Posted by: Jo | May 19, 2017

Freeing Ourselves From Unforgiveness

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

(Colossians 3: 13)

Father and SonJust recently I heard such a sad story about a mother and daughter trapped in a cycle of unforgiveness that had enveloped them for years, even evident in the tragic circumstances surrounding approaching death. The daughter is dying of cancer, but even though the mother has at last come to see her, angry words and accusations have erupted between them. Unforgiveness, has surrounded both, like an impenetrable brick wall that they have both built brick by brick, that so sadly could have been torn down with the beautiful power of asking for forgiveness.

This is a far too familiar story between children and parents, but it permeates all walks of life and all types of relationships from siblings/close friends/work associates even invading our church families, bringing division and unhappiness.

We can formulate all sorts of excuses about not forgiving others. We feel if we do, it looks like they won. Perhaps to others we look like weak personalities who let others walk over the top of us, when we are willing to be the first to forgive. We would like to wait so those who have hurt us make the first move. The Psalmists knew where true forgiving begins and we would be wise to follow their example;Forgiveness01

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” (Psalm19: 12)

The big step in any broken relationship begins with us. In Psalm 19, David begins with himself, asking God to point out where he is at fault and where he might not even be aware of his faults, he asks forgiveness from the Lord first. He then asks God not to let these wilful parts of his being rule over him;

“Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over” (Psalm 19: 13)

An unforgiving spirit can have tragic results on the person who stubbornly hangs on to grievances and the writer of Hebrews warns us all that we will miss out on the grace of God if we allow the root of bitterness, which is often the result of not forgiving other, to grow in our lives.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12: 15)

Of course, we all know it can be very difficult to forgive those who have badly hurt us and in our own strength sometimes impossible to do, but we have been promised an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will help us to have the courage to bring about peace. The Forgiveness02incredible outcome of being a peacemaker is that we receive a rich blessing from our Heavenly Father and as we forgive, so too we are forgiven and set free from the ugly burden of unforgiveness.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5: 9)

Posted by: Jo | May 12, 2017

Living The Freedom We Have Been Granted

“But, the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- he will be blessed in what he does.”

(James 1: 25)

Freedom01Several years ago, my husband and I and our youngest daughter (then a young girl) visited some dear friends in the outback of Queensland, Australia, a very exciting time for all three of us!  My friend suggested my daughter might like to try riding one of their horses and assured me they had a gentle old mare that would be very safe for her to ride. When we got to the paddock I was surprised to see that there was no fence, but the horse seemed to be just waiting at the edge of the field.  My friend explained to me that when the horse was young the field was surrounded by an electric fence and very quickly the horse knew not to go close to it. After some time went by, the electric fence was removed, but the horse still never ventured past that area. The horse, basically was free, but was not using its freedom.

Sometimes, we can become like my friend’s horse, unable to move forward, knowing there is that beautiful promise of being free, but being hampered by past experiences. Jesus Christ has granted us freedom, but we imagine we are still trapped and never experience the wonder of being free. We hang on to doubts. We carry heavy loads of guilt. We feel we are somehow unworthy to enjoy that freedom.  This is when we need to remember who the giver of freedom is;

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3: 16 – 17)

Freedom02The beautiful story of the Exodus is really the story of God’s protection of human freedom. When God gives his people the Ten Commandments, the very first words he says, are emphasising he is a God of freedom. He wants his children, and of course that includes us, to remember we are no longer slaves to all that would hold us back from experiencing this incredible gift.

“And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”” (Exodus 20: 1 – 2)

The Psalmists knew that the only true giver of freedom is the Heavenly Father and to try to live a life of freedom is impossible without his help. One of the Psalmists overcome by everything besetting him and in anguish, calls out for this help;

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” (Psalm 118: 5)

Later in the same Psalm he writes down one of my favourite verses which I frequently say when I need to remember I am free of all that would entangle me,Freedom03

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118: 24)

I read a quote recently that really spoke to me and sums up what part we play in experiencing freedom.

Be inspired to live the freedom you have been granted.

Posted by: Jo | May 5, 2017

Pray Before Speaking

“At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

(Matthew 10: 19 – 20)

Prepared01BE PREPARED!!

How often we heard that from our teachers, particularly if we were about to face an oral exam, so I was surprised to hear one of my son in laws describing an interview he had with a young lady applying for a job in his firm, who was woefully unprepared. I thought that would have been a given for any interview. It made me think about how, when Peter was writing to the believers, he warned them to be prepared to answer those who question about the hope they have in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is still a good reason for us today to make sure we are well prepared to present what we believe, to others.

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

I love the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. A faithful follower of the Lord God Almighty, but in exile with his fellow Jews, and mourning as to what was happening to the city of Jerusalem and in the foreign country he was living in, he was a cupbearer to a very powerful king. He had agonised over the fate of his country and had wept and prayed for days asking God for help. Prepared02God suddenly gives him an opportunity to tell the king of what he is feeling and look what he does before speaking!

“The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…” (Nehemiah 2: 4 – 5)

Nehemiah knew that praying before speaking, would ensure the right words would come from his mouth and they did and the king granted his request to go back to Jerusalem to restore it to its former beauty.

What a wonderful example for us to follow. I have often regretted not doing this when impulsive words have come form my mouth which did not bring joy, but rather hurt feelings. Nehemiah’s prayer must have been a quick silent one. But we can do that as well, if we have done, also like him, spent many times seeking God’s wisdom and allowing the Holy Spirit to control our words.

Jesus has promised us his Holy Spirit will give us the right words if we ask him to supply them (Matthew 10: 19 – 20) Prepared03Then we need to have confidence in those words and Paul assures us that we cannot even imagine what power our words will have when they have been covered in prayer before we speak;

“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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3: 20 – 21)

 

Posted by: Jo | May 1, 2017

Home Is Where The Heart Is

“Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.””

(John 14: 23)

HomeHeart01I have a dear friend who is in the process of selling and moving from her home, where she has lived for fifty years. She is going to a brand, new suite in her daughter’s home, but even though she is very happy and excited about this, she is flooded with memories and nostalgia as she sorts through all she has gathered over the many years she has been in this house, and deciding what comes with her, and what will be discarded can be painful. Often that old saying, There’s no place like home, is trotted out when people are either far away from home, or are going through the somewhat difficult process of moving from a well, loved abode like my friend, but I much prefer this saying, Home is where the heart is. I know my friend’s new suite will soon feel like home because she is moving to where she is deeply loved by her family, and that is where her heart will be.

Scripture emphasises this in a very personal way, when Jesus promises that those who love him and strive to obey his commands, will be blessed by the Father and the Son coming to live with them (John 14: 23). What he is really saying is that our hearts will be where he will dwell.  When Paul is writing to the Ephesians he uses that beautiful word, dwell, to describe in a deeper way the intimate way the Lord is willing to reside with us.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3: 16 – 17)

Even though my friend is moving into a beloved daughter’s house, life is going to be different for her as both the family and she, adjust to this new way of life.  So too, that is what happens to us when we invite the Lord into our hearts. Often when we change residences renovations are in order and another one of those old sayings They had a change of heart also applies to what happens to our hearts when the Lord moves in.  Our hearts change. We long to discard what is not worthy in those dark corners, so there is HomeHeart02plenty of room for his light. We don’t want to be divided in our loyalties. We want him to be number one.  We are open to any renovations he sees fit to make.

This is the Father’s promise if we do just that.

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11: 19) 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 21, 2017

Accepting The New

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life.”

(Romans 6: 4)

AcceptingTheNew03Just recently our young grandson came bouncing into our apartment in his usual exuberant style and leapt into his grandfather’s lap for a cuddle and then turned to me with another leap. He is nearly five years old and seems to be all arms and legs, so fitting into our laps is proving to be a bit awkward!!  He then quite seriously studied us both and exclaimed;

You two are shrinking!!

He was probably right there, but when I tried to explain he too was changing, he was unable to grasp that he was growing and that was partly the reason for not much room on those laps. A new era was beginning for him.

Sometimes we are like my little grandson, accepting the “new” in our lives is difficult to achieve. We want to hang on to what is familiar, even though the familiar is sometimes painful. We want to accept newness in our lives, but still get entangled in the old doubts, regrets, failures, guilt. Sometimes we want to hang on to what we thought made us happy, but in reality, can be destructive, causing us to falter and not be flooded with the joy of being new creatures. I read a fitting description of this;

Jesus brings a newness that cannot be combined with the old.

Our greatest promise in accepting Jesus’ gift of forgiveness is his promise of making all things new. We are given a new self and Paul urges us to put on that new self, bravely.

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

AcceptingTheNew02I like the imagery of “putting on the new self” I can see myself going to my wardrobe cupboard and viewing my clothes and deciding that I no longer need that drab lifeless piece of clothing I can choose to discard it and choose a fresh new apparel to clothe me today. Paul advises us to be clothed with the Lord Jesus himself and certainly that would give us a fresh outlook on the day;

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13: 14)

Sometimes newness in our lives comes from circumstances that have shattered our familiar way of living and we flounder to cope with this new way of life. This is when we can take great comfort from knowing that the Holy Spirit will step in and give us just the new self we need, to do battle with all our fears and worries. We will be able to accept whatever life throws at us.AcceptingTheNew01

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5: 17)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 13, 2017

Fear Of Death Dispelled

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

(Hebrews 2: 14 – 15)

GoodFridayDuring our church service this week, we sang a beautiful song of praise and one line kept echoing in my mind long after we had returned home. A line that describes the wonder of the cross and what Jesus achieved by his selfless giving of himself to save us from death and to grant us eternal life;

Trampling over death with death

Our sermon was a powerful one on this theme and simply titled, Victory! As Good Friday draws near there are many questions about how this particular day could ever have been described as Good, but when we realise the incredible battle that went on that day and that the end result was Jesus defeating Satan, it surely was a good day, especially for us, the children of God.

This power over death was long promised for the children of God, the prophet, Hosea, encouraged them by telling them that God had promised them he would ransom them from the grave;

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O, death are your plagues? Where O grave is your destruction?” (Hosea 13: 14 – 15)

Good Friday church services are usually sombre and reflective, and rightly so, but when we remember the victory that was won over the power of evil, we can weep with Jesus through his agony, but rejoice that his sacrifice conquered death. If we see the day as one of only mourning we will miss out on seeing, in wonder, the amazing victory achieved for mankind.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2: 15)

GoodFriday02Sorrow mixed with joy can certainly describe Good Friday, but when we add victory to the day, it takes on a whole different meaning for us and our worship on that day can be filled with that power and we can confidently exclaim with all believers;

“But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15: 57)

Posted by: Jo | April 7, 2017

Who Is My Neighbour?

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

(Luke 10: 29)

Neighbour03My husband and I live in an apartment building and have done for several years, so consequently, we know all the other occupants. This last week a long-time resident sold her apartment and suddenly we realised we were going to have new neighbours moving in. The chatter around the hallways, was definitely centered around this new change, about to happen, and went like this; I wonder who bought the apartment/ will they be young and noisy/ I hope they don’t bring small children with them/ do they have a pet/ will they fit into our quiet, well managed lifestyle we already have here. We have all been left wondering;

Who is our neighbour going to be?

Jesus tells a powerful parable about this very question in the story of the Good Samaritan when “an expert in the Jewish law” wants to test Jesus about what he thinks about God’s law;

“On one occasion and expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10: 25)

Jesus replies with another question, asking the expert what he thinks the law is saying. The expert who obviously prides himself on how knowledgeable he is, quickly quotes straight from Scripture;

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbour as Neighbour01yourself.”  (the expert is quoting from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6: 5 Leviticus 19: 18) 

I often get a jolt when I read this story as I too could quote this well known saying, but would I be able to do what Jesus asks the expert to do?

“…. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10: 28) 

Surely Jesus would not expect me to love these new neighbours if they are wild teenagers who will throw late night parties. Surely, he means we are to love those who fit into our idea of “nice” people. Surely there must be some limits to which neighbours we love.

Jesus repeats his powerful message repeatedly when he is teaching his disciples, but there is a subtle change in the way he delivers the message;

“A new commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34 – 35)

Neighbour02When we are followers of the Lord we have a far greater responsibility, we are now his ambassadors, ready to promote his beautiful message of love. He has showed us perfect love in the way he has loved us, now we need to imitate him in the same way and love our neighbours whoever they are.

Before I meet these new neighbours, who are moving into our building, I pray that the Lord will remind me of the wonderful way he has loved me, despite all my obvious faults and the hidden ones he also knows, so he can help me…

Love my neighbour!

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 31, 2017

Making It Through The Winter

“See the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

(Song of Songs 2: 11 – 12)

winter01We have just experienced here in Vancouver, what one newspaper described as, “a brutal winter”. Other Provinces will protest and regale us with stories of how much worse their winter was than ours, and yes, we are known for our beautiful mountains and our evergreen stately trees, and our usually wet winter, but this year, rain was replaced with violent winds, snow storms and below freezing temperatures. One person was heard to remark, “I don’t know if I will make it through this winter!

Sometimes our lives feel like we are going through a brutal winter and we may also in despair cry out, “I don’t think I will make it though.” The Lord always hears those desperate cries and always has words of comfort for us, however hard our struggles are. In the Old Testament, God spoke his words through his prophets, but these same words have been preserved for us to turn to when we need to hear that soothing voice.

winter02I love this verse in Hosea which reminds us that the Lord is there beside us, even during those winter times in our lives, but he is also encouraging us to hang in there as he will also bring a refreshing spring to revive us.

“Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6: 3)

Hosea as well as assuring us that the Lord will help us, is also reminding us that we too have a part to play during those challenging times in our lives. Twice he tells us to acknowledge the Lord even when we may be despairing, in fact to be active and pressing on no matter what is surrounding us.

Last week, after I was so tired of this winter weather, I stepped out on to my balcony and to my surprise, on my vine that trails around my trellis, I could see a sprig of green. The vine had stood looking brown and lifeless all though this savage winter, but now new life was springing forth, a beautiful sign of hope.

winter03When the children of Israel were bowed down by trouble and felt they too were caught in the depth of despair, God speaks through the prophet, Ezekiel, and offers them, like my little sprig of green, a beautiful word of hope;

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11: 19) 

So, if the winter storms of life have left us with heavy hearts of stone, we must press on to acknowledge that we are the beloved children of the Heavenly Father who promises to come and refresh us with his life-giving spring rains.

Posted by: Jo | March 24, 2017

An Everlasting Inheritance

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

(Psalm 16: 5 – 6)

Inheritance01Just recently I was reading, what for me was a very sad story, an article describing an ugly court case between two brothers and their sister who was contesting the inheritance left by their father. The sister felt she had been unfairly treated by the brothers, who she felt had robbed her of what was rightly hers, and her words were laced with anger at her brothers as she gave her version of what she thought her father intended in his will.  This is a far too common story and always depresses me when I see families divided and quarrelling about money.

When we use the word, inheritance, it does not always mean money, and it is commonly used when we are describing others;

  • She has inherited the graciousness of her mother. 
  • He has inherited his father’s gift of generosity.  

We can be grateful when we look back at those loved ones of our family who left us with delightful inheritances,

  • The gift of laughter, especially when things didn’t look good 
  • Making us aware when we were children, of others who were not as well off as we were  
  • Manners handed down from mothers, practising them never leaving us.  

There is a beautiful example of this in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he recognises and reminds Timothy of the powerful inheritance he received from his mother and grandmother.

 “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which, first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1: 5)

Inheritance02The gift of faith would be worth more than an inheritance of millions.

We can strive to leave this as a legacy for our own children and grandchildren.

We as beloved children of the Heavenly Father are ensured of the most incredible inheritance, it never runs out, always available, will fill our every need. We don’t even need to remember a password to access the richest of blessings.

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1: 11 – 12)

The beautiful story of God rescuing his people reminds us that our inheritance also comes with an insurance policy. God tells his people he has rescued them from the terror of being adrift in an uncaring world;

“But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.” (Deuteronomy 4:20)

Inheritance03Once we are his, we receive the inheritance immediately.  We can call upon the wealth of his blessings, just by seeking an intimate relationship with him. I call it running to the bank when you most need the Holy Spirit. We just need to stay close to him to hear that whisper

 

You belong to me. My inheritance belongs to you!

 

Posted by: Jo | March 17, 2017

Kingdom People

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”

(Ephesians 2: 19)

KOG02During our discussion time in our Home Group, recently we were talking about citizenship and what that means to all of us. We have been meeting together for over ten years so we certainly know each other very well and of cause we all know many of us have come from different countries before settling in Canada. Our discussion ended with a beautiful and joyful realisation that we now could claim that we were all Kingdom people, our citizenship firmly established in the kingdom of heaven. We were no longer divided by where we had been born. We are bound together by the love extended to us by the king of kings, the lord Jesus himself and could join him in his kingdom.

We are studying the gospel of Matthew and are spending a great deal of time looking specifically at Jesus’ words so we don’t miss any of the deep meaning behind them.

Jesus begins his teaching ministry with these words;

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4: 17)

KOG03We tend to think that being in heaven means after we die, but when we look again at these words, we see Jesus is saying heaven is near, meaning he has brought heaven to us here on earth.  Seeking repentance and realising we are bereft without his Holy Spirit, brings about the blessing of entering the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3)

After our Bible study finished I became fascinated by the number of references there is in Scripture to the word, kingdom, in the Old Testament referring to God’s everlasting kingdom and in the New Testament we read the Heavenly Father granting us access to his beloved Son’s kingdom

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1: 13 – 14)

Being Kingdom People means our lives change in all sorts of ways so that others see how blessed we are to be members and long to enter that kingdom to receive forgiveness and all the blessings that go with that. When Jesus begins his ministry, he explains exactly how kingdom people will react to his words and his famous “Sermon on the Mount”, (Matthew 5-7) gives us beautiful guide lines for us citizens to observe.

We have lived in several different countries, and having quite a distinct Australian accent, I have always been distinguished as being foreign to the other people. I love now being a Kingdom person, a citizen like all the other Kingdom people distinguished only by my deep love of Jesus Christ.

KOG04The world has seen many kingdoms come and go, but we have this great assurance that God’s kingdom can never be shaken.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…” (Hebrews 12: 28)

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