Posted by: Jo | March 22, 2019

Just A Child

“You are the children of your Lord your God…”

(Deuteronomy 14: 1)

When I was young, I would often hear grown ups around me say, of course he/she is just Child01a child. I often wondered what they meant by that, was it some excuse for behaviour? Or was it some sort of dismissal of their worth? Was it a reason to ignore their contribution to life and to keep them in the background? The other familiar saying was, children should be seen and not heard. On Sunday morning we were singing one of my favourite songs and the end of every verse was this phrase

I am a child of God

Suddenly just a child, takes on a whole different meaning when we realise that God has bestowed the most incredible relationship upon us, he has allowed us to call him Father with all the privileges of Royal children.

We were singing that we were each a child of God with confidence in the incredible love of the Father, so surely the Lord views that word quite differently when he lovingly calls us his children.

Jesus himself makes it quite clear his value of children and rebukes the disciples for turning away children coming to see him;

“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10: 14)

Next, he warns us to humbly accept this beautiful relationship of being children so we never lose that sense of dependence on him and don’t slip into thinking we can now Child02control our own lives without consulting him as the much wiser parent.

“I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10: 15)

The other encouraging verse in the gospel of John tells us that when we accept and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the right to call ourselves children of God a right that cannot be snatched away from us;

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1: 12)

Even though we long to become adults when we are young, adulthood can be scary as we realise, we must make decisions on our own and when we are at the cross roads of a life changing choice, it can be overwhelming to know it is up to us to choose. That is when it is so wonderful to remember that in God’s eyes, we are just children and he will welcome us into his presence so we can talk it over with him and seek his guidance through prayer.

I am quite happy to be called, just a child of God when I know he will remember my frailty and hold out his hand when I need it the most;

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm, though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37: 23 – 24)

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Posted by: Jo | March 15, 2019

Love You Forever

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”

(Exodus 15: 13)

LoveYouForever01When my children were young, we were given a beautiful children’s book entitled, Love You Forever. It became a favourite (even though we all cried every time we read it), but eventually over the years we lost track of it until my daughter had children of her own and bought me a brand new copy to read to my grandchildren.

The other day I was minding my little grandson and I was telling him I loved him to bits and then I corrected my self and told him his cousin had a new saying and told me she loved me up to the moon and back. He immediately chimed in to tell me that he loved me more and this was his version

“I love you up to heaven and back!”

Later I was thinking about what he had said and realised that of course the Heavenly Father was the source of perfect love and just like the title of the little book, he has promised to love us forever

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; and his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16: 34)

The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 118 ended the first 4 verses with the same phrase emphasising the importance of remembering that God will love us for all time. No other love can match his for his love endures forever;LoveYouForever03

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118: 1)

In this age where every appliance, every piece of new technology every new piece of machinery has a short life span it is hard for us humans to understand what endure forever means. Even though lovers promise in that first rush of attraction that they will love each other forever, we know, sadly that is not always the case.

When we fall short of our own expectations, we often think that God will give up on us too and withdraw his love from us, but no, his love continues through all our ups and downs. We must be careful not to shut him out of our lives when we are ashamed of ourselves as we will miss out on feeling that beautiful, forgiving love he has for us.

The more we appreciate His enduring love the more we become more loving to those around us as God’s love begins to fill our lives.

In this sweet little book, I mentioned, there is a beautiful picture of a mother calming her little baby son by rocking him and singing a lovely song telling him how much she loves him. Even though we are not babies, in the book of Zephaniah, the same image is LoveYouForever02portrayed of God as a parent calming us down with his love and singing to us. I love this image and in some of my worst moments I go back and read this verse and it comforts me.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3: 17)

 

Posted by: Jo | March 8, 2019

Sharing Our Tears

“…The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces…”

(Isaiah 25: 8)

Tears02I grew up in Australia, but our culture was very much shaped by our British inheritance and one characteristic of Britain, “The stiff upper lip” prevailed in my family. Emotions displayed in public was frowned upon and if you were going through a difficult situation one did not share it in public but dealt with it privately. Just recently I have been going through a difficult time and felt that I had to pretend in public that I was coping well as my childhood upbringing had taught me.

A friend from my Bible study who knew exactly what I was feeling shared a beautiful thought with me which had a profound affect on me. She urged me to share my tears with my loving Bible study people who were so willing to cry with me and comfort me.  Of course, she was right and the sharing of tears brought me great relief.

The Lord himself urges us to share our tears with him and has promised to wipe every tear away (Isaiah 25:8) Jesus himself was not ashamed to cry in public when he saw that his friend Lazarus had died, and he saw the sorrow that his death had caused for his family.Tears01

“Jesus wept.” (John 11: 35)

Jesus also allowed a woman of dubious character to wet his feet with her tears of repentance in a public setting;

“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees’ house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.” (Luke 7: 37 – 38)

Sometimes we too have tears of repentance and sharing those directly with the Lord brings a great feeling of forgiveness. The psalmists wept and shared openly with the Lord and knew it was a safe to open their hearts to him. When they were heading to the temple on their yearly pilgrimage, they knew that if they openly came before the Lord with repentance in their hearts they would return filled with joy;

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126: 4)

Tears03We too can learn to share our tears with those who are mourning, or in health problems or major financial or family problems, offering them a safe place to do so.

The ultimate promise God makes to us is that any sort of sorrow, any mourning or tears will not exist when we are finally with him

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21: 4)

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 2, 2019

Kindness

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”

(Galatians 5: 22)

Kindness04The word, kindness, is tucked away in the list of the fruits of the Spirit and is often over looked for its importance and deeper meaning. “acts of kindness” has become a common phrase in today’s society and of course it is a positive thought to instil into our everyday activities. We have all experienced and appreciated the small gestures of a smile here, an opening of a door, a helping hand with dropped parcels. But when we look into Scripture and check a concordance, it is surprising the number of references to the word we find and the more surprising fact is that they refer to God’s kindness, so when we express kindness to another it is not to express us, but to show others the kindness of God. It is certainly not limited to that sweet smile or helping hand although that is still important.

Isaiah, the prophet is well aware that, the true essence of kindness comes from God Kindness05himself and as he realises that he praises him for letting us all experience that kindness;

“I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us- the many good things he has done…” (Isaiah 63: 7)

Being aware that kindness is one of God’s characteristics, makes a whole lot of difference when we look closely at our own lives to see how we are portraying that in our every day relationships with people.

Firstly, we need to look at the kindness the Lord bestows on us and then acknowledge that as we talk to him in prayer and tell him we are actually realising where those unexpected bursts of kindness are coming from. David is quite sure he knows who is blessing him and knows this kindness doesn’t come and go, it is unfailing;

“He gives the king great victories, he bestows unfailing kindness to his anointed; to David and his descendants forever.” (Psalm 18: 50)

If we are willing, the Lord will choose us to express his kindness to others. One lady was sharing in our Bible study that just recently she accidently broke a dear little glass hummingbird that had belonged to her mother, she was broken hearted that lovely memory was now shattered. A few days later a member of her family without saying anything came to her door, handed her package and left. She opened the parcel and inside was a little hummingbird. She told us she knew it was actually from the Lord, her relative had been prompted to show God’s kindness to her.

Kindness02Kindness can take on many different forms. Sometimes we may be asked to show kindness to those who annoy us. It may be someone in our office who talks incessantly, it may be an old relative who moves so slowly we want to give them a push to get them going, it may be someone struggling with a mental illness. If kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, we can allow it to pervade our actions, so it becomes automatically part of our being.

 

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)

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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?

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