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.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | February 2, 2020

Covered In Prayer

“I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hands”
(Isaiah 51: 16)

CoveredInPrayer01Just recently I had the most incredible example of what the Lord was saying to Isaiah when he said his people would be covered with the shadow of his hands. I was scheduled for an eye operation and as I had had a terrible result from the first operation on the other eye that left it damaged, I was very nervous about the outcome of this one. I asked my Bible study and friends to pray for me on the day of my operation and an amazing thing happened, as I lay on the operating table the nurse wrapped me in a warm blanket and suddenly I felt a wonderful sense of calm and felt the Holy Spirit was standing right beside me. I felt covered in prayer

The Lord often spoke about covering his people with protection and in Psalm 91 the Psalmist describes this beautiful promise like a mother hen protesting her chicks by covering them with her feathers;

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

When we can envisage ourselves as little chicks completely hidden by those feathers, we know we are safe from any danger.

CoveredInPrayer02The most important part of being protected is firstly asking the Lord for that Heavenly and then accepting it. Too often we take things into our own hands, thinking we can handle any thing that comes along. When we do this and not pray and not ask for prayer from other believers, we are ignoring and dismissing that wonderful offer of being covered with the mighty hand of God as we face life’s challenges. Coming from a hot country, Australia, we knew if we were not covered in sun cream or protective clothing, we would certainly get sunburnt, how foolish we are not to accept the beautiful covering of God’s protection in any situation we are in.

Covering others in prayer is a wonderful way of ensuring that loved ones, friends, those in need or others going through difficult times are protected by the powerful hand of our Heavenly Father. James in his letter to the young church urges them to pray for each other.

“pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5: 16)

We also need not be hesitant about asking for prayer for anything that is overshadowing our lives. Sometimes we are embarrassed about sharing with others what we are going through. Paul is a wonderful example of being bold about asking for prayer and often in his letters he asks for prayer.

“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)

Our prayer requests may not be as noble as Paul’s but be assured the Lord is willing to share in anything we are struggling with, personally and always willing to offer his loving protection.

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Posted by: Jo | December 20, 2019

An Indescribable Gift

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

(2 Corinthians 9: 15)

Gift02The Christmas season has begun, and the shops are crammed with gifts, overshadowing the real reason for why we are celebrating as shoppers are encouraged to forget restraint and spend, spend, spend. We lose sight of the fact that we are the recipients of the most incredible gift ever given to man and by the Heavenly Gift Giver, our Heavenly Father. His gift of his son, Jesus Christ would surpass any of the gifts already given to the nation of Israel. He was to be the long-awaited Messiah, the deliverer of the sacred gift of forgiveness the one who would allow us to have no barrier between us and the Father.

One of my friends was telling me that she will never forget one particular Christmas season. She was working in a small Australian town and one morning in December, she was walking to work and looked up to see a huge banner stretching across a cliff face just outside the town. On the banner were emblazoned these bold words;

Jesus Is The Reason For the Season

A wonderful reminder for us all to have emblazoned across our hearts this season

One of the ways to ensure Jesus remains the centre of our family celebrations is to constantly talk about him to our children. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses tells the Israelites to teach God’s words to their children, not just on Sunday, but whatever one is doing everyday so the Lord’s presence is mentioned in all ways of family life.Gift03

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11: 19)

One of my daughters was given a Christian Advent Calendar, with a little pocket for each day of Advent. Not holding a piece of chocolate like those world calendars, but a tiny little booklet with the story of Jesus continued every day Wonderful to read to her little seven-year-old son and his little three-year-old sister. The little boy decided to make sure his little sister knew who the story was about and told her Jesus was the one they were saying “thank you” to  when they said grace at the table. Out of the mouth of babes comes the word of truth.

The fact that Jesus was a divine gift to us emphasises the we have done nothing to deserve such an indescribable gift.  It is because he loves us and through his grace and mercy, we can celebrate this Christmas with grateful hearts that we are the recipients of such an amazing giftGift04

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3: 16 – 17)

 

Posted by: Jo | December 15, 2019

An Easy Yoke

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11: 30)

Yoke01Several years ago, when I was visiting relatives in Australia, my sister took me to a heritage farm that was still functioning and using the old equipment used by the first settlers and the farm is now funded by the Government and turned into a tourist destination. I was fascinated to see two cows yoked together pulling a wooden plough. When they stopped, visitors were able to ask questions to the farm worker. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the cows and asked him was it hard to put them together with the yoke. I was surprised by his answer. “Not at all”, he replied. “In fact, we always put the same cows together and they form a bond with each other, and the yoke is not heavy, and you can see when two are together they can pull the load so much more easily”.

I had always struggled to totally understand Jesus’ words when he talked about being yoked with him, but that day I suddenly understood what he meant. His listeners would have been able to understand the concept and now I had seen it in action I too began to grasp what Jesus was saying.  Yoke02

Just as one cow, or ox as they would have been using in those days, could not take a different path from the other, we too when we stay close to him, his word binds us together and we stay on the safe path of life.

The other thing I learnt that day, was that when Jesus said his burden was light, the farm hand explained to us, what that meant, that they never overloaded the cows as they would harm themselves by trying to pull anything too heavy Jesus will never overload his loved ones just walk closely beside us sharing what ever is happening.

The other beautiful verse urges us not to struggle on our own, so we grow weary, but to accept our Saviour’s offer

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 27)

Sometimes we feel we can handle whatever is going on in our lives and feel we are being weak if we seek help. Not realising that the Lord’s offer is always there

I love a line in one of the songs we sing in our church which states;

The weak made strong in the Saviour’s love 

It is okay to admit we are weak, especially when we remember our Saviour’s loving invitation to come and be yoked with him so no matter how rough the road is or how heavily burdened we feel, we can relax and feel the warmth of his presence as he shares whatever we are going through and enables us to keep safe with him.

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Posted by: Jo | November 20, 2019

When The Way Seems Dark

“When Jesus spoke again to the people he said, “I am the light of the world. Who ever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”

(John 8: 12)

Darkness01Here in Canada we are going into winter and the days rapidly become shorter and the dark nights longer. As the darkness comes, I feel my own darkness stronger and almost overpowering me. One of my daughters gave me a set of three large battery, operated candles. They look exactly like real candles and when they light up one cannot tell the difference. Last week another daughter set the timer for the batteries to automatically come on as dusk begins to turn to darkness and a day later, I was once again overcome with my own darkness when suddenly the candles turned on and light flooded the room. Then Jesus’ words also flooded the room and I remembered his promise to light up any darkness that threatened us and comfort also flooded my heart as I realised that he was with me.

Our Heavenly Father has offered that light to all his people and when he was leading them out of Egypt to the promised land, he gave them an amazing example of his power over darkness. To thwart the Egyptian army who were close behind them, he led them through the desert with a cloud and at night a pillar of light

“The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night a pillar of fire to give them light so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13: 21)

Darkness02When John the Baptist, was heralding the coming of the Saviour, the long, awaited Messiah, he described him as the true light that will give light to everyone.

“He came as a witness to testify concerning that light so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to that light. The true light that that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1: 7 – 9)

These words bring such promise to all of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t have to struggle alone when all sorts of darkness envelopes us, sometimes, grief feels like a blanket of darkness, and we need those gentle hands to lift it from us and bring back light. Sometimes hard times fall upon us, loss of a job, financial problems, sometimes family discord can darken our days, a cancer diagnosis, sick children, sometimes major decisions bewilder us as to the right one and darkness clouds our minds What a tremendous relief it is to remember that Jesus will shine light on whatever it is that darkens our days.

I love what Micah, the prophet, said what he did when he felt he was surrounded by darkness;

“…Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” (Micah 7: 8)

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