Posted by: Jo | August 24, 2019

Joined Together

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man t be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him…”

(Genesis 2: 18)

JoinedTogether01One of my darling granddaughters was married this weekend and as I looked at this beautiful woman, dressed in flowing white gown with such a sweet smile, her face covered with happiness, I started to remember this young woman as a little girl and memories flooded my mind. She had a child like faith in God and one of the stories her mother had relayed to us was about quite a serious snowstorm the family were trapped in, on their way to visit us at our cabin.

They were stuck on the side of the road and the driver, her father, was not sure they could get through a pile of snow they had to get over to get back on the road.  The mother turned to the children in the back seat and said, “We have to pray.” Then she heard quite loudly her little daughter saying “Please Dod” I don’t think God minded being called Dod, he knew that this little one was confident he could get them through the snow, and he did. The car climbed the pile of snow and they were back safe on the road.

JoinedTogether02As she grew older her faith deepened and she had to remind me of the Father’s power. The family were again visiting us in our cabin and this time my daughter became ill. I was worried as we were in an isolated place and a long way from any help. My little granddaughter noticed how worried I was and said quite simply, “Nana just ask God to make her better” Simple child like faith and I prayed with her and the other children and once again God responded.

God blessed marriage from the start and meant it seriously as being joined together;

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 24)

The New Testament also emphasises the importance of a loving marriage and in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds husbands to love and respect their wives in chapter 5: 25. He tells them to love their wives like Christ loved the church

JoinedTogether03During the ceremony the pastor used these well-known words still so important today as they were when the apostle Paul wrote them;

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7)

Wonderful words not for the just newly married, but for all of us. I cried during the service, but they were tears of thanksgiving for God’s incredible love for us.

Posted by: Jo | August 5, 2019

Taking God’s Love For Granted

“He will love you and bless you…”

(Deuteronomy 7: 12)

Gratitude03When my youngest daughter was about 6 years old, I was giving her a big hug before she left for school and said jokingly, “Have I ever told you I love you?”  She came back with a quick retort, “About a thousand times!” This story has become a favourite one in our family and told over and over with much laughter. Some of my granddaughters are now young ladies, and if they are visiting me, before they leave my home I always say, “Have I ever told you I love you?”   And they always reply with much laughter. “About a thousand times!

Our Heavenly Father tells us over and over how much he loves us, but sometimes we take that for granted and neglect to acknowledge the beautiful gift this is and just expect it. His love is so permanent and powerful he tells us that we will be loved though the earth be shaken. Nothing can destroy God’s love.

“Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” (Isaiah 54: 10)

Just in any relationship, love needs to be returned to the lover and so it is so important for us to return the Lord’s love to him. Too often in our prayers we concentrate on ourselves and our needs and problems and of course the Lord wants us to share our lives with him, but we also need to return love to him, who is so generous in his love towards Gratitude02-Largeus. Praising him is one way to do that, while we are going through experiences where we have been so aware of feeling his love, such as

  • When we needed it the most
  • When we felt unloved
  • When we were ashamed of what we had done and came to him for forgiveness
  • When we were grieving, sad or lonely

Just stopping to allow that love to cover us and tell him how much we love him, builds a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father.

In human relationships, one of sweetest ways of acknowledging another’s love is to simply say, “Thank you for loving me.”  I am very much aware of that at this time of my life as I grow old and am so grateful for my family who love me and show that in so many ways. I try not to ever just take their love for granted but thank them for loving me.

Jesus reminds all of us that loving our Heavenly Father is the most important part of being part of his family and if we remember his words, we won’t take God’s love for granted, but tell him over and over how much we love him and thank him for loving us.

“Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22: 37 – 38)

Gratitude01

Posted by: Jo | August 4, 2019

Listening For That Whisper From God

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”

(Psalm 107: 29)

GodSpeaks01Just recently I was fitted with hearing aids as my family had insisted, I needed them, I agreed with them, but thought of them as another reminder of how old I was becoming and reluctantly, went ahead with the procedure. My daughter told her young son that I would now be able to hear all the stories he wanted to tell me about school and all the exciting things a six-year-old boy did every day. When he saw me for the first time, he ran towards me and said, “Where are they?” I think he was very disappointed that I was not wearing heavy black earphones like a helicopter pilot. I had to explain they were inside my ears so then he decided to put them to the test. His first test was a faint whisper which I had to bend down close to him to hear, next he shouted a question which made my head spin. Normal voice, his mother explained.

Scripture speaks about God himself whispering, but his whisper is so powerful the Psalmist tells us that storms and wild sea are hushed. There is a beautiful story in the first book of Kings where we read about Elijah who had been zealously working for God, but was exhausted and ran away to hide from the king Ahab, and prayed to God to let him die as in his own words,  he had had enough.

“He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die, “I have had enough, Lord” he said…” (1 Kings 19: 4)

GodSpeaks02God decides to speak to him, himself and the story takes an unusual twist, suddenly there is a mighty wind. God does not speak. Next an earthquake. God does not speak, then a roaring fire. God does not speak.  Then amazingly God speaks to Elijah in a whisper. (Wonderful story to read to get the whole picture)

It is a wonderful example for us to take note. Life might bring all sorts of upheavals in various forms and we can feel that we have had enough like Elijah, but it is often those situations that if we stop and concentrate on listening to God whispering, and shut out all the noise of the world with it’s false accusations, we hear words of comfort and encouragement.

Just as we need to be close to anybody who whispers to us, so we need to listen very carefully to what the Lord is saying to us and the only way to do that is to stay in close contact with him and believe he is powerful to quell any storm threatening us, just with his voice, just as Jesus slowed this power to the disciples.

“…He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.” (Luke 8: 24)

GodSpeaks03I read a beautiful saying in a study I was reading

Jesus whispers through all God’s word

That is how we can hear God’s whisper. Through reading his word.

Posted by: Jo | July 13, 2019

The Weak Made Strong

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Corinthians 1: 8)

WeakStrong01We sing a song in our church, that always lifts me up and makes me realise that I can make it through another week, with the help of the Holy Spirit holding me up. The refrain of each verse says;

The weak made strong through the Saviour’s love.

The permission to be weak is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a follower of Christ Jesus. In a world that often despises weakness and actively preaches another message of be strong and achieve your goal and promote stories of people going off into the wilderness by themselves, camping, foraging for food, living off berries, giving all the glory to the person and making all those who could never accomplish this a feeling of being weak and useless.

We have often heard this deriding of weakness in these sayings;

  • He is such a weak person, never standing up for himself
  • She is so weak she just gives in to everybody, she has no backbone

It is so refreshing to read in Scripture, that the Lord does not judge us on how strong we are.

Paul has quite a different slant on what weakness means to him. He revels in his weakness because he knows that when he succeeds, glory will go to the Lord; WeakStrong02

“That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians12: 10)

The Psalmists knew where to find the strength to get them through whatever was happening around them. We too can call out to the Lord when our strength is failing;

“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” (Psalm 31: 3)

We often come across in our own lives, of people who are genuinely weak through a physical handicap, or from some terrible trauma, or a mental problem, these are the ones who need to hear the wonderful news, that the Lord does not see them having to be trapped in their weakness , but is willing to make them strong in his love. We too by our actions need to see them as children of God, deeply loved by him and to tell them this.

Sometimes life overwhelms us so powerfully that we feel we cannot even pray and feel weak and helpless. This is when we can remember that we have a powerful advocate, the Holy Spirit who offers to pray for us if we just come and ask him; WeakStrong03

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself, intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8: 26)

Then the Saviour will make us strong through his love. 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | June 29, 2019

Good News

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

(Isaiah 61: 1)

GoodNews01Watching the television news lately can be very depressing with every story bringing ugly descriptions of “man’s inhumanity to man” (Alan Paton) from wars and abuse, to human trafficking to senseless shooting of school children. The internet is not much better with the hidden challenge of now for all of us, having to decide if this is fake news or real. It can be very disturbing to read of people who have ben fooled by what they think is real and only to find out they have been hoodwinked by evil people extracting money from them. We, the followers of Jesus must be constantly aware of the false news that begins to cause doubt about the truth of scripture and so easily fall onto the trap Eve fell into when Satan whispered these words, cleverly bringing doubt on the veracity of God’s words

 “…He said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3: 1)

Others can lead us astray by saying the same question in a different form, implying we don’t need to really believe what the Bible says.

The prophet Isaiah said in Chapter 25: 7 that the people had been covered in a shroud that was hiding the truth from them and the coming Saviour would destroy that shroud. We need to remember that verse and remember the power we must discern and disregard false news.

GoodNews02The news about Jesus Christ is described over and over in scripture as, good news. The angels told those shepherds long ago and they believed and worshipped that new, born king;

“But the angels said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2: 10)

Jesus himself begins his ministry telling the people the good news about their God;

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1: 14)

After Jesus had shown himself as the risen Saviour to the apostles, they never stopped preaching the good news wherever they went despite opposition, persecution and gaol. They knew this was the real news everybody needed to hear; GoodNews03

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

Once we know that good news, we need to tell others and not keep it to ourselves. This sometimes shared the best way by living that good news. Our actions often can reflect the message of that good news, so that others will desire the peace and love we display in our lives and ask us what prompts our actions.  So wonderful to have good news to share despite what ever is raging around us.

 

Posted by: Jo | June 8, 2019

Accepting God’s Gift Of Peace

“And the peace of God which transcends all human understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4: 7)

Peace04Peace, the word itself, carries deep depth for every human being, but when it is joined with God’s name it transcends all human understanding. It outweighs every human concept of humans who struggle to find peace in their own lives, relying on their own capabilities. The world battles against all odds to bring about peace between nations, cultures, religions, mostly failing as history proves, only resulting in an on-going saga of wars.

When I was growing up our church had a lovely practice of just before the prayers for communion began, the congregation was asked to turn to the person beside you and “pass the peace”. This meant shaking their hand and saying, Peace be with you and they would respond likewise. A beautiful message, but sometimes lost its power as it became routine like saying “good morning” and the real meaning became lost.

David remembered the power of the Lord and reminded the people of where their strength would come from.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  (Psalm 29: 11)

A wonderful reminder for us as turmoil overtakes our lives and anxiety leaves us troubled and making decisions becomes clouded with fear, we need to accept that gracious offer of peace and ask the Lord to provide it for us.

Peace05Jesus himself knew the troubled world was going to be hard for those who chose to follow him and left this blessing behind him not only for the disciples, but for us as well.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27)

And again, he reminds us of his great strength and urges us to accept his gracious gift and to remember that he has overcome the world and his peace is way beyond any earthly power;

“But I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 6: 33)

Just like any gift, it needs to be received and opened. Too often we feel that we should be able to deal ourselves when difficulties arise and become like my little two-year-old Peace03grand-daughter, who spurns any help we offer her, but replies, I can do it! By acknowledging God’s beautiful gift, we can rest assured that rusting him will alleviate our fears and allow that incredible peace to encircle us as we walk the paths of life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)

 

Posted by: Jo | June 1, 2019

Simple Gestures

“I led them with cords of human kindness with ties of love, I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”

(Hosea 11: 4)

Gestures01We often read in the media of random acts of kindness, but rarely know of what affect that has on the person who receives them.

A few weeks ago, I was recipient of not one, but three beautiful simple gestures that changed my day. I was feeling very despondent and sad and felt I had to at least go for a walk in the sunshine to escape the loneliness of my apartment. As I was walking down a walk in my neighbourhood, I came across a lady in a motorised wheelchair sitting in the sunlight. I stopped to pat the tiny dog she had with her and she looked up and with a beautiful smile said, you are looking very beautiful today, I certainly didn’t feel very beautiful, but she was wearing a tee shirt that said, be kind to one another, and that and her smile lifted my spirits . I told her how beautiful her smile was and was rewarded by another one.Gestures03

My step quickened and a moment later saw a friend who I had not seen for ages. Her warm hug brightened me yet again! As I wandered into one of our shops, I was rewarded this time with laughter, as I lined up at the check out another old lady was laughing with the cashier and she turned to include me in their joke, and I laughed with them. A smile, a hug, laughter who would have thought that would change my mood to joy. I thanked God for the kindness of others and walked home filled with joy.

I love the way the Lord told the children of Israel that he would bind them to him with cords of kindness while he lead them (Hosea 11: 4) When we know we are bound to him with cords of kindness, we can spread that kindness to others, as we go about our daily life, as I learnt even the smallest gestures can bring sunshine into someone’s life, as well it is good for us to recognise the kindness of others as I learnt in my walk and don’t just brush it off, savour each simple gesture you experience and the day will grow Gestures02immeasurably brighter.

The lord also speaks through Jeremiah to remind his people what his characteristics are and what we can inherit by being one of his children

“But let him who boasts, boast about this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9: 24)

So when we experience those simple gestures of kindness, let us remember where they originate from and give thanks to the Lord.

Posted by: Jo | May 17, 2019

A Chasing After The Wind

“And I saw all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

(Ecclesiastes 4: 4)

Contentment01We have been doing a fascinating study in our church on the book of Samuel and with the focus on the life of David. David began as a humble shepherd boy until his famous feat of killing the giant Goliath and eventually becoming the King of Israel. Last Sunday we observed David drifting away from the God he worshipped and committing the sin of adultery and ordering the murder of Uriah. Our pastor pointed out how power can corrupt. David had wealth and power, everything he needed, but still allowed envy for another man’s wife to lead him into sin. Our pastor had this quote about power, power is like drinking saltwater, the more you have the thirstier you become for more, your thirst is never satisfied.

Solomon, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, was another example of someone who had wealth and power, but he concluded, that most of what we desired as humans became a mere “chasing after the wind”.

So, what does give us satisfaction and give us contentment with our lot in life?

The world constantly tells us of exactly what will make us happy and satisfied with life, ideas ranging from beautiful clothes, luxury homes, to fast sport cars. It also in a subtle way promotes, that to get to the top of one’s profession will bring praise and honour, so strive to out do all other contenders for that special position. Contentment02

Recently one of the questions in our Bible Study was a simple, but also a complex one.

What brings you satisfaction in your life?

We are an older group, so have lived through ups and downs in all their forms. Many answers included a loving family, a safe place to live, loving friends, but the question begs for deeper reasons for contentment and satisfaction.  We have been studying Philippians and finally agreed, that Paul summed up his experiences with a wonderful example of what true satisfaction is and one worth following;

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.” (Philippians 4: 12)

Then we had to look carefully again at his letter to learn Paul’s secret. His secret is a powerful one. It is having the peace of God surrounding us whatever is going on in our lives. This peace is so amazing we as humans are unable to understand it. It is divine. Content02

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 7)

What a wonderful message for all of us. Whatever is going on in our lives we can call on the Lord Jesus Christ and ask for his peace, and contentment will follow. No longer chasing after the wind, we have a solid rock to hang on to.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | May 9, 2019

All Seeing Eyes

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

(2 Chronicles 16: 7 – 9)

Everything01When my brother and I were young, we were convinced that my mother was exactly like the old saying, she had eyes in the back of her head. She seemed to know what we were up to and even if she wasn’t in the same room as us, we would hear her say, “that game is going to end in tears!” and of course she was right. How did she know what we were playing with each other or how did she know one of us was teasing the other and tears probably were going to result?

Scripture tells us that there is One who can miraculously see all his children and everything we are doing or thinking! At first glance that seems a bit scary that the Father can see everything we are doing, but when we look again, we see immense comfort and hope in those words. Often we have a special appearance we show to the outside world, sometimes thinking if they really knew how insecure I am / or how inadequate I feel next to them/ or the difficult struggle I had as a child that has scarred me for life, or my anxiety attacks that keep me from mixing with others, they wouldn’t bother to associate with me, but when we realise that the Lord knows all of our worries and loves us completely anyway, what a blessing his word is.

“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)

Everything02The Lord knows completely what we have experienced and knows all our social fears and all our insecurity, so what a blessing it is when we seek his company in prayer there is no pretending, we can just be our selves and knowing this gives us more confidence in mixing with others we can even remind ourselves who we are by repeating the line in one of my favourite songs, before venturing out in the world.

I am a child of God  

Sometimes we feel we must be invisible or not worth noticing, but the Lord has promised to search for all his children and promises to build them up and give them a firm footing and is watching out for us for our own good.

“My eyes will watch over them for their good. And I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.” (Jeremiah 24: 6)

So, we can rejoice in those all-seeing eyes watching over us.

Everything03

Posted by: Jo | April 27, 2019

Morning Rituals

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, his compassions never fail. They are new every morning great is your faithfulness.”

(Lamentations 3: 22 – 23)

As we grow older our morning rituals take on a new and quite different procedure to Morning02that when we were young and were working or had small children or sometimes both! Morning rituals then were chaotic. I was thinking back on my own life and remembering all the changes I lived through. When I was a new young teacher, I had a kindergarten class and one of the little songs they loved to sing (or perhaps shout might be a better description) had these words as the first verse;

I wake in the morning early  

And always the very first thing 

I sit up in bed 

And I sing and I sing and I sing 

When I was sharing this sweet song with one of my sisters, she looked at me in sheer disbelief, and this was her response; You let little children sing that! It is certainly not the way I wake in the morning. My sister was not known as a “morning person

The Psalmists knew that one of the important rituals of the morning was to speak to God;

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5: 3)

Morning01As a young mother and also working, my request was probably a plea to get through the day, but as I grew in the knowledge of who Jesus was, my morning prayer time became the most important part of my morning ritual and I became more and more dependent on that precious time.

As we grow older, we no longer need to jump out of bed to rush to get all those important tasks done and sometimes I feel because of this there is less and less I can do for the Lord. One of my friends gave me some wonderful advice, she told me she said this beautiful verse while she was still lying in bed so her heart would be prepared for whatever lay ahead that day;

“Create in me, a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

I often take her advice and feel it does prepare me for the day. Another old friend also told me of a wonderful way she prays that all important morning prayer. She asks God if she can be used in any way to help someone who needs it and asks him to place that person in her life that day.

Morning03Others have told me they write a favourite verse out on paper and leave it on the bedside table, so they read it as soon as they wake up.

Jesus himself calls himself the bright Morning Star and what a beautiful thought to have when one wakes up;

“…I am the Root and the Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22: 16)

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