Posted by: Jo | December 2, 2022

Faithful Friends

“When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying

(Acts 12: 12)

Just recently this verse was part of a Bible study I was reading, and it really impressed me. Peter had been thrown into jail as King Herod began to persecute the new believers in Jesus. During the night Peter, even though bound with chains and had a prison guard on either side on him, was saved by an angel from the Lord who escorted him safely out of the prison. He went immediately to where his friends were staying and even though it was the middle of the night, they were gathered to pray for him. Faithful friends! 

I received a beautiful birthday card just recently which said, A Faithful Friend Is A True Blessing I have found this to be true in my own life where friends have stood by my side encouraged me and lifted me up whatever was happening in my life. When I began writing this blog, I was very unsure of my ability to write successfully and to be able to keep writing, but with a very helpful son-in- law who had the skill to post it on the computer it has been 10 years since I started, but the huge encouragement to keep going came from friends. I have a faithful friend who reads the blog every time it is posted and contacts me to comment and encourage me. Scripture has a lot to say about friends and the Book of Proverbs has this to say. 

“A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17: 17)

Again, this verse 

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18: 24)

When we think of faithful friends there is a lesson for us, we too can be faithful friends to others, not counting the cost, but giving ourselves to supporting them. The greatest example of the meaning of friend is found in the words of Jesus. 

“I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. I have called you friends for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15 :15)

What incredible words that the Savior, the Son of God would call us his friends. He is the supreme example what a true friend is, and he is our example to follow but we can also take comfort in the fact that he is our dearest friend who we can turn to when we need that word of encouragement. Many of us who are older will remember this beautiful hymn reminding us of who hears our deepest thoughts. 

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Posted by: Jo | November 13, 2022

Accepting Others … Whoever They Are

“Do not mistreat an alien, or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt

(Exodus 22: 21)

Racism and violence against others are escalating in our country, with immigration rising rapidly due to ugly warfare throughout the world, and people are fleeing to safer places. Unfortunately, many of the inhabitants are not receiving them in a welcome manner. In the book of Exodus (22: 21), where Moses was speaking for God, God was telling the children of Israel that the loving thing was to welcome those different people and not oppress them. Unfortunately, today it is not only those who are a different nationality that are treated badly but those who differ in any way such as the poor, the homeless, or those who are addicted to drugs, others who are in a different class in society, those lacking in education, or those living in a lower neighborhood. 

Many years ago, my husband and I volunteered in a Christian mission that was an outreach to poor people living on the street, or those trapped in their drug / alcohol addiction. This city in Canada had a large population of native people, as well as a big prison on the outskirts of the city which discharged prisoners at the end of their sentence, they were virtually turned out on the street, and many had no place to go. This is the point in time when the Mission stepped in and helped with food, clothing and helped many get back on their feet. When we first started to get to know these people and the sadness of their stories, we were horrified to be made aware of the discrepancy between how we lived and how these unfortunates struggled.

This had a powerful effect on how we lived the rest of our lives!

Again, right from the beginning, God entreated his followers to love their neighbors 

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”  (Leviticus 19: 18)

Jesus elaborated on this command with a definite message to his followers. 

“A new command I give you. Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  (John 13: 34)

Jesus is our example of how to love and modelled it by who he loved for everybody to see. Loving and saving a hated tax collector in front of a huge crowd, even inviting himself to stay with him overnight. (Luke 19:2)

Again, he answers a wealthy young man who inquired about who was his neighbor by telling the story of the good Samaritan, also hated, and despised by the Jews, who stops to help a Jewish man attacked by robbers (Luke 10: 30).

We, as followers of Jesus, need to remember not to be selective about who we love or show God’s love to. One of the saddest stories I heard at the Mission, was of two men who told me they believed in Jesus, and I asked them had they found a church to go to. They just looked at me in disbelief and said who would let us in the door looking like this. They were scruffy and were still struggling with addiction and I thought about the church we were going to with well-dressed people all living in wealthy places. Later I cried and asked God to forgive us. My husband and I did share this news with our church and several people began to help the Mission, so let us love one another … whoever they are!

Posted by: Jo | October 23, 2022

Look For That Light

And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

(Genesis 1: 3 – 4)

On Thanksgiving morning our Pastor gave us a sermon on gratitude, and he took a verse from Thessalonians to deepen our understanding of what that meant. I have always found the verse he chose difficult, so I was intrigued from the beginning to see how he would he illuminate it. 

“Be joyful always; pray constantly; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18)

Even the first sentence seems impossible to do, but when we think what the joy of knowing who Jesus is, it provides us with comfort and ability to keep going. Praying constantly also seems a stumbling block but again it also has an underlying message. God is constant, so prayer is always available to us! No matter where we are, be that in a crowded mall or a workplace, we don’t need to speak aloud to pass our concerns along to the Heavenly Father. The last phrase has always been the hardest for me to grasp. Our Pastor finally solved this one for me. If we look carefully at the words, we see that we are not thanking God “for the bad things that happen” we are finding something to thank him for during those stressful times.  

I recently read some fascinating words from a Canadian singer that really spoke to me, warning us not to expect a perfect life but to look for what upsets do to our wellbeing, and look for that light that surprises us by giving purpose to what is happening 

Ring the bells that still will ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

For those of us who follow Jesus, that light is Jesus Christ!

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: 5)

The first gift God gave to mankind was light (Genesis 1: 3 – 4) 

This word is written countless times in Scripture and tributed to God,  

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning, my God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18: 28)

Sometimes we think that a perfect life is up to us to achieve. We start building it and discover cracks form in what we thought was built just right. Then we decide life is not perfect. This idea that we have failed creates all sort of despair, this is exactly when we need to look for the light, which is always close by in the form of the Holy Spirit who is ready to guide us, counsel us, set our feet on the right path to recover, but we must acknowledge Him to receive that help. When we do, we can really give thanks “in” all circumstances.

Posted by: Jo | October 15, 2022

The Grandmother’s Bench

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long-life bring understanding?”

(Job 12:12)

I read a very sweet story, about a small village in India. It was the custom for elderly ladies to take turns to sit on a bench in the center of the village, where the villagers knew that anybody who was troubled or needed somebody to talk to, could seat themselves next to the old lady. She would listen to them and they would be able to share whatever was troubling them. I was very touched by this story and as I live in an apartment building in a busy part of town, I wondered how that could be duplicated here. One of my old friends who lives nearby, but in a neighborhood and in her house for many years has found a wonderful way to bring similar joy to her surrounding neighbors. With her walker she seats herself in the front of her house, sits down and greets anybody who walks along her street. She waves and smiles at cars that pass by, talks to anybody who stops and is generous with smiles to all passersby. Recently a car stopped and told her that when he sees her it brightens his day to see her smile. What a wonderful way to fulfill God’s directive 

“…but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19: 18)

God spoke these words through Moses in the Old Testament to give the children of Israel this lasting command to emphasize the importance of bringing love to others and again Jesus tells all who would follow him that this command was still of utmost importance, immediately following his directive to love the Lord God he says. 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31)

We may not be old or a grandmother, but these examples can make us ponder how we could in our own communities, wherever they are, live this command. Even smiles in the elevator of a big apartment building, helping old people to get through difficult doorways, helping young mothers with babies in a stroller, being aware of old people shut in small apartments who would love a visit, lifting stressed check out staff by thanking them, the reward for us when we do this is the warm smile we receive in return. 

The list is endless and strangely enough when we practice it gives us a warm feeling and we sometimes hear a faint whisper, 

“Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25: 21)

When someone does seek us out to share a problem it is good to take the advice of God’s word to handle it his way, beginning with perhaps a quick silent prayer asking the Lord to give us his wisdom. 

“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9: 17)

Posted by: Jo | September 22, 2022

Our Refuge In the Storm

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm.”

(Isaiah 25:8)

When I was a young mother, my husband was working on a remote island in the Pacific and I and my three little girls went with him. It was a 2-year term, but my youngest a 3-year-old, became ill and needed an operation on her tonsils, so we had to get back to Australia to a hospital, so I boarded a cargo boat, the only means of transport, with the three little girls, my husband had to stay to work so we headed back on a 10-day trip. Halfway through the journey the captain announced we were heading into a hurricane there was no land in sight, so he had a list of precautions all the passengers had to follow. Stay in our cabins, remove all movable objects off dressing tables, secure suitcases, wedge chairs under children bunks to keep them from rolling out. The storm was to hit at nightfall. My first thoughts were that my husband was going to lose all his family in one terrible night. It was a terrifying night, but God proved to be our refuge. No, he didn’t stop the storm, but he brought us all safely through it. Day break saw the wind drop, the huge waves die down, he had kept us safe. 

God knew his children would always need refuge and in the book of Numbers we read that right from the beginning he told the children of Israel to set aside towns of refuge if people needed somewhere to escape. 

“Six of the towns you give to the Levites will be cities of refuge…” (Numbers 35: 6)

He also asks us to offer help to foreigners and to those who need help, a refuge for those who have nowhere to go. 

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10: 18)

One of my friends is doing just that. We have all viewed with horror the war raging in Ukraine and seeing hundreds of poor fleeing from their country to other countries, desperately needing a refuge to escape to. My friend is providing a refuge for 3 Ukrainian young women by taking them into her own home, giving then food and shelter. She is living God’s word 

Sometimes the refuge needed is a quiet place to share worries, grief, storms of emotional turmoil, the Lord knew this and urged his followers to be hospitable, even inviting a friend facing one of these storms, to coffee, a meal, or a walk in a tranquil place. In this way, the troubled friend has refuge in sharing with a comforting friend. Loneliness is a big problem in our cities where seniors sit alone in small apartments, an invitation to a family dinner provides a refuge for that person. 

Whatever the storm we are facing the Lord is always ready to be our refuge. 

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9: 9)

Posted by: Jo | August 28, 2022

Nurturing Our Relationship

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

(James 4:8)

I have always loved gardening, but now I live in an apartment and have transitioned to growing plants on my balcony and house plants inside. It still requires a lot of tender loving care from me to help them to bloom and grow to their full beauty, carefully watering them seeing enough sunlight reaches them, removing dead flowers. I feel it is like having a relationship with them. Human relationships also need a lot of tender care to help them to grow to deep understanding of each other and a close loving friend is a wonderful asset in life

“A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17: 17)

Proverbs tells us how important friendship is and when it says all times, it implies that when times are rough a true friend loves through thick and thin.

The most beautiful relationship offered to believers is the one with the Heavenly Father. Jesus tells his disciples and of course us as well, is the way he sees us as friends.”

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from the Father, I have made known to you.” (John 15: 15)

To become a true friend of Jesus we need to nurture our friendship with him, and it is like nurturing our human friendships. We need to spend time with him, we need to share our inmost thoughts, our fears, our joys our hopes. Just as we do with our friends. We need to set aside time just to be with him, not sorry. Lord too busy to talk this week. If we did that with friends our friendship would be very hollow. Part of true friendship is listening to our friends, and we often forget that the Lord also wants to talk to us, he is often pictured as a gardener lovingly looking after us his vine. Just like I need to break off the dead flowers so my plants will continue to bloom, sometimes between deep friends, one needs to point out something in our lives that is hindering us living full lives

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27: 6)

This is another reason we need to be in close contact with our Heavenly Father. Sometimes he needs to point out to us what is hindering our spiritual lives and distancing him. He speaks to us in different ways, a verse will alert us, a sermon wakes us up to what is dragging us down. Our loving Lord is always willing to listen when we confess what is happening and willing to forgive us and suddenly, we come close to him, and he comes close to us again.

Setting time aside every day to pray and to read his word, safeguards our precious friendship.

Posted by: Jo | August 5, 2022

God Answers Differently

“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)

Just recently I was chatting with a friend who still lives in her big house, by herself, with a beautiful garden. Her mobility is not good and is now forced to use a walker to always get around. She loves her garden, but it is now the middle of summer and very hot. Her dilemma she was sharing with me was that she needed to turn on the sprinkler and set it up and nobody was there to help her. When she told me she was going to do it I was quite frightened for her and said I will pray for you to keep safe. So, I immediately began to pray for her while she was still on the phone. I asked God to hold on to her and not let her fall and to keep her safe. Later that day she phoned to tell me what had happened. When she got to the sprinkler it was turned the wrong way and she could not move it, feeling very depressed she sat in her walker to rest, just at that moment a male friend, an avid fisherman walked through the garden unexpectedly bringing her some salmon. Problem solved of course he could easily turn the sprinkler. I was so grateful to God and then began to think through my prayer. I had asked God for help, but the whole prayer was telling God how to do it. He had a better idea. Of course God wants us to come to him in times of trouble, but we learn God’s way to solve the problem is so much better than ours. 

Paul emphasizes this truth in his letter to the Ephesians 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3: 20)

There are many stories in the Bible where the Lord acts to answer his people’s prayers in startling and unexpected ways. One of my favorites is the Gideon story (I loved to tell it when I was teaching Sunday school). It is found in the book of Judges, the exciting ending in Judges 7.

God’s people had called out to him to save them from the Midianites. God does hear them, but he chooses a very different way than they would have imagined. First, he chooses the weakest member of the weakest tribe to lead the army. Next, he tells Gideon to take a small number of men then in another surprising turn no weapons only trumpets and jars to break to make a lot of noise when darkness fell. 

“They blew their trumpets and broke the jars they had in their hands. Grasping the torches they had in their left hand and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and a sword for Gideon.” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran crying out as they fled.” (Judges 7: 20 – 21)

Let us come before the Father boldly asking him to help and being amazed at his response.

Posted by: Jo | July 31, 2022

Power of the Holy Spirit

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing like a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

(Acts 2: 1 – 3)

I was gazing out my living room window at a big shade tree just outside on the street and noticed the leaves begin to sway with a gentle breeze and the leaves seemed to be dancing to some tune. I have always been fascinated by the wind and started to think back to my childhood on the East Coast of Australia. We lived not far from the beach and all of us children were familiar with watching huge waves crashing on the sand, as the wind whipped up the water and of course eager surfers heading out to ride them, but the wind I remembered the most was called by the locals, a Southerly Buster.  It was a volent unpredictable wind that could do a lot of damage, although the old folk would say they could tell when it was about to hit. It was usually during the summer, and it would be a humid day with no wind and very hot, suddenly what seemed out of nowhere this powerful cold wind would rip through the house slamming doors and sometimes breaking windows. A force to be reckoned with! 

During the story of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is described as a violent wind not bringing disaster like my story, but incredible blessings to all people The Psalmists realized this and noted that God used the wind as his messengers. 

“He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” (Psalm 104: 4)

The wonderful gift Jesus gave to all believers was the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us. What an incredible gift when we realize that with that gift comes his incredible power.  After Jesus rose from the dead, he gave his disciples and us believers this very Spirit to live with us. 

“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)

We must invite the Holy Spirit to make his presence felt in our lives and take advantage of his amazing power. Not to rely on our own strength but to acknowledge him in everything we do. We just must look at the character of God to be aware that he can be a fortress for us to run to a rock to lean on, a guide when we lose our way, a constant companion. We sing a lovely song at our church with a good message for us to sing to the Holy Spirit 

Holy Spirit you are welcome here

Posted by: Jo | June 30, 2022

A Grandmother’s Prayer

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am now persuaded lives in you, also.”

(2 Timothy 1: 5)

This verse is a very comforting one for me, as I am now an old grandmother who would want nothing more than that all my darlings would know and follow Jesus Christ. As a young mother I loved my role of caring and protecting my little ones, but now that I am old that is impossible for me to do physically, but Scripture assures me I can still pass on my faith and tells me even when we are older we can still bear fruit for the Lord, in fact Psalm 92 has a beautiful passage describing getting old for those who follow the Lord will be like flourishing palm trees that continue to bear fruit 

“Planted in the house of the Lord they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will bear fruit in old age they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, the Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92: 13 – 15)

Scripture often describes God’s love seen in nature as like a hen covering her little chicks with her feathers to keep them safe 

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

I can no longer protect my loved ones by my physical strength, but I have discovered I have a much greater power than physical strength, I can cover them with prayer leaving them in the powerful protection of the Heavenly Father. As we grow older, we have more time on our hands and I have learnt not to think of myself as useless, but to use that time in prayer.  Having time to talk to the Father, is one of the advantages of being old and I look forward to my prayer time as the most important thing I do. I tell my family I pray for them and they in turn tell me of major events happening in their lives and ask me to pray for them and thank me when they feel His Presence during difficult experiences. I also share Scripture with them to help them through. One of my favourites is this one 

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

Of course, we don’t only pray for our loved ones, most churches have prayer chains so members can phone in their needs and others can pray for them. Again, we old people have time on our side and the joy of praying for others is very rewarding. 

We don’t always see the result of our prayers, but others will and be encouraged. When I think of Paul remarking on the faith of a grandmother and a mother resulting in young Timothy becoming a passionate evangelist for Jesus Christ and nurturing new believers, it makes me more eager to bear fruit like that for the Lord.

Posted by: Jo | June 7, 2022

Instant Access

“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

(Psalm 6: 9)

I know this age of everything being conducted through the internet is amazing, but it is also very frustrating when telephone calls are always answered by what sounds like robots. It doesn’t let you say one word but launches into a long spiel. Abruptly followed by commands to push 1 for this, or 2 for something else and not one option suits what I want to ask. I want to shout my request at these remote voices but that doesn’t help. The other response equally annoying is the same hardly human voice tells you to hold and your call will be taken shortly, and a burst of music assails your ears every now and then interrupted by the same voice repeating please hold someone will be with you soon and again music fills the air. 

I was thinking about this problem when I was reading Psalm 6 where David has quite a different experience when calling to his Heavenly Father, instant access!! He is not told to wait until someone is available, he is flooded with an incredible feeling of peace because he knows he has been heard. Even in our human contacts finding a friend who you know is actually listening to you is such a blessing when often we feel others are not really hearing what we are saying. 

The other amazing thing about prayer is we don’t need that phone or computer to reach our Heavenly Father, he is listening always wherever we are/ walking outside/ in a crowded store/ on the bus never telling us to hold until he has time to listen to us, in fact Paul tells us to pray all the time, keep the Lord up to date with our joys and all our cares we want to share with him, thank him for his love for us, every parent loves to hear those words from a child. 

“Be joyful always. Pray constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 17)

The other problem I have phoning, is that I often hesitate to make the call. I don’t want to bother the doctor about that problem/ perhaps this is a bad time for my friend/ I don’t want to admit to anyone that I am depressed about something. The amazing joy it is to talk to the Lord is that we are encouraged to come to him with confidence some versions in Scripture tell us to come boldly, nothing is not important that might be worrying us he wants to hear from us. We will not be turned away. 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in out time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)

Next time you are frustrated in making that call remember we have instant access to the Heavenly Father and praise him for the relief of knowing he is always there.

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