Posted by: Jo | January 11, 2022

New Beginnings

“Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(Colossians   3:  10)

I was reading a fascinating article about time and when certain dates influence our minds. Major milestones like important birthdays, anniversaries of joy or sorrow, achievements like passing that exam, winning that competition etc. seem to jolt us out of the everyday mundane thoughts. The New Year is one of those times, it is impossible not to be aware of the change of a year The news is shrieked at us through world news. Wild celebrations are displayed on the media from major cities all over the world.  I wanted to find out how long ago this all began and was amazed when I went to the internet and found out that the Babylonians 4,000 years ago held a special celebration to honor the New Year (a different date from ours) when the crops were planted. I’m not sure if resolutions were made.

It is a common practice in present day society to make resolutions at the New Year, losing weight/ doing more exercise/ start that course/ look for a new better paying job, these all require much effort on the part of the person making the resolutions, and often fail after a few months, but when Paul is writing to the Colossians new beginnings have a whole different meaning. He is urging them to change their ways but not in their own strength but relying on the power of the Creator.

When Paul is writing to the Ephesians, he focuses on the attitude of our mind and urges his listeners to disregard what they were first taught about what was important.

“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which s being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of you minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:  22 – 24)

The world does teach us a different way of living than what Scripture tells us is pleasing to Our Heavenly Father. The world tells us how we look is most important. Hence all those New Year resolutions to lose weight/ exercise/have Botox injections. It tells us everybody has a dream you just must work hard to achieve it when you fail the world tosses you aside. Money will make you happy get to the top even if you must push others out of the way being powerful perhaps the worst thing to strive for.

If we go back to Colossians, we read a far better way to make this New Year a better one.

Here is a worthwhile resolution to make for this New Year.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3: 12 – 13)

Posted by: Jo | December 13, 2021

Why Was He Born In A Stable?

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

(Luke 2: 6 – 7)

Every year, as far back as I can remember, at Christmas time I set up a Nativity scene in my living room. My stable is still sturdy to stand and receive all the little figures that represent this amazing miracle. This year I had my little five-year-old granddaughter at my house, and she wanted to help me set it up. Children with their simple outlook on life have fascinating ways of looking at what we often take for granted and she asked many questions as we carefully arranged the scene. First, she remarked how old my stable looked and when we were setting up the sheep, she also had more questions about why they were going near a baby. I was able to tell her the story as we went along and explained what a stable was. This is when she asked me the most thought-provoking question, we all need to ask. 

Why was he born in a stable?

When the coming of a Messiah was prophesied in the book of Isaiah, the impression the readers get is that a mighty King is coming. 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

This child was expected to look like a powerful King who would save his people. He would have been expected to be born in a majestic Royal Palace with a fanfare of trumpets and celebration and hundreds coming to worship him. So why did the Creator of the universe choose to become as a child in human nature and choose to be born in such humble circumstances?  

So many lessons for generations to ponder and so much for us as followers of Christ to learn from his humble beginning. 

Paul grasped the true meaning of Jesus’s birth 

“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, who being made in human likeness. And as being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:  6 – 8)

So, as we come to worship this Christmas, yes we are worshipping a Mighty King, a Wonderful Counsellor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Prince of Peace, but also let us be aware of his humble beginning and his beautiful example of being a servant and walking and living with the common man, relating to every emotion mankind experiences. 

Posted by: Jo | December 5, 2021

Our Daily Bread

“Give us today our daily bread”

(Matthew 6: 11)

A few weeks ago, we had a visiting guest speaker at our church. He was originally from Scotland, and I immediately felt in tune with him as he told us about his school days when he was a boy in Scotland. He shared with us that every morning at school the children gathered and recited the Lord’s prayer. My experience in Australia where I was born, was the same. The whole school gathered, and we sang a hymn, recited the Lord’s prayer, and ended with God Save The King. (That immediately tells you I am old). The speaker also had a similar memory to me, we recited the prayer without any feeling or any real knowledge about what the words meant it was just something we said every morning. 

The pastor’s sermon was about meaningful prayer, but after he had reminded me about just reciting the Lord’s prayer, I went back, afterwards to read the whole passage in the Bible. Jesus is teaching his disciples many wise ways to live his teaching and warns them about exactly what we all can fall into, reciting words without thinking of the great depth of what we are saying 

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6: 7)

Then Jesus speaks a very powerful message to us all 

“This then is how you should pray….” (Matthew 6: 9)

This is obviously not like a poem we recite from memory. It is the right and beautiful way to enter the Father’s presence to communicate with him. The beginning would have been very startling to the disciples. God was never addressed as Father, in fact his name was so sacred it was never spoken so when Jesus tells us we can now call him, Father we also should always be aware of the privilege granted to us. The beginning also awakes us, it is not Dear Father, but Our Father we are praying it together as the family of God 

What really made me think about were these beautiful words  

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6: 11)

The study I read every morning is called Our Daily Bread and of course we need food for our physical bodies but underlying these words is an even deeper meaning and the title of the study reveals it. We need feeding for our spiritual souls. Jesus told the disciples at the last supper that the wine was his blood, but the bread was his body. We need that bread of life every day and the way we receive it is to spend time in prayer every day and ask him to fill us with his presence, so we have the strength to walk in the path of truth with him.

Such a good reminder to always to think of the words we are saying when we pray the beautiful prayer the Lord has given us, not like children reciting a poem in school, but with deep meaning and love. 

Posted by: Shaun | November 5, 2021

Godly Energy

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me”

(1 Colossians 1: 29)

Just recently one of my friends was telling me about a new church she had started to attend and as she was describing how she felt during the worship service she used this phrase to describe what she felt, Godly energy. I was intrigued by the phrase and the more I thought about it the more I was convinced that she had uncovered an amazing truth about how all of us believers need to use this power of Godly energy in our own lives, not relying on our own feeble efforts to live but to enlist his energy to spread God’s word and live his word, not becoming stale and  lifeless, powerless to achieve what he desires us to do, but to move with his energy.

When Paul is writing to the young churches, he constantly reminds them to call upon and use the incredible energy of our God to help them through whatever they might be experiencing and in his letter to the Ephesians he writes this:

“I pray also that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.” (Ephesians 1:  18 – 19)

Paul never boasted about his own strength and never implied that it was something about him that achieved the amazing spreading of the gospel. Too often we can fall into that trap that somehow, we think we are making great strides because of how hard we are working at being good Christians. When we are humble there is more room in our actions for God to display his mighty power.

Sometimes, life presents huge problems in our lives and Paul talks about his struggles in the verse in Colossians, but the wisdom of calling upon and using God’s energy to overcome goes right back to the Old Testament when God speaks to his embattled people with this message.

“…Listen to what the Lord says to you. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20: 15)

The children of Israel learnt that truth repeatedly, but unfortunately also forgot over and over again as they slipped back into thinking they had it all together and lapsed into forgetting about turning to God for help and also not bothering to follow his guidance, consequently falling back into chaos.

Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by our own lack of strength and as I am at that old age category, I frequently do. One of my favorite verses is in the book of Isaiah and I often go back and read it when I feel I cannot go on

“So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10)

Posted by: Jo | October 24, 2021

Following The Instructions

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you”

(Psalm 32: 8)

I have become used to my old, fashioned appliances I have owned for years, but lately, just like me, they are wearing out and some have refused to work at all. This happened to my blender and after I confided in my daughter, she lovingly bought me a new one. When she opened it in my kitchen my heart sank, it was nothing like I had ever seen and when I asked where the buttons were to turn it on, she replied, no buttons it is programmed on the front you just must read the instructions to see what the symbols mean. She handed me the book of instructions and my heart sank further, but I knew I needed to read it. 

Fortunately, we who follow Jesus have an incredible book of instructions to help us lead a full and fulfilling life the way the Heavenly Father designed us to live. This book never gets old or out of date nor do the instructions. They are not hard to read, and the Lord has even sent us a helper, The Holy Spirit, if we struggle to understand. As we live them, we feel complete as we follow the instructions written for us in God’s Word. 

Following the instructions is the key. If we read them and think that is a good idea, but still proceed with how we would like to live, disasters can happen. I have seen several family members attempting to assemble some Ikea furniture without properly reading the instructions and witnessed the frustration as things went wrong. 

Solomon had a lot of wise words to say about heeding instruction and wanted his son, but of course ultimately all of us, not to ignore it. 

“Hold onto instruction, do not let it go; guard it well for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4: 13)

I found another very powerful warning for all those attempting to build without reading the instructions 

“He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.” (Proverbs 13: 13)

The more we read of how important reading instructions is we see that the emphasis Jesus brought in his teaching was how imperative it was to follow him to learn how to act and think and behave how he did. 

“When Jesus spoke again to the people he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8: 12)

So, reading instructions must always be followed by actually doing them. 

When Jesus called his first disciples, he used these words:

“Come, follow me” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4: 19)

We don’t have Jesus in person now, but he has left us a book of instructions to learn how to follow him, we just must read and do what he says.  

Posted by: Jo | October 3, 2021

Lost and Found

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and goes after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

(Luke 15: 4)

Just recently I was minding my youngest granddaughter who has just turned five years old. She was chatting away to me when suddenly she said, I don’t want to get lost. I was surprised by what she said and assured her she wouldn’t get lost and listed all the people around her who were always looking after her. Then she said, well Chase got lost. Then I understood why she had asked me. Her family and I had been watching a sweet movie which was a popular cartoon. She knew all the names of the characters and of course so did I as I had watched numerous cartoons with her. In the movie they show what originally happened to Chase when he was a puppy and his owner didn’t want to keep him and dropped him off on a busy street and he was lost. My little granddaughter could not stop thinking how terrible that would be for her. 

Being lost is certainly a disturbing feeling for all of us and during our lifetime that feeling can take on all different forms. Being lost while trying to find the right street can be annoying, but a road map helps, but when life takes a sudden turn and feeling completely lost as to the right decision to choose, can be overwhelming. Sometimes we feel so out of place in a crowd we can feel lost and feel we must be invisible because nobody noticed us. The young often feel lost as to who they really are and despair of ever finding their own identity. For some, addiction steals away true self and the feeling of lost is left behind. 

I remembered what happened in the movie and reminded my little granddaughter that a dear little boy found the puppy and took him home and loved him. 

That is exactly what our Heavenly Father wants us to remember, and he continues to tell us this in the parable of the Good Shepherd 

“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home then he calls his neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep.”” (Luke 15:  5 – 6)

The whole of Luke Chapter 15 concentrates on what being lost can mean and the story of the Lost Son is one of the most beautiful parables Jesus told his followers and reminds us that whatever trial is overwhelming us with that horrible feeling of being lost and having nobody to find us and help us we can then remember the powerful shoulders of our Heavenly Father who is always standing by to find us. 

One of the most beautiful hymns ever written emphasizes the joy of being lost and then found by our loving Savior and in Amazing Grace the writer joyfully records what happened to him.  

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

So we don’t despair when we feel lost we hold fast to this verse. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19: 10) 

Posted by: Jo | September 13, 2021

Looking For The Good News

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, to proclaim peace, who bring good tidings.”

(Isaiah 52: 7)

As I was watching the news, recently I kept looking for any piece of good news. The story of the world in chaos with the fear of this vicious virus racing through countries with no respect of age, youth, or even the very fit, dominated, but not far behind were terrible stories of ugly warfare with no regard for women or children, citizens abandoned to fare for themselves, then in our own country vicious racism is becoming more prevalent. Even in our own communities we have strident voices protesting about everything imaginable, mostly about selfish minor issues not related to the common good, and they too were evident on the news with big signs proclaiming anger about the smallest details of our lives. Good news, hard to find.

We, who follow and love the way the Lord has told us to follow, need to look closely how we could be those who bring good news.

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3: 27)

We are often tempted to be

  • critical and judge others who even disagree slightly with us
  • intolerant of other races who differ from us
  • jealous of our friends who achieve something we would like to have done and withhold our praise

Looking carefully at the message in Proverbs we realize that we could exhibit God’s love by looking for the good in all situations and we could be the ones to bring that good news to others. Rather than finding something to complain about, we need to learn to find the good in all in all the happenings in our own lives and this even applies to what we are experiencing that may be overwhelming, but if we search diligently, we will find light even in the darkest days.

Not only are we to look for good news, God’s word, entreats us to bring good into other’s lives.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity. Let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6: 10)

Bringing good news means action on our part. Not to just use words but to be active in doing just what we can. Living the good news needs practice and persevering through our human natures that are often focused on ourselves. In Matthew we read the solution to how to do that. Firstly, we need the Lord to fill us, so we have a store of goodness to share with others.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him…” (Matthew 12: 35)

We get that store of goodness by following the commands of the Lord.

Posted by: Jo | August 26, 2021

Blessings In Doing The Will Of God

“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.”

(Psalm 119: 2)

I have a dear friend who is an amazing seamstress who can take a piece of material and transform it into a thing of beauty. She makes quilts that are eye catching and often have a theme running through the intricate pattens. She donates much of what she makes to help communities raise money to help the less fortunate and one of these is a senior’s center near where she lives. 

Just recently she had a small amount of material left and wondered what she could do with it, she ended up making a little purse even with an inside pocket. She just happened to be in the center when they were having their sale and witnessed an old lady buying the bag for a little girl, probably her granddaughter visiting her and as the little girl was given the bag a huge smile filled her face. When she was telling me the story, I said to her that smile was a thank you from God, a blessing for you living his way. 

Blessings come in all different ways and sometimes we forget to acknowledge that they have come from the Lord and have happened because we are putting God’s word into action. Recently I had an altercation with a friend. I was hurt by her response and decided I would not phone her again. The feeling of resentment was uncomfortable and during my prayer time I felt a prompting from the Lord and this verse popped into my mind. 

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3: 13)

I immediately phoned my friend who answered lovingly, totally unaware that she had hurt me. I was so glad to hear her voice and resentment disappeared our friendship was restored without me having to say anything. What a blessing that was for me because I followed God’s word.  

We sometimes think that God’s commands are just to keep us obedient, forgetting they are meant to ensure we have a life filled with his blessings. However, the world shouts a different kind of advice telling us of course

  • you have rights
  • pay back that one that hurt you
  • make sure you get what you are owed
  • that man begging on the street don’t help him tell him to go get a job. 
  • It is relentless and hard to ignore. 

The only way to avoid being misled is to stay focused firmly on God’s word. One of the Psalmists was so sure of that this was the only way he said this 

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119: 11)

Jeremiah went a step further saying. 

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and delight.” (Jeremiah 15: 16)

Showers of blessings will envelope us as we walk in the path the Heavenly Father has designed for us.

Posted by: Jo | August 11, 2021

He Hears Us

“Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear.”

(Isaiah 65: 24)

Having someone listen to you is such a blessing in today’s world amid the frantic rush that seems to permeate our lives and seems to be a very rare occurrence. Brief texts with abbreviated words, symbols that have hidden meanings, to my old eyes, and then emails that reply to an urgent message without any warmth or feeling. Doctor’s offices where you have 10 minutes to discuss a nagging problem and you feel the minutes ticking by without the real assurance that the doctor has really listened to what you are saying. Perhaps with even a trusted and dear friend we don’t always share what is too painful to discuss so what is so wonderful is that our Heavenly Father wants us to share anything, even painful things with him. David learnt this amazing truth and told of the agony he is going through. 

“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (Psalm 6: 6)

But at the end of the Psalm, he realizes that the Lord had heard his weeping and with great joy cries out, 

“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6: 9)

This is a truth we all need to learn. Our answer is never, don’t bother me with that, the Lord accepts our prayers because we are his children and cares about every aspect of our lives. Problems that seem to be overwhelming seem to be not so terrifying when we confide in the Father. 

Some of our deepest problems don’t have a quick answer and when friends jump in with their ideas of quick solutions the problems even deepen. Our Loving Father knows this and when we are grappling with anxiety, inadequate feelings, lack of motivation, sadness, and grief, we just need a loving and compassionate listener and being able to share these thoughts with no condemnation, brings peace and we can do this as often as we need to. Paul writes this in his letter to the Thessalonians when he tells them to pray continually. The Father will not get tired of hearing. 

“Pray continually.”  (1 Thessalonians 5: 17)

Paul again reminds us of all that it is a waste of time fretting and being anxious about our deepest trouble he tells us to simply to take all those worries to the Lord. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4: 6)

One of the greatest benefits of seeking help from the Lord I feel is found in Jesus’s words. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11 : 28)

We are granted relief by coming to him because He hears us. 

Posted by: Jo | July 17, 2021

Learning To Trust God

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

(Isaiah 30: 15)

Trust is a word we frequently use in this generation. We say we trust a brand of some product/ we say we trust a Politian/we trust a leader/ we trust the advice of a friend, but often that trust is betrayed, and our trust is broken, so often we are wary to trust anybody. Scripture tells stories over and over of the children of Israel taking things into their own hands ignoring consulting God or even remembering what a disaster this can mean. We too often think we can handle life’s problems our own way and just how the Israelites found out we find out how wrong that is.

So how do we learn to trust God. The Lord has beautiful verses about the wonderful outcome of coming to him and first consulting him before we rush into choosing the wrong path. The verse in Isaiah 30: 15 tells us that if we trust in him, he will give us the strength to weather the storm. The other powerful word in this verse is rest. I know myself when I start to worry about a problem in my life, I become agitated, unable to sleep and spend the day fretting about it, forgetting to rest in the power of the Heavenly Father.

In another of God’s promises is the beautiful word, peace.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26: 3)

The peace that the Lord promises is like no other peace known by mankind and needs to be experienced to be believed. Paul tells us is this in his letter to the Philippians.

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

The other beautiful promise in this verse, is found in those last words, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, when we allow that peace to envelope us as we put our trust In Christ Jesus, our hearts and minds will only focus on the Lord so we can listen to his directives.

My other problem often arises when I think I know exactly how to deal with the problem and tackle it myself Then I need to remind myself of this incredibly wise verse.

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

What beautiful promises!  I am aiming not to try to make sense of some of the happenings in my life, but to relax, admit I do not understand to my Father and to trust him to take over.

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