Posted by: Jo | April 18, 2019

Amazing Grace

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father. Full of grace and truth.”

(John 1: 14)

AmazingGrace01This week we sang in our church service, probably one of the best-known hymns ever written, Amazing Grace. As I sang the familiar words, once again I was filled with awe at what those words meant, although written hundreds of years ago their impact has never lessened and as we approach Good Friday and think deeply about what those words really mean, our hearts are profoundly touched and just like the author we are filled with gratitude to our Saviour.

The author, John Newton, had every reason to be amazed at the grace shown to him by Jesus. He was a slave trader in a despicable time of history when humans were traded for money. It is understandable that John Newton would be overwhelmed that Jesus would choose someone like him to die for, but when we look at ourselves, we can also be amazed that the Son of God would choose us.

The also amazing thing about grace is that it continues to pour out upon us continually when we acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour.AmazingGrace02

“From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1: 16)

Paul was particularly aware of how important Jesus’ on-going grace was to us all and constantly reminded the young churches to remember this beautiful gift would bless them and of course us as well and to allow his grace to permeate their and our lives.

“May the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and hope…” (2 Thessalonians 2: 16)

When we realise that grace is an everlasting gift, we have that feeling of being encompassed by the Saviour’s love every day of our lives and have that eternal hope that John Newton writes about in his hymn.

Yet, when this flesh and heart shall fail

And mortal life shall cease

I shall possess within the veil

A life of joy and peace.

This Good Friday, I am going to concentrate on that beautiful gift that Jesus gave us and to promise to follow the wonderful AmazingGrace03advice Peter wrote to the followers of Christ.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3: 18)

 

Posted by: Jo | April 14, 2019

Honouring One Another

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves”

(Romans 12: 10)

Honour01Perhaps all of us at birth are filled with zeal for self and the importance of being number one. If you have ever watched toddlers first interacting with other small children, how they relate is fascinating to see, as they wrestle toys away from one another and when they can speak, often accompanied by shouting out Mine and Me First. The poor parents constantly trying to teach that all important word, share, or “it is [your/their] turn next”. We do get taught how to lovingly live with one another from a young age.

Unfortunately, as we grow into adults those same toddler woes emerge and colour our lives. I know myself how irritated I become if I feel somebody has pushed ahead of me in the line up to pay for the groceries and I want to shout, me first. The Heavenly Father knew we would need some teaching and Jesus gave us the best example of how to do that;

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

Honour02When Paul is writing to the new churches, he adds another dimension to what this means. He tells Jesus’ followers to honour one another. I looked up the dictionary to check the meaning of this word and this description stood out for me;

To have high respect and esteem  

Paul was reminding them to respect their fellow believers and to show this respect to all others who would be witnesses to their behaviour. Esteem is another important word to remember in their lives and of course in our lives a well. Not to look down on others, not to feel superior to others they thought beneath them. To accept the worth of others.

The word honour in Scripture, was often associated with God himself and the children of Israel were told to honor their Almighty God and not just with their lips but with their whole being,

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29: 13)

The wonderful outcome of honouring one another is that in so doing we honour God himself. So, when we treat others with respect and esteem, we are honouring God himself;

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.” (Proverbs 14: 31)Honour03

I certainly feel a lovely feeling when someone says to me, you go ahead. A simple gesture but when we remember that when we make a point of honouring others we are also honouring God, and when we view others as being more important than ourselves it is amazing how we get that beautiful feeling that we are not only honouring God we are pleasing him.

 

Posted by: Jo | April 5, 2019

Rejoicing Daily

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

(Psalm 118: 24)

Rejoice01Last week my family with their two young children came to dinner at my place and once we were seated at the table, my six-year-old grandson could hardly wait to tell me what they were now doing at their dinner table every night. At first, I was a little confused when he said, it was about roses, thorns and buds. When his mother explained I was thrilled at what their parents were instilling in their children. Everybody took a turn and they had to look hard at their day and find a beautiful thing that had happened (a rose) then they were also allowed to share what had been not so good (a thorn) then to end with, to find a way to encourage something good to happen for the next day (the bud).

The Lord allows us to do exactly that when we talk to him. We can converse with him honestly about our day, but not to dwell on the thorns, but to find a beautiful thing to thank him for so we find that rose to rejoice with him and then if we have messed up in some way we can find a bud which we will strive to allow to bloom on the following day.

Paul is a wonderful example of rejoicing in the Lord whatever thorns he has in his life.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” (Philippians 4: 4)

Rejoice02When he is writing to the Philippians, he encourages them to rejoice and find roses to thank God for. This even more startling when Paul was writing from prison while in chains.  He doesn’t mention how terrible that must be, but rejoices that amid all his agony his witness for Christ has reached the palace guard and not only that, this witnessing has encouraged other Christians to be bolder in how they share the good news;

“Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Philippians 1: 14)

Philippians is a letter filled with joy and Paul wanted to convey this to the believers so that the joy of knowing Christ would also fill their lives and in the opening chapter he tells them that he prays for them with joy;

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” (Philippians 1: 4)

Rejoice03Again, a wonderful example for us to follow to pray with joy for our families, our friends our church family

When we start the day rejoicing, it has an amazing affect on the rest of the day and at the end of the day we will have plenty of roses to thank God for.

Posted by: Jo | April 1, 2019

Pleasant Boundaries

“Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”

(Psalm 16: 5)

Boundaries01Many years ago, my husband and I bought a holiday cabin for all the family to use, on a remote lake with a water frontage. The property was an acre and was covered in stately pine trees. We fell in love with it when we first saw it. When we moved in, I was reading my Bible and came across this verse in Psalm 16 in which the Psalmist was thanking God for the pleasant and beautiful place God had allowed him to live in. When I read it, it became my prayer for this place we had just bought, and I wrote out the verse in big letters and it remained on the refrigerator the whole time we owned it.

Eventually we became too old to stay in such a remote place and had to sell it and our house and move into a condo in the city. I came across the verse recently in my reading and had to stop and recall all the memories it held for me, but then I had an awaking as I looked at where I am now living. As I started to count my blessings I was once again able to pray that prayer back to the Father.

Boundaries02My physical boundaries were certainly different, but emotionally I was surrounded by the Father’s love on all sides. He had surrounded me with a loving family to care for me. Loving friends and a supporting church community. I was bound to him by his love. The Lord had promised to never forsake me so he is one of my boundary lines that can never be moved

“…For the Lord your God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31: 6)

In ancient Israel boundary lines were very important and could not be moved by anyone except the rightful owner. The Heavenly Father also knew that we as humans also needed boundary lines in how to live with each other. A few years ago, there was a movement to establish boundary lines for children from parents finding that when children had boundaries to behaviour, they felt safer and better behaviour resulted. Scripture is our source of behaviour boundaries for us. The Bible has set out how we can live at peace with everybody if we remember them.

Many think God’s laws as being restrictive and making life miserable, but the exact opposite is true. When we live those words especially this basic one; Boundaries03

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37 – 39)

We can confidently say…

 

The boundary lines in my life

are truly pleasant

 

 

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)

Child03

 

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)

 

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