Posted by: Jo | December 2, 2016

No Law Against Kindness

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

(Colossians 3: 12)

kindness01Just recently I was reading an interesting article on a web site depicting education for small children and one section was devoted to how effective it is to teach children through song and particularly, regarding manners and relating to others. All those who have watched that two-year-old wrench a toy out of another child’s grasp with a wild shout of MINE!!!, will agree that we are not born filled with love and concern for others.  I was surprised to see how many of the children’s songs were about kindness, and became quite entranced with listening to the videos of children singing these sweet little songs. One was entitled. “You got to try a little kindness.”  I listened to it over and over!

I was thinking this morning that it is not only children who have to be reminded about kindness, but all of us grown-ups need to have that song running through our minds. This is reinforced by a page on my Facebook which stated it very plainly. It read;

It only takes one slow-walking person in the grocery store to destroy the illusion that I am a nice person

kindness02I can certainly relate to that statement and with the fast pace of life in our present age, it is easy to be irritated by others and driving seems to elevate the annoyance we can have with others’ perceived mistakes and the blasting of horns certainly does not improve matters or display any form of kindness.

When Paul was writing to the young churches, he impressed repeatedly the importance of kindness to each other.

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5: 15)

Our model of kindness rests with our Heavenly Father and he longs for us to learn from him and tells Hosea the prophet that cords of kindness lead us;

“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (Hosea 11: 4)

When we read how the Lord deals with us with kindness it makes it easier to treat others with that same love. Even the secular world has grasped that and we read of “random acts of kindness” being promoted in the media etc., but how much more weight will our acts of kindness carry when the Holy Spirit inspires them.

Paul tell us that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is kkindness03indness

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love. Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.”  (Galatians 5: 22 – 23)

I love the last sentence of this verse. You will not be in any sort of trouble with the law when you exhibit kindness!

 

Posted by: Jo | November 25, 2016

A Place of Refuge

“How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

(Psalm 36: 7)

refuge03Our Home group is still fully immersed in our study of the book of Joshua and as we wade through unpronounceable names of people/ towns/ areas we frequently find gems of wisdom that surprise us and make us think more deeply of what it means to belong to the family of God. One such incidence happened this last week as we read the section in which the Lord was instructing Joshua to designate special cities to be cities of refuge to make sure that justice was always to be tempered with mercy.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua. “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses.” (Joshua 20: 1 – 2)

We began to think through what the actual word, refuge, meant and many words came to mind; a shelter, a haven, protection from harm and danger, a peaceful setting, a place where the persecuted could run for help, a time to mend.

In Joshua’s time the idea was to stop avengers of any accidental killing, from taking revenge into their own hands, but today on the world stage we still see an urgent need for places of refuge. Many countries have offered this help to millions who are fleeing from their own war torn countries, but we also found that as we explored these meanings we agreed that places of refuge are still just as important for many in the society we live in today.

refuge02Sometimes we can be overwhelmed with the injustices that scream from the media. We can feel totally inadequate to do anything about national disasters except in a financial way, but when we remember Jesus’ words we suddenly understand what that means for us personally;

“The second is this, Love your neighbour as your self…” (Mark 12: 31)

When we narrow it down to who is our neighbour, it is so much easier to see how we can provide refuges for others.  Our own homes spring to mind.

Our churches are the obvious place for others to seek refuge. The broken and those grieving or in despair desperately need to be surrounded by love and understanding, unfortunately that is not always the case and I have often heard, “Nobody spoke to me when I visited that church.”  Asking the Holy Spirit to make us aware of those needing us to reach out to them is a great way to start.

Schools too can be places of loneliness and places where many children are bullied and those are the ones who need a place of refuge desperately.  Young Christian students can provide this just by offering friendship

There are also times when we all need to be able to run to a place of refuge ourselves. Ugly situations, trauma, set backs, failure/grief can overcome us. We refuge04have the most wonderful of place of refuge imaginable and we can run there whenever we have a special need and the Psalmists tells us we will be blessed when we do;

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34: 8)

 

Posted by: Jo | November 18, 2016

Dedicated? Then Also Committed

“But your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”

(1 Kings 8: 61)

dedication02This last weekend our family celebrated at our church, the beautiful ceremony of dedication.  Our two youngest grandchildren were dedicated to the Lord, in front of the whole congregation as a public declaration that our daughter and son-in law were promising that these little ones would be faithfully taught about their Heavenly Father, their loving Saviour, Jesus Christ and their powerful Guide through life, the Holy Spirit.

Afterwards as I was reflecting on the morning, I got a new sense about what dedication meant. We have been studying the book of Joshua in our Home Group and one part of this amazing story of God’s faithfulness has stayed in my mind and gives us a wonderful example to follow in both the way we can practice both dedication and commitment.

In the Old Testament, we read of how God commanded Moses to dedicate to him, sacred objects that were to be used in worship. He also chose the tribe of Levi to be the priests who will protect these sacred objects, and the challenging part of reading this history, is to note the absolute commitment they had to this role. When the Israelites finally are ready to cross into the Promised land, God parts the waters of the Jordan for the people to safely walk through, the first ones to step into the waters are the priests carrying the ark.

“Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing…” (Joshua 3:  15 – 16)

dedication04Stepping into the water!!! The waters were still raging when these priests were told to trust God and wade into those formidable waves. I see their obedience to God’s word to be a wonderful example of commitment to the act of dedication. Sometimes what we are facing looks as terrifying as those wild waters, but as one of my friends once told me the act of “getting one’s feet wet” and still trusting God’s faithfulness is the way to tackle whatever faces us.

We too make an act of dedication when we decide to give our lives to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, but the true test of that promise is how committed our lives become in following the Living Word. Fortunately for us, we serve a loving Heavenly Father who knows our every weakness and even is constantly strengthening us and supporting us in all our efforts.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chronicles 16: 9) 

dedication03Sometimes when we commit to do something in our everyday life we can be overwhelmed and wonder if we will be able to fulfill our promise. This too can happen in our Christian walk and doubts can arise, yet again God’s word reassures us that we have that source of strength always available no matter how deep that water may look that we must step into.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16: 3) 

 

Posted by: Jo | November 11, 2016

The Lion and the Lamb

“Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

(Revelations 5: 5)

lionandlamb02When I was a child one of my favourite books was called, “Cole’s Funny Picture Book”. It was published in early 1900, and my first glimpse of this book was the one my grandmother kept at her house which had been my father’s when he was a child. My brother and I loved looking at the strange puzzles that you had to look very closely at and suddenly what you thought was very clear, would slowly change as another picture hidden, at first, would appear.  My husband even brought his rather tattered copy with him when we got married! (I think every child we knew had a copy) I decided to investigate my book and the puzzles when similar images of pictures within pictures started to be posted on Facebook.

I discovered to my surprise that one of the most popular images was that of a lion that if you looked very closely, had a lamb secreted inside.  It made me immediately think of what an amazing illustration that was of our Jesus Christ.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; and your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub. O Judah….” (Genesis 49: 8 – 9)

The Israelites were promised a mighty, powerful lion that would come from the tribe of Judah. We know that prophesy was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ.

lionandlamb01The other startling fact about our Saviour is that his other image is that of a gentle lamb. How do we equate these two vastly different images with that one perfect person we know as Jesus?

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53: 7) 

When John, the Baptist, sees Jesus approaching him, he cries out;

“…Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29)

When we look at these two amazing images of both strength and humble meekness, we grasp how really, incredible our Lord Jesus is, and how worthy he is of our praise. I love this song that sums it up perfectly

The Lion and the Lamb

Our God is a Lion, the Lion of Judah

He is roaring in power and fighting our battles

And every knee will bow before him

Our God is a Lamb, the Lamb that was slain

For the sins of the world, his blood breaks the chains

And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

Every knee will bow before Him

lionandlamb03

Posted by: Jo | November 4, 2016

Unprayed For Answers

“I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.”

(Ezekiel 34: 26)

unprayedforanswers01I was reading an interesting devotional on prayer, recently, and was intrigued when the author introduced a phrase that made me stop and think more deeply about. The phrase was this;

Unprayed for answers

The author was wanting us to look more clearly at our lives when unexpected, but really, important occurrences happen to us. She wanted us to see that our Loving Father knows exactly what is right for us and even though we may not have prayed for these sometimes, inexplicable happenings, they have come from him and acknowledging this by praising and thanking him brings even greater blessings.

As I was looking at my own life I suddenly thought of this, my weekly blog. A few years ago I didn’t even know what a blog was. I love writing and I love God’s word, but, actually doing anything with this desire did not occur to me until one of my sons-in-law suggested I write a blog. With his help this became possible and my heart overflows with praise for a Father who filled an un-prayed for answer and a son-in-law who was the instrument in making it happen.

There are lovely examples of Jesus’ compassion in answering the unspoken need. Jesus sees a woman so badly crippled for eighteen years she was unable to even straighten up.  She doesn’t beg Jesus to heal her, but when he places his hands on her, blessed healing takes place and she can straighten up;

“Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” (Luke 13: 13)unprayedforanswers03

Sometimes we may have given up praying in despair of an answer, but still the Lord is ready to even answer silence. Jesus had great pity for another woman whose son had died and again answers another unspoken need.

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (Luke 7: 13 – 15) 

Of course, the article I was reading did not imply we stop asking God for what is burdening our hearts, but was urging us to be more aware of the goodness the Lord pours out on his people. To make note of blessings in our lives and not put it down to coincidence, but give God the glory.

Our beautiful access to the Father is through the Holy Spirit and I love the way Paul urges us to remember that even though we may not know what to pray the unprayedforanswers02Sprit does, and we can all take great comfort in these words;

“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.” (Roman 8: 26)

 

Posted by: Jo | October 28, 2016

How Do You Solve A Problem Like That?

“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)

problem02Last week I was holding my youngest, little granddaughter who was fast asleep on my lap, and beside me on a side table I could see a pile of newspapers and as I idly glanced at them, the top one had these bold letters taking up half the page.

How do you solve a problem like………

The newspaper was folded over so I could not read the end of the sentence and of course I was not going to risk waking up the little one just to satisfy my curiosity, so I began to think of all the problems we all face and tried to imagine what sort of solutions I would find when I was finally able to read the rest of the article.

I started to go over in my mind what my answers are to solving problems and am ashamed to say that usually my response is to immediately start worrying so much so that the problem seems to double in size very quickly. (I put that down to my very imaginative mind). I then, rather foolishly, think the whole responsibility rests with me to tackle what ever is wrong and immediately start planning just how I am going to do that.  That also seems to magnify what I am facing. Scripture has a lot to say about my obviously wrong approaches to problems; problem03

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5: 17)

We are studying the book of Joshua with our home group and discovered that after Joshua had some amazing victories when he followed God’s voice, but seems to stumble when he starts to rely on himself and forget the first major step we all must take

“The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9: 14)

I also need to go to Gods’ word when I struggle with problems, relying on my own strength. I know the first step is to consult the Lord, but another important step is pointed out in this verse;

“Plans fail for the lack of council, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15: 22)

Sometimes it takes humility to go to friends for help, but choosing those you know and love and who also love the Lord is a great way to look at what is facing us with a more balanced approach.

problem01I was quite disappointed when I was finally able to read the rest of the article which had given me so much to think about. It was about a region in Belgium which was voting against opening trade with Canada. What a let down!  I learnt nothing, except, not to rely on the views of the world to solve problems, but to always rely on God’s advice.

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”  (Psalm 18: 30)

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | October 21, 2016

Answer Me When I Call

“Hear O, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”

(Psalm 86: 1)

answerme02My husband and I have finally reached that age where role reversal is taking place in our family.  We have, up until now, always accepted our role as being the ones who take care of the rest of our brood, doing the worrying, making sure everyone is progressing safely through life, etc., but lately subtle little signs are making us realise that times are a-changing! The first sign came when we received a smart phone with strict instructions to carry it with us whenever we ventured out so the rest of the family could check on us. We were very touched at their concern, but a bit dismayed that these younger ones were taking over our former job of being the ones who did the worrying!  We learnt a big lesson a few weeks ago, about smart phones and being responsible seniors.

Smart phones need to be turned on for one to be able to hear the message.

We learned this after we had decided not to go home after church, straight away, but to have a coffee and walk slowly home, unaware that the family were very concerned about not being able to find out where we were because they could not contact us. Lesson learnt!

answerme03Of course we are all are like David who cries out to the Lord, demanding that the Lord answers him, but we are also aware that one must listen for the answer to be given. In our very busy, stress filled lives we often cry out to God, but forget to actually stop and spend time waiting for the answer. God has a good message for us

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

Our pastor had a sweet, but very pertinent story about a little girl who was sending her mother crazy by constantly moving and jumping around the room until her mother made her sit still to calm her down. The little girl obeyed, but then quickly added, “I am still jumping inside myself.

We are a bit like that little girl.  We want to wait upon the Lord and spend time quietly listening to his answers, but all those pressing needs intrude upon our minds we keep thinking of the many tasks awaiting us and on the surface we may think we are listening, but inside we are far from taking in what the Lord wants us to hear. (A bit like our lesson with the smart phone we need to be turned on to hear)

Answers from the Lord often come through his word, but again we have to turn on(open) his words to hear the message;

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130: 5)

answerme04One of my favourite verses to read when I am crying out to the Lord is in the book of Isaiah, but again the emphasis is on opening our ears to hear those words of guidance.  Be ready to listen!

“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”” (Isaiah 30: 21)

 

Posted by: Jo | October 14, 2016

Count Your Blessings

“I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.”

(Ezekiel 34: 26)

countyourblessings01This month, Thanksgiving is celebrated here in Canada and many of the newspapers have various articles as to what that exactly means to people. I was intrigued by many of the answers, but not surprised by others that included giving thanks for family/ friends etc. Later I was reading a devotional about the subject and came across a quote that really caught my attention;

You cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time.

I suddenly caught myself remembering that I had been guilty of exactly that, admitting I was grateful for something, and in the next sentence saying words like this; but if only I had enough money for… or after receiving a longed for blessing, forget my angst about that problem, and start worrying about another immediately. The other intriguing question for many in this season is; who are we giving thanks to?  Sometimes we can slip into basically thanking ourselves for a positive outcome in our lives e.g. I am so thankful I had the sense to take that course of action.

The psalmists make it quite clear that the Lord deserves our constant thanksgiving;

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)

countyourblessings02We can also slip into excluding the wonderful power God has in our lives by neglecting to thank him when inexplicably good things happen, and we put it all down to coincidence.

For example, a friend was sharing how she had been in the hallway of her Senior Citizens building when she heard the fire alarm go off inside one of the rooms. She and another lady were able to go inside and see a pot burning on the stove and nobody there. They had time to turn off the stove and remove the pot before the whole room was engulfed. They could have just put that down to coincidence that they were outside the room just at the right time, but our friend loves the Lord and was able to give him thanks for saving the building.

Paul sets a wonderful example of giving thanks for his fellow Christians in prayers to God, and telling them in letters. How lovely for us to tell our friends that they are part of our thanksgiving when we pray.

“I thank my God every time I remember you in all my prayers for all of you.” (Philippians 1: 3)

When I was young we sang a sweet song encompassing all of this and its message is just as important today as it was when written.

Count your blessings name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

countyourblessings03The most important thanksgiving prayer for all of us, when we think of the Lord Jesus Christ, is summed up in this verse.

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

 

Posted by: Jo | October 7, 2016

Power of the Forgiving Prayer

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

(Luke 23: 34)

powerofforgiveness03When one of my daughters was a little girl, she seemed to be having a great deal of trouble relating to one particular school teacher, and every afternoon after coming home from school, would regale me with how terrible the day had been and how mean this particular lady was to her. One night after she had another bad experience, I suggested to her while I was hearing her night time prayers, that perhaps we should ask God about this problem and ask him to bless this lady in some special way. With that my little daughter pulled the sheets over head protesting “Oh no!  I know what he will do, he will make me like her!”  They say wisdom comes from the mouth of babes and these words from a little girl were loaded with wisdom way beyond her years in grasping the power of prayer, especially when laced with forgiveness.

When the disciples begged Jesus to teach them how to pray, they may have been surprised to hear these words;

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11: 4)

Forgiveness was certainly what they expected from God, but now Jesus was emphasising the importance of forgiving others, but was combining the act of forgiveness with prayer, calling on the power that occurs when we submit to God’s authority.

When Paul was writing to the Ephesians, he urged them to forgive others and he mentions the ugly emotions which fill our minds powerofforgiveness04when we have a grievance against someone.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 31 – 32)

Those ugly emotions, especially bitterness and anger, that Paul mentions, often stay in our minds long after the incident in which someone hurts us, and in the end can spoil our enjoyment of daily living. God is offering us release from those emotions, which have been proved to actually bring about health problems, by allowing him to change our thoughts, even as my little girl grasped, to the extent of loving and not hating.

Praying for those we love is very easy, but praying for those who have hurt us/ betrayed us/ let us down/ damaged us in any way/ is so much harder.

Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father forgive them” have always amazed me. I would expect him to love those who loved him, but his example to the world was forgiveness for those who were trying to destroy God’s own son.

powerofforgiveness01The wise words of the Book of Proverbs, helps us to get this into perspective, as we realise by coming to the Lord with forgiving hearts for those who hurt us, we reap this benefit.

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16: 7)

Posted by: Jo | September 30, 2016

Meaningful Words

“… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

(Deuteronomy 8: 3)

meaningfullwords01We here in British Columbia, Canada, are enjoying a visit from the Royal family as Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge are presently representing the Queen and seeing this incredible and beautiful part of the world. They are a charming young couple and both seem to have the knack of relating to the everyday person who has lined the road to catch a glimpse of them. Watching them on the television, I was constantly impressed with the way they did not just wave their hands to the adoring crowd, but stopped frequently, to chat to individuals.  How do they do that? I asked myself. Surely muttering some meaningless words would not leave the recipient impressed. I was wrong. During an interview with one such recipient of these words, I was surprised to hear that no they were not meaningless words, the Royal couple seemed to be genuinely interested in the answers and always had some background knowledge of wherever they currently were. This made me think of that wise Book of Proverbs.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25: 11)

We have all probably experienced words not aptly spoken and how hurtful they can be and how quickly they can destroy relationships. The ever wise author of Proverbs puts this into perspective; meaningfullwords02

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12: 18)

Many of us have regretted reckless words coming from our own mouths as words can escape our mouths so quickly before we can stop them and of course once uttered, have already done their damage.

So how do we go about making sure what comes out of our mouths are meaningful words?

When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness and perhaps being provoked to utter the wrong response, he uses God’s own words to come out of his mouth.

“Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”” (Matthew 4: 4)

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to control my outbursts with my own methods of self-control, but I have realised that I am always going to need the help of the Holy Spirit to allow those words, “aptly spoken” to come from my mouth.

meaningfullwords03The solution is to honestly want pleasant words to be part of our every day conversation whoever we may be conversing with during the day, even if it is a particularly annoying person, or someone we have a grievance with, so to achieve this we need to ask (for me every day) to have our mouths filled with God’s words and when we do, listen to his gracious answer;

“I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand…” (Isaiah 51: 16)

Older Posts »

Categories

%d bloggers like this: