Posted by: Jo | June 8, 2018

The Breath Of Life

“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”

(Genesis 2: 7)

JustBreathe01Allergy season is upon us here in North America and those who suffer from allergies are at the mercy of the pollens swirling around them. The results are sneezing, eyes watering and for some, difficulty in breathing. I was watching a television ad for tablets that promised to rid the sufferers of all their terrible symptoms and one vowed that this particular one would relieve those with breathing problems and give them “good breath”. I thought the phrase was incorrect grammar, but it made me think what good breath was. The following Sunday, we sang a beautiful song with ended with these beautiful words for the repeated chorus;

His breath in our lungs

Then I realised I knew what good breath was!

In the book of John, we understand how we can receive this good breath

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” (John 20: 21 – 22)

The other beautiful sentence came in the same song we were singing, and as I sang with the rest of the congregation I started to grasp the incredible privilege Jesus bestowed on his disciples and all of us who choose to follow him by breathing on us. Here are the other powerful words;

It’s now your love I am breathing

JustBreathe02Breathing love! What a gift to be able to use our very breath to spread love to others. We need breath to speak, so when we are breathing the Lord’s love our words will be filled with love not anger, bitterness or hatred but with understanding, love and sympathy.

Breath ensures life.  If we are aware of breathing God’s love our lives will become meaningful. We will be living the way he designed us to live. Lives pleasing to him.

When I was young we sang an old hymn written in 1878 and I was reminded of this hymn while singing the modern version of the same theme.  I found an old dog- eared hymn book from my youth, found the hymn and the words were just as beautiful as I remembered. Here they are;

Breathe on me, Breath of God

Fill me with life anew

That I may love what thou dost love

And do what thou wouldst do

Breathe on me, Breath of God

Until my heart is pure

Until my will is one with thine.

To do and to endure

Breathe on me Breath of God

Till I am wholly thine

Until this earthly part of me

Glows with fire divine

Breathe on me, Breath of God

So shall I never die

But live with thee the perfect life

Of thine eternity.

 

Posted by: Jo | May 30, 2018

Overflowing With Joy Peace And Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

(Romans 15: 13)

Overflow01That beautiful word – overflowing – is often used in Scripture, and often to describe God’s gifts to his loved ones in bountiful crops etc., but the most powerful way it is used, is when the Psalmist’s and other writers use it to somehow capture his love. In Psalm 65, the Psalmist recognises God’s love in his gracious abundance of gifts;

“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow, the hills are clothed with gladness.” (Psalm 65: 11 – 12)

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about followers of Jesus overflowing with God’s gifts of joy peace and love. The other day I got a wonderful example of how this could happen. I was watering one of my hanging baskets on my balcony when the water overflowed, I wasn’t dismayed, as underneath the basket on the floor, was a huge pot with a plant in it and the water from my basket, already full, splashed down on the plant below nurturing it.

Overflow03We can do exactly that in our lives when we overflow with God’s love. We can in-turn spread that love to others who may be in desperate need of some joy in their lives, bereft of happiness. Others may need to find peace in a turbulent situation and yet others may need hope when they have given up in despair.

Just as my basket was only able to water the plant below when it was already full, so we too can only overflow into the lives of other if we too are full of the Holy Spirit and seeking God’s will constantly.

In that well-known Psalm of David’s, Psalm 23, he realises that he has walked closely with the Lord to the point that his cup was overflowing with the beautiful realisation that the Lord had filled him with all good things.

“…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23: 5 – 6)

I was watching a beautiful photo on the television of a fountain, in the middle of a city, and the water flowed endlessly over a commanding statue, over and over. It was fascinating to see that the water splashed below soaking everything in its path. Our lives too can overflow with God’s love the same way if we make sure we are filled with his love. The Psalmists knew how important this is.

“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:171)

Overflow02

Posted by: Jo | May 23, 2018

Expressions Of Love And Understanding

“No one has ever seen God if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”

(1 John 4: 12)

Aunty01Our family learnt a wonderful lesson in expressing love and understanding in a family celebration on Mother’s Day and we all witnessed this through the actions of a small boy, our five-year, old grandson. While my daughter, his mother, was busy preparing to celebrate Mother’s Day, and getting cards and gifts and a cake ready, suddenly my little grandson said.  “But what about Aunty, what are we giving her?” This daughter was unable to have children of her own and as soon as he said these words, my younger daughter realised that these words from a little boy had a great depth of meaning so, out they went for him to buy something special for someone who needed an expression of love and understanding.

When we all gathered for lunch, my little grandson hugged me gave me his card, then hugging his Aunt with a beautiful smile gave her a huge chocolate flower, decorated with sugary flowers and wrapped in plastic with bright bow. She cried, we all cried, a little boy had grasped who needed love.

The letters of John have a beautiful theme running through them all about how important love is to all.

“…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4: 16)

Aunty02Once we belong to Jesus Christ, the Lord can use us as his messengers to distribute his love to others. The writer of Hebrew concludes his letter with a powerful prayer for his readers in which he asks the Lord to bless them and equip them with everything good they need to do God’s will.

“…our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13: 20 – 21)

Often it is hard if we haven’t experienced what another has been through to understand their pain.  Sometimes it is hard to relate, especially to those suffering any mental illness. If we have a large group of friends, it is hard to understand extreme shyness that can turn into isolation for some.

The book of Proverbs has many verses encouraging God’s children to seek understanding and to seek it through the One who has the supreme understanding of all mankind. Psalm 119 is a wonderful prayer, acknowledging the writer’s constant need to understand God’s precepts and he asks God to help him understand so he can do God’s will. We too can do the same, so we can express his love and understanding to others.

“Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” (Psalm 119: 34 – 35)

Aunty03

Posted by: Jo | May 10, 2018

Practical Christianity In Action

“What good is it, my brothers if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds…?”

(James 2: 14)

MothersDay03Mother’s Day is celebrated in many different countries and usually the second Sunday in May is set aside to honour mothers. For some women this can be a difficult day and especially single mothers with young children, who have nobody in their family able to fuss after them. I was delighted to hear from one of my daughters, that the church she attends, sets aside the Saturday before Mother’s Day, as one totally devoted to helping single mothers in a practical way, but also to make them feel loved and pampered. For example, men in the congregation offer to:

  • Change oil
  • Wash car
  • Minor repairs
  • Change snow tires

Ladies do the pampering,

  • Hair styling
  • Nail painting
  • Facials

The children are also invited and cared for with crafts and games. It all starts off with breakfast, and a lovely lunch caps it off as well as they all go home with an evening meal. Well done I say!

Practical Christianity is also a wonderful way of spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. Too often we hear and read what my father used to call “Bleating platitudes” MothersDay02which he attributed to people who spoke about caring for people, but only spoke about it without doing anything about it. James addresses this in his letter to the churches, urging them and of course us, not to offer meaningless words to those in need, but to do something about it!

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2: 15 – 16)

Sharing God’s love goes far beyond just noticing people in need, spreading his love requires some sort of action. This action does not have to be on a large scale and can often mean noticing a lonely person in our congregation who is in real need of a friend or perhaps a neighbour who has lost a spouse and needs somebody to offer a coffee and companionship.

I have an old friend who travels by bus frequently and she told me she prays before entering the bus, for the Lord to point out someone who needs a smile or a chat. We love it in our Home Group when she shares what we call “the bus stories” and it is amazing how time and time again the Lord uses her to sit right beside somebody who needs encouraging that day.

MothersDay01The secret to be able to achieve practical Christian action is to remain firmly attached to the vine. Jesus assured his disciples and all those who would follow him need to stay firmly rooted in him, then we will be able to be fruitful and bear much fruit for him no matter how old we are.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15: 4)

 

God’s Creation

If it wasn’t for God, we wouldn’t exist. He made us all, and there’s one thing he wouldn’t miss. The qualities of a mother, and all it takes to raise His children in his created place.

He knew just what he was doing. Oh, yes he did. For when he made woman to care for kids He gave her strength, He gave her patience, He gave her unconditional love, oh what a special creation!

Thank you, God, for making mothers so amazing I’m especially thankful for mine and all she’s done raising me!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | May 3, 2018

Fanning Our Gifts Into Flames

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…”

(2 Timothy 1: 6)

FanFlames01Both my husband and I grew up in homes that had open fireplaces. My grandmother still had a stove that was heated through a wood fire and I can remember her sitting in front of the opening patiently toasting bread for us with a very long pronged fork, carefully turning the piece of bread from one side to the other until it was just the right shade of brown.  Delicious to eat!! Building the fire was a very important part of having a successful source of heat and then keeping that small spark going, fanning it, was essential.

Paul uses this beautiful example of keeping something very important alive, when he writes to encourage Timothy and the young Christian church he is leading, not to neglect the gifts that God had given them, so they no longer shine brightly, and are available to use for God’s glory, but to keep fanning them so they become mighty flames able to accomplish what God has designed them to be.

There are many verses about gifts in Scripture, the most beautiful one being how God gave us his one an only Son to be our Saviour;

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

but Paul assures us in Corinthians that everyone of us has personal gifts, given to us by the Father;

“…But each man has his own gift from God, one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7: 7)

FanFlames02Some of us mistakenly believe God must have overlooked us when he was giving out the gifts, but that is not true, just as each person is unique, so are our gifts and discovering those gifts becomes easier and easier the longer we walk closely with the Holy Spirit. Some of what would be described as small gifts can bring about amazing results when they are used to display God’s love to others.

One gift often overlooked as a “gift”, is prayer. Jesus graciously opened the door to the Father’s ear, so we can talk directly to the Creator of the Universe. We can fan this gift into a mighty flame as we pray for others and bring about miraculous happenings with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Again, we can go to Paul to read how he encourages the young churches to look carefully at their gifts (1 Corinthians 12 is a great chapter to delve into for Spiritual gifts, but also important it is for us to be able to see that we are one body with different parts having different jobs, but all parts working together for the good of the whole body.)

So how do we accomplish fanning our gifts into flames? Using them is the simple answer!  When we realise people like to share their problems with us, we realise we are good listeners and can be invaluable helping others. Practice good listening skills! Somebody told me a great acronym W.A.I.T. to remember (Why Am I Talking). If others tell you, how positive you are, practice encouraging those who need a hand up. FanFlames03Probably the best way to discover our gifts is to ask the Lord to show us how he would like to use us. When we realise the gifts come from him and we don’t take the credit, our gifts truly will burst into flame and we will remember where the gifts come from;

 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1: 17)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 27, 2018

Be Where God Wants You To Be

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”

(Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 KJV)

BeWhereGodWantsYou01Recently I was with my family in the Food Court of a busy Mall when I had quite a nasty fall and as I did, a chair that was behind me crashed on to my head. I was stunned for a second and when I opened my eyes a man was kneeling beside me and in a very gentle voice was asking me questions, slowly and clearly, assuring me he was an off-duty fireman, trained as a first responder. His calm voice and confident manner calmed my anxious daughters and his wife handed my daughter a pack of Kleenex to stem the blood flowing from a cut on my head. This man’s confident handling of the whole situation was exactly what our whole family needed. That man was in the right place at the right time to use his skills to help another.

No broken bones, just a sore bump on the head was the good outcome

I was thinking back to the verse in Proverbs 3 which tells us to allow the Lord to direct our paths and I always thought that meant it was for BeWhereGodWantsYou03our benefit to help us make big decisions in life. My fall that day gave me a whole different perspective as to what the verse meant. Those who love the Lord need to ask the Lord to direct where they should be, so we can be his hands at a moment’s notice, to be used by the Holy Spirit to comfort, encourage perhaps even rescue someone in need.

We had a beautiful example of this in one of our church Bible studies, when one of the ladies shared, she suddenly felt the Lord was asking her to check on a friend who she knew had been depressed and when she went to the friend’s apartment, her friend had taken an overdose of her medication. The lady had been in the right place at the right time and was able to take her friend to the hospital and possibly saved her life.

When we are willing to be available for the Lord to use, we will be certainly in the right place, if we start the day concentrating upon what pleases us that day, we may miss the beautiful opportunity of being used as a vessel of the Holy Spirit.

BeWhereGodWantsYou02Ecclesiastes has a beautiful passage reminding us of the importance of being available for each other and when the director of operations is the Lord we will be truly blessed for being in the right place at the right time.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9 – 11)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 13, 2018

Shattered Lives

“…I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow”

(Jeremiah 31: 13)

ShatteredLives01This horrific headline blazed forth from our morning newspaper, informing us of a terrible tragedy that had taken place between a bus load of young hockey players and a truck. The truck had slammed into the bus carrying the players to a hockey game on a country road in Saskatchewan in Canada. The radio confirmed the story with the frightful details that 15 were dead and the others taken to hospital, some with life threatening injuries. The enormity of grasping the grief, sorrow, pain of loved ones hearing this news, was overwhelming.

The big question when bad things like this happens is often,

Why did God let this happen to innocent young people?

I was so amazed and filled with compassion when a few days later the whole little town, where the hockey team came from, gathered together in the town’s hockey arena to join in comforting one another, and as we watched the televised version, we heard the powerful voice of a local minister tackle the big question with love and understanding. This is how he addressed it;

No! We don’t know why bad things happen,

but we know we have a God of all comfort

waiting on the sidelines to wrap his arms around us

and comfort us.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4)ShatteredLives03

Of course, there were tears in the audience and without minimizing the sorrow of those who had lost loved ones, every following speaker had the same powerful message of where and who to turn to when hearts have been broken. Even us viewing the television screen felt some of the horror lift as we too began to remember how God repeatedly spoke through his word to remind us of him standing by, always ready to envelope us with his all, encompassing love.

The Psalmists knew who to call upon when terrible things occur in our lives and in lives of others around us and this is the message of Psalm 119

“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.” (Psalm 119: 76)

ShatteredLives04One of the powerful messages also heard in that gathering of the town drowning in grief, was to everybody listening. Nobody can struggle through this pain by themselves. Everybody involved needs to be surrounded by loving caring friends who can offer practical help, support, a shoulder to cry on.  When we read what Paul was saying to the Corinthians, we can see that those who have received comfort from God are the best helpers to pass on that comfort to others, sharing his love and compassion with those who are hurting. Then they will be able to hear the Lord say;

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God…” (Isaiah 40: 1)

 

Posted by: Jo | April 6, 2018

Not Counting The Cost

“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor”

(Proverbs 22: 9)

Generosity03Some friends and I were discussing how some of our husbands seem to be oblivious to the cost of buying everyday necessities and my husband probably topped the list. Since retiring he frequently accompanies me while doing the weekly grocery shopping and when we reach the check out, I am surprised to see in my buggy, several items not on my list, and when I question him as to how expensive they were, he looks at me in bewilderment, as of course actually checking the labels to see the price had not even occurred to him.  At the same time, he is the most generous man I have ever come across, so I pay for his crazy shopping and hold my tongue. (Sometimes!)

There are some very interesting stories in Scripture about how people view generosity and one of the most beautiful stories is the gift given by Mary when she anoints Jesus’ feet with a very expensive oil, not even thinking about the enormous cost it would have been to buy.

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure lard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12: 3)

Generosity02Now not all those who were watching were impressed with her generosity and Judas Iscariot immediately began complaining about the waste of money, but as John tells us he had been helping himself from the common money bag.

“But one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” (John 12:4)

Mary’s gift of love, not counting the cost is a beautiful example for all of us to heed.

Not counting the cost is not always about money, sometimes we are asked to step into a situation that we know will have a certain cost, perhaps of our time, our talent our giving up of some pleasure we want to pursue. Volunteering in any capacity is one of those situations. Often when we hear of a need in our community, our first thoughts are about the cost for us, what will we have to give up responding to the need?  Do I want to become involved?  Will it tie me down?

The story that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, also illustrates what it costs to show the Lord’s love to others. The first person to see someone who had been robbed and beaten lying on the roadway, was a priest and yet he decided it would cost too much to get involved and ignored the injured man. The next passer by, a Levite, also decided, checking on someone was going to interfere with his day, and ignored the man. A Samaritan, who the Jews looked down upon, sees an opportunity, without thinking about himself, to give of his time and money to help the one in need. After Generosity01Jesus tells this story he asks his listeners as to which traveller was a neighbour to the one beset upon by the robbers and of course they must reply.

“The one who had mercy on him” (Luke 10: 37)

Following the Lord’s commands does require some cost to us, but the rewards of sharing his love with others is a closer walk with him

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 2, 2018

A Message From God

“Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirits of his masters”

(Proverbs 25: 13)

Message01A few weeks ago, I had a refreshing of my spirit from a message from a faithful servant of the Lord.  Lots of much more talented writers than me have written about the discouragement, often referred to as, “writer’s block” that writers experience. Mine was even worse than just not being able to write on a subject, I began to doubt if I should be writing at all!  I felt I was failing the Lord somehow by not glorifying him through my weekly blog. I thought I should stop.

The message from God came in a beautiful, unexpected way. One of my readers, who I don’t know personally, only that she is a friend of one of my friends, contacted my friend to have lunch with her. This lady has experienced some deep sorrow in her life and my friend had forwarded one of my blogs to her. This sweet messenger wanted to thank me for the comfort of the words in the blog and sent home with my friend an exquisite orchid. When my friend delivered the orchid, I cried as I realised she was being used by the Lord to send me a message of “keep writing” I still look at the orchid in my living room and bless both the messengers and the Lord for sending it.

God’s word is often referred to as, the Message, and all those who have heard that beautiful message of love are commissioned to pass it on to others. The message is one of forgiveness, grace and mercy all bound together by love. Message02

In the book of Acts, we read of when the apostles were jailed by the Sadducees, an angel of the Lord frees them and tells them;

“But during the night and angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out, “Go stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” (Acts 5: 19 – 20)

Sometimes we are the recipient , as I was, for a message from the Lord, but often we are also called upon to be the messenger and it is important that we listen carefully when the Lord is prompting us to reach out to someone who is in desperate need to hear a word of encouragement, a refreshing of their spirit, a helping hand out of the pit of sorrow or despair, a hug of forgiveness.

One of my daughters was able to listen carefully to the Lord and pass on an uplifting message for my husband which he needed desperately during a medical crisis. When we immediately recognise a message is from God, the peace that passes all understanding floods our very being and her message brought us that peace.

It is an honour to be the Lord’s messenger and I love that old hymn that is a beautiful prayer asking God to consecrate our bodies for him to use and I particularly like this verse.

Take my voice and let me sing

Always only, for my King

Take my lips and let them be

Filled with messages from thee

Message03

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 25, 2018

Promises! Promises!

“I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil”

(Psalm 119: 162)

Promises!

Promises01All of us mothers have heard many of them

  • I promise I will clean my room tomorrow
  • I promise I will never do that again
  • …many more

Others not so funny, when they are broken!

  • I promise I will love you forever
  • I promise to pay back every penny

We humans are quick to use that word without thinking of the real meaning hidden deep within it and too often promises that fail to come to fruition. Promise is one of the most significant words in Scripture. The mighty Creator chooses to speak to Abraham and make his first great promise to all mankind through him

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants”.  And so for waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” (Hebrews 6: 13 – 15) 

Repeatedly through the Old Testament we read of God re-affirming his promise to the children of Israel and he formalises this promise in the form of a covenant. A covenant was a binding promise declared in front of witnesses between two parties both promising to uphold the words of the promise. God made some mighty Promises02covenants with some specific humans and then with all the children of Israel, but unfortunately, they blithely promised to keep their side, but failed miserably to follow through.

“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice. “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (Exodus 24: 3)

The Heavenly Father knew ahead of time that his children would fail him, but in his great and compassionate love he then provided his one and only son to keep our side of the covenant for us, at the cost of his son’s life. The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers and us of this amazing act of grace;

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant , that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9: 15)

Jesus himself demonstrates to the disciples at the last supper, what the cost will be for him to fulfill;

“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is pored out for you.” (Luke 22: 20)

Promises03As we approach, Easter, we can echo the words of John Newton’s beautiful hymn as we realise what amazing grace set us free

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

I once was blind, but now I see.

 

 

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