Posted by: Jo | August 2, 2020

The Loving Eyes of the Lord

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers”

(1 Peter 3: 12)

LovingEyes01As we are entering summer weather, restrictions imposed months ago due  to the corona virus, have relaxed slightly and families are now allowed to go to local beaches and parks and  as I was watching the television news it was showing a mother and father with a toddler, paddling in the ocean.  I was fascinated to watch the loving tender care both parents were taking of their little one, never taking their eyes of him. He was adventurous and unaware of any danger the ocean might hold, but every time he wanted to keep wading into deeper water, his parents would guide him back to safety. It reminded me of the beautiful promises found in God’s word of how he keeps his eyes on us and constantly guides us to safer waters. Sometimes we ignore his advice and decide we are quite capable to look after our own lives and do not need him to meddle in them.

Sometimes toddlers are the opposite to our first little one and are too timid to venture into the water to paddle then we see loving parents gently encourage new adventures. When we look at nature, we see protecting parents lovingly caring for their young and constantly keeping them safe near them.LovingEyes02

Nature programs have wonderful illustrations of   how parents care for their offspring and the Lord used   these illustrations in his word to show how he cares for us. One program I was watching showed a mother seal who has to go on land to deliver her baby and when the sun is very hot in the middle of the day she lies beside the little one so it is protected from the sun  by her shadow. This is what God does for us when troubles exhaust us.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91: 1)

Again, nature is used to illustrate the Lord’s all-encompassing protection he promises us. When a mother hen has her chicks, she protects them from danger by covering then completely with her feathers and Psalm 91 tells us that we too can seek refuge under the feathers of our Lord when anything frightens us or life overwhelms us.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91: 4)LovingEyes03

The Lord also promises to never forsake us and this too is obvious in nature, when a young foal is born in the wild the mother keeps him always by her side, ready to fight off any danger that might come.

“Be strong and courageous do not be afraid or terrified because of them for the Lord your God goes with you and will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31: 6)

The world is swamped with fear and panic of this ugly virus sweeping the world, but when we remember that the watchful eye of our Father is always upon us, we can relax and trust him.

Posted by: Jo | June 29, 2020

Rebuilding After Chaos

“…They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.”  So they began this good work”

(Nehemiah 2: 18)

Rebuild01The world has been turned upside down by this vicious corona virus. All our lives have had to change to protect ourselves and others. Jobs have been lost. Children denied school and fun playing with friends. Old people shut away from family even though they struggle with the last days of dying, it feels as if our lives are in pieces and over all the chaos is fear of what the future holds. Emotions have become raw and deep, down resentment has erupted and ugly racism has surfaced and made us all rethink of our own values, especially when we are followers of Jesus. So how will we pick up the pieces when life returns?

The story of Nehemiah is a wonderful example of how the children of Israel rallied behind Nehemiah to do just that, rebuild after chaos. They had been exiled to Persia, but a few tribes had been able to stay, but life was nothing like before they were conquered. Jerusalem was in ruins the walls knocked down and those left behind constantly being attacked. Rebuild02Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the king of Persia and after Nehemiah learnt what was happening to his fellow countrymen he prayed to God and begged him to have pity on them. After praying Nehemiah was brave enough to as k the King could he go back to Jerusalem. When he returned, he filled the people with hope and told them their gracious God was with them they banded together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They were taunted by their enemies, but Nehemiah reminded them.

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your daughters.” (Nehemiah 4: 14)

In the midst of the chaos we are experiencing, we too are finding those who are negative and full of dire possibilities of what is to come e.g. life will never be the same, we will have this virus for years, our children will always be damaged , our economy will be ruined. We need to listen to the writer of Ecclesiastes.

“… a time to tear down and a time to build.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 3)

When we rebuild, we need to look again how Nehemiah helped the people to have the energy to rebuild. Firstly, trust in our gracious God and allow him to direct us. Secondly, work together and bring about harmony with those we have been made aware of during this crisis, those who are different from us, the disadvantaged, the old who need tender care, not neglect or abuse.  The lonely neighbours we were not aware of until we found out they have nobody to shop for them.

Rebuild03Often when we need to rebuild, we need to use new bricks that will give us a firm foundation, so let us plan ahead to use new ways in our lives to correct the mistakes we have been making, so when the time comes, we will build with enthusiasm and remember Jesus’ words

“My command is this. Love each another as I have loved you.” (John 15: 12)

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | June 12, 2020

Being God’s Holy People

“I am the Lord who brought your up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy”

(Leviticus 11: 45)

Beloved01We are living through the world being in turmoil and then added to his terrifying plague, corona virus, we are plunged into the chaos of ugly racism sweeping through the U.S.A.  Racism has long been there, but the threat of perhaps, death through the virus, has frayed nerves and emotions have risen to the surface demanding that we all face the truth about what people are suffering and rightly so. We as God’s people need to look closely at how we view others and how we can be holy as the Lord told us, (Leviticus 11: 45) the definition of holy, means to be set apart. I feel this means that we are not influenced by what the world says, but we are guided by what God’s word says, we are to be different and stand out as those who spread love not hatred.

Paul entreats the believers at Philippi to look carefully at the incredible characteristics of Jesus Christ and emulate them and allow them to govern the way we live and allow the world to see how we stand out , not in arrogance at how superior we are, but to be humble as how our Saviour lived among mankind, not to look down on others we consider beneath us , but to think of others more highly than ourselves, to see ourselves as servants to others not masters;

“ Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus; Who being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2: 5 – 8)

Beloved02Paul also entreats the believers to look beyond what they think is important to them and to be aware of how others look at their lives and to realise what is important to them

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 4)

Hatred and fear lead to anger and violence and some protests about racism have led just to that. How do we follow God’s directive to be holy and to follow Christ Jesus’ example?

Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22) and when we want to stand up for what is right in the eyes of God the way to do that is with gentleness and respect of others. Peter writes in his epistle a wonderful way for still to stand up for what we believe, but to do it with gentleness and respect, a wonderful reminder for all of us during these troubled times what ever country we live in.

“But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3: 15)

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Posted by: Jo | May 31, 2020

Everyone Has A Story

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”

(Jeremiah 1:  5)

Story02Just recently, before the COVID19 had happened, I was at a church luncheon and I chose to sit at a table at which I knew nobody.  The tables seated eight people and when all had sat down, one gentleman began the conversation with this thoughtful idea. He said we all have a story let us share our stories so we can relate to each other. 

He was right. We all have a story, but sometimes sharing our stories can be painful. Sometimes we are ashamed of our stories and would prefer to have another that might impress others. Sometimes our stories are so sad sharing them would only add to our grief.

When God speaks to Jeremiah to tell him that he has chosen him to be a prophet and wants him to speak boldly to the Israelites, Jeremiah protests as he thinks who he is and his age (his story) will not be worthy of God, but God overrules him and tells him of course he knows Jeremiah’s story because he was the one who formed him, (Jeremiah 1: 5)

Story01This is such a comfort to all of us who love the Lord. He knows all our stories. We don’t have to pretend to him how wonderful we are. We don’t have to pretend we are okay when we are broken hearted.  We don’t have to be ashamed of what we have done, we can come to him and be forgiven and have a fresh start to a new fresh story and when it involves him actively, it takes on a new quite different path. One of joy and contentment about who we are, and the other exciting part is we join Jesus’ story.

The other joy of being forgiven, is the fact that our Heavenly Father wipes clean any pages in our story that we are ashamed of, we have a clean slate.

“…For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.” (Isaiah 65: 16)

Jesus has the most compelling story of all time and one that we need to constantly read so it is imprinted on our minds. We can share it with others and tell our children of the wonders of our Saviour.  When I was a child growing up one of my favourite hymns was the one below

Tell Me The Old, Old Story

Tell me the old., old story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and his Glory, of Jesus and his love.

Tell me the story simply, as to a little child.

For I am weak and weary and helpless and defiled

Tell me the story slowly that I may take it in

That wonderful redemption God’s remedy for sin

Tell me the story often for I forget so soon.

The early dew of morning has passed away at noon

Tell me the old, old story.

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Posted by: Jo | May 10, 2020

Turbulent Waters

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you”

(Isaiah 43: 2)

TurbulentWaters01Apprehension, anxiety, fear of the future is sweeping over many parts of the world and lockdowns and isolation is heightening these feeling in many people but for those already struggling with depression it has an even more powerful affect. I have a young friend who is caught in this dilemma and finding it very difficult to cope. I was praying for her early one morning and then I went to read the passage set for my Bible study and it was these beautiful words from the Lord spoken through the prophet, Isaiah,  (Isaiah 43: 1-2) sent to God’s people to comfort them as they were struggling in difficult times.  As I finished reading them, I felt these words were meant for my young friend.

This is the amazing outcome of God’s powerful words. Later when I phoned my friend to read them to her, I was startled by her response. I was greeted by a glad response. She recognised the words but had forgotten them and said she sang a song using these exact words when she was younger, but never knew they were from the Bible and I did not know they were a song. Later she sent me the song and as I listened, I cried at the goodness of our Lord to send to my friend, just what she needed to hear. She now can sing the song when she feels like she is being swept away.

TurbulentWaters02The Lord constantly reminded the children of Israel, and the reminders are still relevant for us, that He cares for us whatever situation we find ourselves in and that he is always nearby, never too busy to listen.  All we need do is talk to him and tell him the fears that are assailing us

“The lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him.” (Deuteronomy 4: 7)

While I was thinking still about the image of rushing waters, I thought of the other image of our Lord Jesus Christ that is so powerful to hang on to. The Rock!

We know if we are ever caught in a swirling river, hanging on to a rock can be a life saver. Jesus uses this well, known parable to illustrate the power of rock. He tells of two builders who are going to build a house. One chooses to build on rock, the other chooses to build on sand. When storms blow, it is obvious who chose the right location. The house on the sand is swept away while the one built on the rock stands firm.

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7: 25)

We have somebody like a rock to hang on to while the storms of life swirl around us . We just have to call out to him, and he will be there right beside us.

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Posted by: Jo | April 24, 2020

Loving Generously

“A new command I give you. Love one another.  As I have loved you., so you must love one another”

(John 13: 34)

LoveGenerously02When we think of the word, generous, we often associate it with money, but it can also be used to describe actions as well as the gift of money. The world is reeling from the effects of this ugly virus stealing from us our loved ones, denying us our normal routine, taking away jobs and robbing us of the social contact we all need so much with friends and family. Fear and panic sometimes bring out the worst in humanity, such as the me first attitude that results in hoarding food and essential items, but it can also bring out the love that Jesus entreated his disciples and of course all believers who have followed him, to practice.

Love generously!

Social distancing has made it difficult to see our loved ones and all our also loved friends, but because we can still use our phones and the internet to keep in touch, Jesus encourages us to love our neighbours as well as close friends. Many seniors are trapped in their homes, feeling lonely and deserted, I read a beautiful verse in Proverbs that helps us follow Jesus’ words.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16: 24)

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Just picking up the phone and talking gracious words of encouragement can do wonders for a lonely person and an easy way to ease the burden of isolation. They don’t have to be pompous with empty sounding words, but if we pray before phoning the Lord will season our words with his love and compassion. Those who know me will not be surprised that I try to add a little bit of humour as well. The main thing is to let the person know the call has been prompted by love and as the Lord says, cheerfully.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9: 7)

Small acts can also allow a lonely neighbour to find that they are not forgotten. Bulbs are springing up in gardens, even a small bunch of flowers left outside the door can gladden a sad heart. One of my old friends told me she looked in her mail box the other day and found lovely drawings from two little girls who live in her street with also loving words just saying “ miss you”.  This is also a good way to teach small children to love neighbours, also a good way to keep those little ones busy.

Jesus is and always will be the greatest giver of all time and as we have just celebrated Easter, that example is foremost in our minds. When we realise the most amazing gift given to us, we are propelled to spread that love to others in any way we can.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9: 15)

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Posted by: Jo | April 7, 2020

Fear Not

“This is what the Lord says to you, Do not be discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s”

(2 Chronicles 20: 17)

FearNot01We are living in a world filled with fear and panic. The spread of this ugly virus is sweeping through the world and the media is filling us with more dread every day as the numbers grow and strict rules come into play which are limiting our social contact with others which is so necessary for our human spirits . Even our churches are closed for worship. What we need to remember is that we do not need a building to talk to our Heavenly Father. He is ready always to hear our fears, to comfort us with his love, to  help us make decisions,  to direct our paths and he loves for us to tell him how much we love him, all we need to do is to pray to him. 

Corrie ten Boom lived in a terrifying time of history, World War 2  and even ending up in prison, she kept her faith and was able to survive and encourage thousands by her positive approach to the storms of life for those who followed after her. One of her powerful messages is this one;

If you look at the world you will be distressed

If you look within you will be depressed

But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.

FearNot02We have many powerful stories in the Old Testament, that tell us of how the children of Israel were involved in terrifying situations, often visiting armies, with vast numbers of soldiers far outnumbering them, attacking them. When they remembered to cry out to God, he answered them by reminding them that he was with them and always would be, so when we cry out to him, he does the same for us.  He reminds them that the battle is not theirs but his (2 Chronicles 20: 17) so too for us. We cannot possibly defeat what happens, but we can hand the battle over to him so that fear does not paralyze us.

The other verse I love is in Proverbs 3, where we are urged to trust the Heavenly Father and he will direct our paths and not let our own feeble human understanding sweep over us.

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

By hanging on to the promises of God we will not be bowed down by the news and we will have the strength to cope and to help as much as we can to follow what we have been asked to do and at the same time spread the words of encouragement from  our FearNot03Father to our families, our friends and we can still use the phone the internet to send out the gospel so spirits will be lifted and despair will not take over

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 25, 2020

Set Free

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts”

(Psalm 119: 45)

SetFree01The terrible corona virus that is sweeping through the world is bringing chaos to travelers and even to virtually making people prisoners in their own homes or to keeping passengers confined to their cabins on cruise ships which have infected passengers aboard. I was watching one such passenger discussing his plight over the internet with a reporter and he was describing his feelings of being those of prisoners in jail and all he could think of was, when he would finally be set free.

Freedom and being set free, is often mentioned in Scripture and is actually a beautiful gift offered to the children of God and when we realize this we can echo the words of the psalmist who senses he can now run freely on the true path set out by God for us all to take.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119: 32)

When Jesus is teaching his disciples, he emphasizes that true freedom will be found by believing in him and following his words.

“To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8: 31 – 32)

SetFree02The Pharisees took offence at what Jesus was saying and hotly denied being slaves to anyone, not understanding what Jesus was really meaning by being trapped by sin and being enslaved by many parts of their lives that inhibited them from discovering the joy of being able to shake off those ugly thoughts and actions that were eating away at their very beings not allowing them to run with that great sense of freedom.

Even today we can be trapped by many different circumstance that  can spoil our relationship with others and our relationship with the Lord, not realizing that we are prisoners choosing to stay locked in when the Lord is so willing to set us free. The writer of Hebrews describes it as being entangled, giving a very clear picture of being tied up in ropes and unable to untie the knots.

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12: 1)

Sometimes we can become entangled by what is happening in our lives as when someone hurts us anger can take over our thoughts and slowly entangles us unless we call out to the Lord to untie the knot and help us to forgive that person. Self-destructive thoughts can tie us up if we begin to feel unworthy and not measuring up to others and feel the Lord could never accept us. Again, we need the help to be set free and to call upon the Lord for help. Others who love the Lord deeply can often help us to do this.

When we realize that we can be set free, life can be lived to the fullest as that is also a promise from Jesus who came to give us life in abundance.

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Posted by: Jo | March 3, 2020

A Random Act of Kindness

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

(Galatians 5: 22 – 23)

RandomKindness01I was chatting to my sister, who lives in Australia, just recently and she couldn’t wait to tell me about a surprising story about her birthday celebration.  A friend had invited her to lunch on her birthday at a very expensive restaurant set in a beautiful setting overlooking the beach. Both enjoyed a lovely meal with each other as they had been friends for many years. When my sister’s friend asked for the bill, they were amazed when the waiter told them it had been paid. They were very touched by the person’s kindness and left the restaurant with lifted spirits in the fact that in this present world of, a “me first” attitude, someone would think of someone else to bless with an act of kindness

Kindness is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and is one of the characteristics of our Heavenly Father that He would like to see practiced by His children. Giving is also is part of God’s love for us and Scripture tells us that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, not one who gives to impress, or gives to gain favor with someone, or gives to see what comes back from the gift, but Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that God loves a cheerful giver, one who does not count the cost to himself

“Each man should give what he has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9: 7)

RandomKindness02This is exactly what the giver to my sister and her friend did. Giving does not always have to be in the form of money. Giving our time for somebody else is also a gift of kindness. My sister visits an old lady in a home and reads to her. No money is involved, but lots of kindness is.

Paul also entreats us to think of others more highly than ourselves. A difficult thing do when we are standing in a long line-up at the supermarket, but when we see an old person who looks weary or a young mother with a crying baby and a buggy full of groceries, and we willingly give up our place, that gift of kindness is one truly appreciated by the recipient.  We are living the word of Scripture.

Our Heavenly Father showers us with gifts of kindness and is the example for us to follow and His Word tells us not to take His gifts for granted and think that somehow we deserve them, but to recognise them and spread them to others around us, even if we do not know them, not expecting praise, but giving back the gifts to glorify Him.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father, of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1: 17)

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Posted by: Jo | February 15, 2020

Being Accepted

“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; The Lord accepts my prayer”

(Psalm 6: 9)

Accepted02One of my granddaughters had applied for a new exciting job just recently, and after several interviews, she heard the good news that her application had been accepted. We all rejoiced with her at the good news. I was watching a fascinating documentary a few weeks ago on the TV that was dealing with the importance of being accepted, it is very important for the vulnerable ones in our society, such as new immigrants, the mentally challenged, the disabled. The program I was watching was focusing on young immigrants. By learning how to play hockey they had a wonderful tool to help young ones find friends and feel acceptance with their peer group. The young man coaching the youngsters gave a wonderful testimony as to what this had done for him, when he was a lonely newcomer to Canada. The participants were provided with used but good hockey equipment to get them started. I loved the looks of joy on their faces

Some of us struggle with being accepted and often feel rejected by our peers and this even happens in our church families where we may feel we don’t match up to other’s faith or perhaps we feel we haven’t the gifts that others display, mistakenly coming to Accepted01think that God doesn’t accept us as true followers.  God assures us that yes in his eyes we are certainly accepted, in fact the Lord is not influenced by appearances, he is more interested in our hearts. If we have a heart that loves the Father and his word, we are certainly accepted

“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)

One of the big lessons I thought was being exhibited in the program I was watching,  was for all of us to be willing to accept others, Jesus urged us to love our neighbours not just the ones who were just like us, not just the ones who looked like us, not just the ones  we relate to, but those who our acceptance will show the love of Christ.

When Paul is writing to the Roman church, he entreats them to accept each other. When we practice this within our church family, it gives the world a wonderful example of Accepted03practicing what the word of God says. When the reverse happens, bickering and division, we cast doubts about the truth of being followers of Jesus. Paul puts it very clearly…

“Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15: 7)

Accepting others is not to make others think how understanding we are, but to allow our actions to bring praise to God.

 

 

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