Posted by: Jo | November 16, 2020

Patience

“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and patience”

(Colossians 3: 12)

Patience is not very evident in todays society. We have all fallen into the trap of wanting everything instantly. Instant coffee, instant boiled rice. We open the microwave, so food is quickly warmed. Buy packaged food ready to eat. Order pizza. Letter writing is almost a thing of the past. Texting a person means the message is delivered immediately We fume if our computers are not giving us instant feed back, so it is interesting to read how many times patience and practising it is mentioned in Scripture. The other amazing thing to notice is that patience is a characteristic of God. 

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance.” (Romans 2: 4)

Paul realises this beautiful quality in the Lord Jesus and writes to Timothy and the church of new believers, so they too can recognise and practice this in their daily life. 

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus may display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1: 16)

Perhaps one of the difficult times to practice patience is with people. Being caught in the line up behind someone so slow at unpacking the buggy or someone having a seemingly endless argument with the cashier about a disputed price of an article can try our patience, or sadly, learning to be patient with those who are struggling with mental disabilities, the very old, the very young. Many of the epistles in the New Testament urge followers to be patient with one another. 

But the hardest of all is when we are facing daunting and sometimes very troubling circumstances in our own lives and we want an instant answer to our prayers from God. Paul again reminds us that is probably the most important time to be patient in affliction and to trust him. 

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12: 12)

Upheavals in or lives can make us very impatient waiting for solutions so solve our problems. We can become anxious, angry, even becoming very depressed.  We long for God to answer quickly often not realising that the quick solution we want may not be the right one. This is again when God speaks through his word and reminds us to stop this frantic worrying and to remember God’s patience and who he is. 

“Be still, and know that I am God….” (Psalm 46: 10)

We sing a beautiful song at our church that is based on Isaiah verses 28- 31 and wonderful  advice  for all of us living through the worry of a pandemic reminding us to be patient and wait for the Lord’s direction and he will hold us up while we wait 

Those that wait upon the Lord

Will renew their strength

They will soar on wings like eagles

They will run and not grow weary,

They will walk and not grow faint

Teach me Lord teach me Lord to wait

Posted by: Jo | October 18, 2020

Understanding Love

“And I pray that you being rooted in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep , is the love of Christ”

(Ephesians 3: 17 – 18)

Love. It is a common word for all of us and we use it to describe a wealth of different reactions. Sometimes at its lowest capacity, we use it like this;

  • I love hot dogs
  • I love the sweater you are wearing
  • I love cats
  • I love summer.

Other times it takes on a much greater emotion and is used to describe inmost feelings. We may tell our school friends that we love them, but that does not compare to when we first utter those words to someone, we hope to spend the rest of our lives with. Then again it has a different connation when we tell a dearly loved relative who is dying, how much we love them.  So how do we understand love when we tribute it to our Heavenly Father? 

The other word found in scripture, is lavish and linked to describe love  

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called, children of God. And that is what we are!”

1 John 3: 1

We also use this word in many ways, and we might use it to describe an abundant feast. One of my friends was describing a fantastic wedding banquet and said.  “the food kept coming, it seemed never ending it was a very lavish display”. We might admire some film star’s dress and marvel how lavish it is. So again, how do we link the word lavish with God’s love. So, when we read God lavishes his love on us, it is extravagant love, never ending, a beautiful display that awes us humans. 

When Paul is writing to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 3: 17 – 18), he prays that they may grasp just how wide and long and deep and high is this love. He wants to impress on them that this love has no limit, It does not have a human restriction. We often limit the word when we use it, e.g. I will continue to love you if you keep loving me, or if you disappoint me, I will stop loving you. We can withhold love very easily. God never withholds his love from us. 

John sums it all up in a very, simple but profound way. 

“So we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

1 John 4: 16

Knowing God is love itself and know that his love for us is lavish and his love is unchanging and perfect, gives us a sense of security even when life is swirling around us with unsettling ups and downs.  

This is another one of my favourite verses about love because it assures us that his love will never fail and we can be blessed with joy every morning knowing just that and a lovely prayer to say every morning. 

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90: 14

Posted by: Jo | September 18, 2020

Living Through Stressful Times

“Great is our God and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit”

(Psalm 147: 5)

I was talking to my sister in Australia, recently, and as we are both at that age of being classified as elderly( even though we don’t feel elderly), we were discussing the frustration at the chaos this pandemic has created in our lives. We are feeling emotions that are very, different to what we have experienced before. We find it hard to understand why we are feeling these sometimes quite stressful emotions that are creating unusual feelings of anxiety. We realise, compared to other parts of the world, our anxiety is unfounded and even feel ashamed of letting these feelings of foreboding overshadow our lives. 

This morning my Bible study reading was Psalm 147 and I suddenly felt the Heavenly Father was reassuring me when I read this verse 

“Great is our God and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit.” (Psalm 147: 5)

Then I realised I could share all these strange emotions and he would understand of course, and listen to me, and calm started to fill me as I felt no condemnation from him, but empathy and releasing these worries to him allowed me to hand them all over to him so that I no longer felt bowed down by them. 

The wise advice found in the book of Proverbs is still pertinent today even written thousands of years ago 

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12: 25)

Two good messages in this verse.  One, do not be bowed down by your own anxiety. Two, if a friend or family member is anxious do not berate them, offer kindness and empathy to them. 

Over and over again we are urged to literally hand over all our worries to the Loving Heavenly Father. 

“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 most powerful pieces of advice is found again in the book of Proverbs. When we realise our own understanding pales beside that of our Heavenly Father, we can willingly hand over all our fears and allow his wisdom to direct how we should go forward. 

“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)

After thinking deeply about the incredible wisdom of God’s understanding, and his knowledge of what lies ahead in the future, I vowed to not lean on my own limited understanding, but to trust him with every new day. 

Posted by: Jo | August 30, 2020

Memorable Letters

“Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to write and orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus”

(Luke 1: 3)

Letter writing is becoming less and less popular with the younger generation, so they are now contacting each other with brief texts with shortened words and wild symbols to convey feelings. I find it hard to feel the warmth in these brief messages.

When I was young, letter writing was encouraged and was a wonderful way to convey your feelings for another and when a special letter arrived it was kept, so one could read it over and over. Not just deleted like an email. I have kept a box of my favourite letters over the years with precious old ones from my father and a pile of them from my late husband when we were dating and many others that bring back a flood of memories.

But the most precious and memorable ever written and kept safe for us over two thousand years, can still be read and were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ disciples knew it was imperative to write down and record what they had heard and seen while they had been with Jesus Christ and so they did and they were sent to believers wherever they were in the known world.

Some of my favourite ones are found in the letters written by the disciple John and he begins like Luke (Luke1: 3) emphasising the need to write the facts down

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us and our fellowship with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.” 

1 John 1: 3

John has three powerful messages which pervade his letters, and which make his words so memorable.

Firstly, “Light”

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you. God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

These words we need to read over and over to remind us that our Heavenly Father is pure. No darkness will ever be found in him. Too often, well-known figures we have respected and sometimes worshipped have dark secrets that when revealed horrify us and these people tumble from their pedestal.

Secondly, “Jesus is the only True Spirit of God”

“This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God. Every spirit that recognises that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

1 John 4: 2

This was a warning to new believers not to be led astray from false teaching undermining who Jesus was. These words are also important for us to keep in mind, so false teaching doesn’t cloud who Jesus Christ really is.

Thirdly, God’s Love is Forever

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.”

1 John 4: 16

And again

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

1 John 4: 12

This beautiful letter certainly does not ever need to be deleted, a memorable one to read over an over again.

Posted by: Jo | August 2, 2020

The Loving Eyes of the Lord

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers”

(1 Peter 3: 12)

LovingEyes01As we are entering summer weather, restrictions imposed months ago due  to the corona virus, have relaxed slightly and families are now allowed to go to local beaches and parks and  as I was watching the television news it was showing a mother and father with a toddler, paddling in the ocean.  I was fascinated to watch the loving tender care both parents were taking of their little one, never taking their eyes of him. He was adventurous and unaware of any danger the ocean might hold, but every time he wanted to keep wading into deeper water, his parents would guide him back to safety. It reminded me of the beautiful promises found in God’s word of how he keeps his eyes on us and constantly guides us to safer waters. Sometimes we ignore his advice and decide we are quite capable to look after our own lives and do not need him to meddle in them.

Sometimes toddlers are the opposite to our first little one and are too timid to venture into the water to paddle then we see loving parents gently encourage new adventures. When we look at nature, we see protecting parents lovingly caring for their young and constantly keeping them safe near them.LovingEyes02

Nature programs have wonderful illustrations of   how parents care for their offspring and the Lord used   these illustrations in his word to show how he cares for us. One program I was watching showed a mother seal who has to go on land to deliver her baby and when the sun is very hot in the middle of the day she lies beside the little one so it is protected from the sun  by her shadow. This is what God does for us when troubles exhaust us.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91: 1)

Again, nature is used to illustrate the Lord’s all-encompassing protection he promises us. When a mother hen has her chicks, she protects them from danger by covering then completely with her feathers and Psalm 91 tells us that we too can seek refuge under the feathers of our Lord when anything frightens us or life overwhelms us.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91: 4)LovingEyes03

The Lord also promises to never forsake us and this too is obvious in nature, when a young foal is born in the wild the mother keeps him always by her side, ready to fight off any danger that might come.

“Be strong and courageous do not be afraid or terrified because of them for the Lord your God goes with you and will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31: 6)

The world is swamped with fear and panic of this ugly virus sweeping the world, but when we remember that the watchful eye of our Father is always upon us, we can relax and trust him.

Posted by: Jo | June 29, 2020

Rebuilding After Chaos

“…They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.”  So they began this good work”

(Nehemiah 2: 18)

Rebuild01The world has been turned upside down by this vicious corona virus. All our lives have had to change to protect ourselves and others. Jobs have been lost. Children denied school and fun playing with friends. Old people shut away from family even though they struggle with the last days of dying, it feels as if our lives are in pieces and over all the chaos is fear of what the future holds. Emotions have become raw and deep, down resentment has erupted and ugly racism has surfaced and made us all rethink of our own values, especially when we are followers of Jesus. So how will we pick up the pieces when life returns?

The story of Nehemiah is a wonderful example of how the children of Israel rallied behind Nehemiah to do just that, rebuild after chaos. They had been exiled to Persia, but a few tribes had been able to stay, but life was nothing like before they were conquered. Jerusalem was in ruins the walls knocked down and those left behind constantly being attacked. Rebuild02Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the king of Persia and after Nehemiah learnt what was happening to his fellow countrymen he prayed to God and begged him to have pity on them. After praying Nehemiah was brave enough to as k the King could he go back to Jerusalem. When he returned, he filled the people with hope and told them their gracious God was with them they banded together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They were taunted by their enemies, but Nehemiah reminded them.

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your daughters.” (Nehemiah 4: 14)

In the midst of the chaos we are experiencing, we too are finding those who are negative and full of dire possibilities of what is to come e.g. life will never be the same, we will have this virus for years, our children will always be damaged , our economy will be ruined. We need to listen to the writer of Ecclesiastes.

“… a time to tear down and a time to build.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 3)

When we rebuild, we need to look again how Nehemiah helped the people to have the energy to rebuild. Firstly, trust in our gracious God and allow him to direct us. Secondly, work together and bring about harmony with those we have been made aware of during this crisis, those who are different from us, the disadvantaged, the old who need tender care, not neglect or abuse.  The lonely neighbours we were not aware of until we found out they have nobody to shop for them.

Rebuild03Often when we need to rebuild, we need to use new bricks that will give us a firm foundation, so let us plan ahead to use new ways in our lives to correct the mistakes we have been making, so when the time comes, we will build with enthusiasm and remember Jesus’ words

“My command is this. Love each another as I have loved you.” (John 15: 12)

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | June 12, 2020

Being God’s Holy People

“I am the Lord who brought your up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy”

(Leviticus 11: 45)

Beloved01We are living through the world being in turmoil and then added to his terrifying plague, corona virus, we are plunged into the chaos of ugly racism sweeping through the U.S.A.  Racism has long been there, but the threat of perhaps, death through the virus, has frayed nerves and emotions have risen to the surface demanding that we all face the truth about what people are suffering and rightly so. We as God’s people need to look closely at how we view others and how we can be holy as the Lord told us, (Leviticus 11: 45) the definition of holy, means to be set apart. I feel this means that we are not influenced by what the world says, but we are guided by what God’s word says, we are to be different and stand out as those who spread love not hatred.

Paul entreats the believers at Philippi to look carefully at the incredible characteristics of Jesus Christ and emulate them and allow them to govern the way we live and allow the world to see how we stand out , not in arrogance at how superior we are, but to be humble as how our Saviour lived among mankind, not to look down on others we consider beneath us , but to think of others more highly than ourselves, to see ourselves as servants to others not masters;

“ Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus; 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, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2: 5 – 8)

Beloved02Paul also entreats the believers to look beyond what they think is important to them and to be aware of how others look at their lives and to realise what is important to them

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 4)

Hatred and fear lead to anger and violence and some protests about racism have led just to that. How do we follow God’s directive to be holy and to follow Christ Jesus’ example?

Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22) and when we want to stand up for what is right in the eyes of God the way to do that is with gentleness and respect of others. Peter writes in his epistle a wonderful way for still to stand up for what we believe, but to do it with gentleness and respect, a wonderful reminder for all of us during these troubled times what ever country we live in.

“But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3: 15)

Beloved03

Posted by: Jo | May 31, 2020

Everyone Has A Story

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”

(Jeremiah 1:  5)

Story02Just recently, before the COVID19 had happened, I was at a church luncheon and I chose to sit at a table at which I knew nobody.  The tables seated eight people and when all had sat down, one gentleman began the conversation with this thoughtful idea. He said we all have a story let us share our stories so we can relate to each other. 

He was right. We all have a story, but sometimes sharing our stories can be painful. Sometimes we are ashamed of our stories and would prefer to have another that might impress others. Sometimes our stories are so sad sharing them would only add to our grief.

When God speaks to Jeremiah to tell him that he has chosen him to be a prophet and wants him to speak boldly to the Israelites, Jeremiah protests as he thinks who he is and his age (his story) will not be worthy of God, but God overrules him and tells him of course he knows Jeremiah’s story because he was the one who formed him, (Jeremiah 1: 5)

Story01This is such a comfort to all of us who love the Lord. He knows all our stories. We don’t have to pretend to him how wonderful we are. We don’t have to pretend we are okay when we are broken hearted.  We don’t have to be ashamed of what we have done, we can come to him and be forgiven and have a fresh start to a new fresh story and when it involves him actively, it takes on a new quite different path. One of joy and contentment about who we are, and the other exciting part is we join Jesus’ story.

The other joy of being forgiven, is the fact that our Heavenly Father wipes clean any pages in our story that we are ashamed of, we have a clean slate.

“…For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.” (Isaiah 65: 16)

Jesus has the most compelling story of all time and one that we need to constantly read so it is imprinted on our minds. We can share it with others and tell our children of the wonders of our Saviour.  When I was a child growing up one of my favourite hymns was the one below

Tell Me The Old, Old Story

Tell me the old., old story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and his Glory, of Jesus and his love.

Tell me the story simply, as to a little child.

For I am weak and weary and helpless and defiled

Tell me the story slowly that I may take it in

That wonderful redemption God’s remedy for sin

Tell me the story often for I forget so soon.

The early dew of morning has passed away at noon

Tell me the old, old story.

Story03

Posted by: Jo | May 10, 2020

Turbulent Waters

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you”

(Isaiah 43: 2)

TurbulentWaters01Apprehension, anxiety, fear of the future is sweeping over many parts of the world and lockdowns and isolation is heightening these feeling in many people but for those already struggling with depression it has an even more powerful affect. I have a young friend who is caught in this dilemma and finding it very difficult to cope. I was praying for her early one morning and then I went to read the passage set for my Bible study and it was these beautiful words from the Lord spoken through the prophet, Isaiah,  (Isaiah 43: 1-2) sent to God’s people to comfort them as they were struggling in difficult times.  As I finished reading them, I felt these words were meant for my young friend.

This is the amazing outcome of God’s powerful words. Later when I phoned my friend to read them to her, I was startled by her response. I was greeted by a glad response. She recognised the words but had forgotten them and said she sang a song using these exact words when she was younger, but never knew they were from the Bible and I did not know they were a song. Later she sent me the song and as I listened, I cried at the goodness of our Lord to send to my friend, just what she needed to hear. She now can sing the song when she feels like she is being swept away.

TurbulentWaters02The Lord constantly reminded the children of Israel, and the reminders are still relevant for us, that He cares for us whatever situation we find ourselves in and that he is always nearby, never too busy to listen.  All we need do is talk to him and tell him the fears that are assailing us

“The lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him.” (Deuteronomy 4: 7)

While I was thinking still about the image of rushing waters, I thought of the other image of our Lord Jesus Christ that is so powerful to hang on to. The Rock!

We know if we are ever caught in a swirling river, hanging on to a rock can be a life saver. Jesus uses this well, known parable to illustrate the power of rock. He tells of two builders who are going to build a house. One chooses to build on rock, the other chooses to build on sand. When storms blow, it is obvious who chose the right location. The house on the sand is swept away while the one built on the rock stands firm.

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7: 25)

We have somebody like a rock to hang on to while the storms of life swirl around us . We just have to call out to him, and he will be there right beside us.

TurbulentWaters03

 

Posted by: Jo | April 24, 2020

Loving Generously

“A new command I give you. Love one another.  As I have loved you., so you must love one another”

(John 13: 34)

LoveGenerously02When we think of the word, generous, we often associate it with money, but it can also be used to describe actions as well as the gift of money. The world is reeling from the effects of this ugly virus stealing from us our loved ones, denying us our normal routine, taking away jobs and robbing us of the social contact we all need so much with friends and family. Fear and panic sometimes bring out the worst in humanity, such as the me first attitude that results in hoarding food and essential items, but it can also bring out the love that Jesus entreated his disciples and of course all believers who have followed him, to practice.

Love generously!

Social distancing has made it difficult to see our loved ones and all our also loved friends, but because we can still use our phones and the internet to keep in touch, Jesus encourages us to love our neighbours as well as close friends. Many seniors are trapped in their homes, feeling lonely and deserted, I read a beautiful verse in Proverbs that helps us follow Jesus’ words.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16: 24)

LoveGenerously01

Just picking up the phone and talking gracious words of encouragement can do wonders for a lonely person and an easy way to ease the burden of isolation. They don’t have to be pompous with empty sounding words, but if we pray before phoning the Lord will season our words with his love and compassion. Those who know me will not be surprised that I try to add a little bit of humour as well. The main thing is to let the person know the call has been prompted by love and as the Lord says, cheerfully.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9: 7)

Small acts can also allow a lonely neighbour to find that they are not forgotten. Bulbs are springing up in gardens, even a small bunch of flowers left outside the door can gladden a sad heart. One of my old friends told me she looked in her mail box the other day and found lovely drawings from two little girls who live in her street with also loving words just saying “ miss you”.  This is also a good way to teach small children to love neighbours, also a good way to keep those little ones busy.

Jesus is and always will be the greatest giver of all time and as we have just celebrated Easter, that example is foremost in our minds. When we realise the most amazing gift given to us, we are propelled to spread that love to others in any way we can.

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

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