Posted by: Jo | June 23, 2017

Learning What No Means

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

(Deuteronomy 6: 5 – 7)

WalkThisWay01Our youngest granddaughter who is 11 months old, has begun crawling and last Sunday she and her family were at our house for dinner. As soon as she was put down on the floor I rushed to protect, what I thought, would be objects she might damage or might damage her. My son-in-law, stopped me by saying.

We want her to learn what “no” means.  

Of course, all we adults were watching her to protect her from harm, but when her father said, “NO” in a firm voice as she went to towards our gas fire place (off at the time) I was surprised to see her look at him differently, stop for a minute until he picked her up and turned her around. He wanted her to learn that when he said no, it was important to stop and listen to him.

Later I was thinking about this and thought that that was exactly what our Heavenly Father was doing when he gave us the Ten Commandments, he was basically teaching us what “NO” meant to protect us from the ravages that not listening to him can bring about. Often, we have the mistaken idea that the Heavenly Father gave us the law to make life difficult or to spoil our fun somehow, not realising the incredible love for us that prompted him to write these laws for our own protection. His love is not one of indifference, but one of deep caring. He designed us, he knows how we can so easily go on our own way which often leads to great heartache for us. He knew we needed protection.

When Moses was preparing the children of Israel to go into the promised land, he impressed upon them the importance of listening to the Lord’s voice so they then would live life the way God had intended it was to be lived, under his guidance.

“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19 – 20)

WalkThisWay02Later, the prophet, Isaiah, also reminded the people and of course us as well the importance of listening to God’s voice, especially when we are about to choose a course of action.

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

Even as adults we need to be like children and stop and listen to the voice of caution and stay covered by the loving protection of our Heavenly Father.

 

Posted by: Jo | June 16, 2017

Content With Today

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

(Psalm 118: 24)

Content01I have a dear friend with whom I walk with each week and as we live in such a beautiful part of the world, our walks take us through spectacular displays pf God’s majesty in creation. One of our favourite walks, is along the sea wall which is boarded with stately trees. After one of these walks my friend wrote a beautiful poem about the contentment she felt the trees were exhibiting, which really intrigued me and made me realise that the glory of the Lord is proclaimed though nature and what we humans can learn from this.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19: 1 – 2)

Morning Glory

Champagne sunshine bubbling though a canopy of variegated green

Stately trees silhouetted against a sapphire sky

Taking their place in history.

Quiet nature content with today

Letting the ebb and flow of existence

Tell the story.

Happy and sad but unaffected by emotion

Accepting the inevitable rhythm

Of life.

– Anonymous (My Friend)

After reading this poem, I too saw the contentment of the trees, accepting their Creator’s complete control of their lives. They weren’t wasting time worrying about how many leaves they were able to produce, yesterday. They weren’t concerned that perhaps a big wind storm might occur tomorrow. They knew they were part of the incredible plan of life and they were content to accept the day planned by their Creator.

What a wonderful lesson for us to learn! We could save ourselves so much useless heartache and worry if we adopted that attitude, recognising that we are not in control, being willing to trust the Lord with our lives, being willing to be content with today and when we do that, the Lord blesses us

“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content untouched by trouble.” (Proverbs 19: 23)

Content02When we look at the apostle Paul’s life it certainly does not look like he sailed through without any trouble, but his attitude is an amazing example for us to contemplate and try to follow if we wish to obtain the contentment Scripture refers to.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12 – 13)

 

Posted by: Jo | June 9, 2017

Walking Humbly With The Lord

“Walking Humbly With The Lord.”

(Proverbs 11: 2)

Humble01Last week we had a wind-up brunch for the Women’s Bible Study, organised by our Church. It is a large number of ladies who meet together for worship and then break up into small groups with a leader, to study God’s word.  In September of last year, I had no intention of joining, until my daughter pressured me to come with her, as she was joining the Mom’s Group, also part of the wider study. I am ashamed to say my reluctance was based on pride. I have had extensive training in Bible study and have led many groups over the years and felt there was no need for me to attend yet another one. In the midst of my arrogant thinking I came across a saying of St. Ignatius, I had recorded many years ago and I was suddenly ashamed of what I had been thinking. Here are St Ignatius’ words;

In these days God taught me like a school teacher teaches a pupil. I remind myself that there are things that God has to teach me yet, and I ask for the grace to hear them and let them change me. 

After reading these words I asked for the grace to humbly join the study and my reward has astounded me. I met a delightful group of sisters in Christ who have shown me love and acceptance and have inspired me by their devotion and their dedication to God’s word.  One of the big lessons the Lord helped me with, was to keep quiet (still learning) and listen, rather than air my knowledge.

I often return to the Psalmists with all their wonderful wisdom and one of my favourites is Psalm 25

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25: 9)

Teaching us his way, is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ did when he said these words;

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11: 29)

If the King of Kings and Lord of all can be humble we have an incredible example to follow.

Humble02Over and over the Israelites in the Old Testament forgot to practice humility and took things into their own hands and made decisions without consulting God, believing in their arrogance that they knew best. Our present society is still doing much the same and we need to heed these words that God spoke to Solomon and learn to walk humbly with the Lord.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7: 14)

 

Posted by: Jo | June 2, 2017

Who Is Guiding The Boat?

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”

(Psalm 48: 14)

Quite a few years ago, my husband and I and our youngest daughter, who was a little girl then, were having a holiday in Oregon, USA and while we were there my husband booked us on a river rafting trip on the Rogue river,RogueRiver01 (as soon as I heard the name of the river I should have been more cautious before agreeing to us all going!)  When we arrived at the edge of the river from which all the rafts entered, we had to listen to very detailed instructions about life jackets which of course were compulsory, then instructions to turn on our backs and float if we found ourselves in the water, and then how to sit and where in the craft, and we were all to face forward once we began our journey.

As we started, the water was quite calm and as we glided along we just enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I was surprised we had so many instructions for such a tranquil experience, but a simple turn in the river and we were suddenly facing rapids and the trip took on a whole new meaning. My daughter suddenly turned to me and said,

Who is guiding the boat?

She had neglected to notice the big, strong man at the rear of the raft who, with his huge paddle, was guiding us through those turbulent waters.

Life can be much like our experience of river rafting. Life can be quiet and tranquil, but can, in a very short time become anything but, with unforeseen circumstances upsetting our lives forcing us to deal with situations that we feel totally ill equipped to handle. Amid the turmoil, it is easy to forget the strong powerful guide, who has promised to be there, is right behind us. God spoke through the prophet, Isaiah, to remind us of this RogueRiver02wonderful safeguard we always have with us.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun – scorched land and will strengthen your frame…” (Isaiah 58: 11)

Jesus knew that when he returned to the Father, we would certainly need someone far stronger than ourselves to navigate the perils of life here on earth and he graciously asks the Heavenly Father to give us the Holy Spirit;

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth…” (John 14: 16 – 17)

Just like our river trip, which we were not allowed to embark upon before listening to the instructions, God has provided detailed instructions for us about life and these are contained in his word. We need to constantly be reading them so we stay safely on the course set before us. It was easy for us on the raft, while the waters were smooth to RogueRiver03forget that strong man at the back safely protecting us, and the same applies in life, sometimes we want to take charge of our own lives and ignore the faithful guidance of the Holy Spirit and that often leads us into challenging waters.

The beautiful promise of the Father reminds us never to lose sight of the perfect guide on the river of life;

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31: 6)

Posted by: Jo | May 26, 2017

Taste and See

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

(Psalm 34: 8)

Taste01I can remember as a child often from parents, or older family members, being encouraged to taste some food that was totally new and the message always seemed to be the same.

Just taste it and you will see how delicious it is.

Tasting food seems to have taken a giant step forward in today’s supermarkets where food is displayed in very small portions and passers by are encouraged, free of charge, to sample the products and of course the main aim is to encourage those who stop to taste, to go buy the product displayed. My husband loves accompanying me shopping when the stores have numerous stands with all sorts of tempting little delicacies as he would much rather nibble than shop.

It is interesting that the Psalmists would use the word, taste, in relationship to knowing God, but it is one of the basic senses and is used in a broader way in today’s society, e.g. she as such good taste in clothing / I don’t like his taste in friends / what a tasteful way to serve that food.

One of the definitions in the dictionary, uses the word, savour, to describe taste and this helped me to understand it’s use in Scripture and this verse aptly conveys this.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119: 103)

Taste02When we think of savouring God’s words they are no longer just words written on paper, they become spiritual food for the soul and the more we spend savouring them the stronger we become in our faith;

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it, you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2: 2 – 3)

When I was younger I can remember looking at a type of food I wasn’t sure I would like and the person encouraging me to try, urged me by saying this,

What a pity you don’t know what you are missing!

This could be such an inspiration for those of us who love the Lord! If only we could encourage those who have no idea of what they are missing, to taste and see.

We may be the only witnesses some see of how sweet the words of God can be. Thinking back to the supermarket displaying food to taste, it is interesting to see how some of the Taste03food stands have lots of tasters as other shoppers see looks of delight on the faces of those nibbling around it. How wonderful if we could encourage others to taste and see as they observe how knowing the Lord, brings us such great joy.

“The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” (Psalm 19: 9 – 10)

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)

 

 

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