

Habakkuk, one of the Minor Prophets, lived in a very turbulent time when the enemies of Israel were waiting to overcome them, and God chose him to speak for him and yet through all the stress he too was able to stop and count his blessings. 

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God, my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of deer; he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3: 18 – 19)

God’s strength is one of the main blessings of knowing him, as when we call upon that strength amazing things happen, what looked like a huge obstacle on our path, now appears to shrink in size and easily passable. The little poem emphasis is being aware of the blessings and as we all concentrate on them our cups certainly overflow. 

Posted by: Jo | January 2, 2023

New Mercies – New Hope

“And this I call to mind and therefore I have hope

(Lamentations 3:21)

This past year has been fraught with all sorts of disaster, with a pandemic still invading the world, ugly war causing horror for innocent people, natural happenings causing mankind to fear what lies ahead with climate changing, so no wonder hope seems to be evading us, but over the Christmas time our city’s daily paper posted a beautiful cartoon that lifted one’s heart. It depicted two people huddled together in the dark (possibly in Ukraine) and one says to the other we have no light. Our power has been cut off. The other points to the sky where a huge star is shining and says, “We however do have light! Lookup and see the light!”. The reference to the star of Bethlehem lifted my heart.

Scripture has many stories of disasters ugly wars etc. that shattered hope in people, but when they looked up to the Heavenly Father hope sprang up inside them and Jeremiah who wrote the book of Lamentations, realized this, and wrote. 

“It is the Lord’s mercies that are not consumed because his compassions never fail because they are new every morning great is his faithfulness.” (K.J.V.) (Lamentations 3: 22 – 23)

Jeremiah was chosen by God to be a prophet for him in a very turbulent time, as the children of Israel had drifted away from the one true God and were worshipping false gods. Jeremiah at first is frightened to do this and tells God he is too young and doesn’t know how to speak to large crowds, but God assures him he will be with him. It was tough for Jeremiah, he was mocked thrown into prison and attacked on all sides, but what emerged through this time was that Jeremiah realized that hope in the love and faithfulness of God carried him through and we can read these words written so many of thousands of years ago and echo Jeremiah’s words and look for those new mercies in this New Year to come. 

The prophet Isaiah has such lyrical language to assure us and lift us up whatever is happening around us, a passage to read repeatedly. 

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in 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.” (Isaiah 40:  29 – 31)

When we were younger, we had a cabin high in the mountains with water frontage and I loved to watch the Osprey (beautiful eagle) soaring into the sky what wonderful imagery of what it feels like to rid oneself of worry, doubt, despair, and trust in the hope the Heavenly Father offers. 

We must play our part to experience this hope. We have to say yes to God’s beautiful gift and genuinely trust him, not take things into our own hands, and feel we can do it on our own or to be overwhelmed and wallow in self-pity, but to look up to where our help comes from. 

Posted by: Jo | December 15, 2022

The Miracle of Christmas

“To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

(Isaiah 9:6)

I received a beautiful Christmas card this year that held these somewhat surprising words, 

Celebrate the Miracle Of Christmas

I then began to ponder exactly what those words meant and realized the depth of meaning the word, miracle had and how this was the overruling essence of the Christmas story. It began with a young woman being greeted by an angel, an amazing miracle in of itself and hearing equally amazing words 

“But the angel said to her,” Do not be afraid, Mary you have favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name of, Jesus.” (Luke 1: 30)

Mary was a virgin how could this be only through a miracle, the first miracle. 

When Mary was due to give birth, an edict came that all the children of Israel were to go to their town of their birth to register so this meant a long arduous journey for Joseph and Mary to make to Bethlehem, only means of transport on a donkey. Then to make the birth more difficult no room to stay so this precious baby was born in a stable, imagine the infections lurking there but the next amazing miracle happened a perfect baby arrived safe and sound, the promised Son of God.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.” (Luke 2: 6 – 7)

Another miracle occurred on the fields near Bethlehem. Some shepherds, the poorest and most insignificant of society were sitting minding their sheep when suddenly the sky lit up and Heavenly angels appeared singing Glory to God, of course the shepherds were afraid, but the angels assured them they had wonderful news to tell them and they were going to be the first to hear an amazing message that this Holy Baby had come for all people. 

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign for you.  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger for there was no room for them at the inn.” (Luke 2: 10 – 12)

Later after the birth of Jesus, another miracle happened when a huge star appeared in the sky and amazed wise men living in the East who studied the sky. They were intrigued by it and decided to see where it would leave them and yet another miracle happened it led them to the Son of God a message that this Savior was for all nations. 

“…and the star they have seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” (Matthew 2: 9)

So, when we come together for Christmas let us celebrate the miracle that was brought about by the Mighty Hand of God to bless us all with our Savior Jesus Christ. 

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