Posted by: Jo | September 23, 2016

Open To Receive The Seed

“Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop- a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

(Matthew 13: 8)

SowingSeedI love gardening, but now as we live in an apartment building, I have to be content to pursue my hobby on two balconies on which I have crammed as many pots as I can so bursts of beautiful colours not only bring me joy, but bring delight to passers by. I have reserved one corner for herbs, as cooking is another one of my fun tasks. This corner receives a lot of sun, so the herbs flourish and produce and abundant crop for me to use during the summer.  Last summer I retrieved a pot I had stored away for the winter and when I looked inside the soil was as hard as a rock. I realised it needed a lot of work before the soil was ready to receive my intended herb planting.

We sang a beautiful song during our church service this week and one of the phrases really made me stop and think;

Help me to be open to receive the seed.

The phrase made me think of my pot with its soil so hard no seed would be able to flourish and suddenly the song’s lyrics had a special meaning for me. I thought perhaps my heart is like the soil in my pot, unwilling to be open to receive God’s word. Jesus tells us that God’s Word is like a seed and in the parable of the sower, he describes how the seed is received in different ways, and how it flourishes depends on the quality of the soil.sowingseed02

In the parable Jesus tells us some of the seed fell on rock.

“Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil…” (Matthew 13: 5)

Our hearts are really the receptive soil for God’s word, and it depends on the condition of those hearts as to how the word grows and flourishes.  Fortunately for us who love the Lord, he knows that all sorts of circumstances can sometimes begin to harden our hearts and perhaps we don’t even notice at first, just like I didn’t notice my pot’s soil hardening over winter, but the Lord has provided a solution for hard hearts, we can call out to him and this will be the reply;

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36: 26)

Of course we have to recognise when we need the Heavenly Gardener to do a little preparation in our hearts to receive his word, and then the next ssowingseed01tep is to see that the word is firmly planted and has strong roots so it will resist any attempts to dislodge it.   I love how the psalmist describes how he will do this;

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119: 10 – 11)

So we can sing the song confidently…

Help me to be open to receive the seed (And he will!)

Posted by: Jo | September 16, 2016

A Beautiful Thing

“… She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

(Mark 14: 6)

beautifulthing02A beautiful thing. The word beautiful conjures up many images and perhaps nature springs to mind when we think of the astounding beauty found in majestic mountain peaks to tiny perfect little flowers nestled in the grass. Perhaps gazing at a little baby fills us with wonder at the beauty of the human form, but the word beautiful can also be attributed to an action and I was struck by this while reading the story of Jesus being anointed and how Jesus describes the woman’s gracious, generous breaking of the alabaster jar and pouring the expensive perfume over his head;

She has done a beautiful thing to me

People witnessing this did not agree with him and grumbled about the waste of money and how the money could be put to better use, but Jesus was not adding up the cost of the perfume, he was talking about the woman’s heart and what prompted her to perform such a loving gesture. This is what transformed the act into a beautiful thing.

Jesus adds another very important message to the crowd who were watching his reaction to the woman anointing his head and a wonderful message for all of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ.

“She did what she could…” (Mark 14: 8)

beautifulthing01Sometimes we may wonder if we can contribute anything to furthering the kingdom or spreading the good news to others. If we begin to compare ourselves to others who are being lauded for great missionary work or others whose oratory draws hundreds to listen, or those whose books everybody wants to read, we feel useless and unworthy to be called children of God. Jesus was making it quite clear this was not true.  It is just a matter of doing what we can!

Jesus emphasises this in the parable of the sheep and the goats and points out that the smallest of loving actions made in his name will certainly noted by the Heavenly Father;

“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25: 40)

So “doing a beautiful thing” takes on a whole different meaning for all of us when we hear Jesus’ words. He knows our various limitations. He knows our gifts. He knows that when we exercise those gifts in his name, we bring him the glory.  beautifulthing03It may be befriending a lonely neighbour, being patient with a difficult co-worker, visiting a shut in, comforting a friend struggling with self worth.  God is not expecting us to take on mighty tasks we are not capable of doing. We only need to do what we can, in his name, and then it becomes a beautiful thing.

How lovely it will be to hear these words

Well done good and faithful servant. You did what you could!

 

 

Posted by: Jo | September 9, 2016

Confidence In Him

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”

(Jeremiah 17: 7)

confidenceinhim003September in North America is the beginning of the new scholastic year and thousands of would be scholars ranging from kindergarteners to university students are preparing to stretch their knowledge in all sorts of areas. Many are seeing this as an exciting challenge, but many more are not so sure and anxiety and perhaps trepidation are prominent in their minds. They are not so confident this next step will fill them with joy. I saw a sweet little video about parents who had just left their little ones at kindergarten for the first time, and instead of leaving the playground, were peering through the classroom window unable to leave their loved ones.  They certainly were not filled with confidence that their beloved children would cope without them.

Our sermon (http://www.nsac.bc.ca/media/2016-09-04-confidence-in-christ) on Sunday was entitled “Confidence in Christ” and it was both challenging and comforting at the same time, and started with this question.

Who and what do we place our confidence in?

We can turn to the world for advice and there are thousands of seminars/ courses/ motivational speakers all willing to help us. It is interesting to see how the main thrust of most of them have, is encouraging people to have confidence in themselves.  Often the mantra is; you can do it! confidenceinhim002

Scripture also encourages us to hold fast to these words but with a totally different meaning, yes we can do it, but not relying on our own strength.  We need to place our confidence squarely in front of our Heavenly Father drawing our strength from him.

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

God’s word offers us a solid rock to stand on, a loving spirit to walk beside us, arms to lift us up when we fall, guidance when we take that first step on a new path, encouragement when our confidence begins to wane. His words constantly tell us we are worthy. As children of his we don’t have to doubt ourselves. We don’t need to frantically psych ourselves us up, learning new tricks to appear we have it all together. The prophet Isaiah has a beautiful way of saying all this;

“The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32: 17)

confidenceinhim001Our sermon was also stressing that we have to constantly be filled with this confidence and the renewing of it occurs when we come into the presence of the Lord, speaking to him in prayer, reading his word, worshipping him, meeting with others in his family, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us. The writer of Hebrews implores us not to discard in any way this beautiful gift, to hang on to it and blessings will flow our way. This is a worthy verse to help us to do this.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10: 35 – 36)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | September 2, 2016

Head Or Heart Knowledge

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

(Psalm 119: 11)

HeadHeart01Quite a few years ago my husband and I were attending the Alpha course 2 and during one of the sessions Nicky Gumble used a powerful little story to illustrate how having a lot of knowledge about a subject and actually taking it to heart and using it, were vastly different. The story went something like this. A young man was given a new very expensive car from his uncle, delivered to his home. He carefully took the owner’s manual from the car and spent many days studying every detail of the engine and some days he opened the door and admired the immaculate inside. Eventually his uncle came to see how he liked the car and the boy could recite all the details on how the engine worked, Then the uncle asked, “How do you like driving it?”  The boy was surprised and answered, “Oh I haven’t driven it!”

Nicky Gumble was really illustrating how sometimes we as Christians think that knowledge of God’s word is all we need and forget that we need to take it to heart and live it!

It is quite amazing to check two words in Scripture; heart and knowledge and find so many verse containing these words. According to Proverbs, knowledge is very desirable to obtain;

“Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Proverbs 10:14)

But at the same time knowledge alone without it being stored in our hearts is not enough, we need to make sure it enters our hearts.

“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” (Proverbs 2: 10)

HeadHeart02Jesus, himself, became very angry with the teachers of the law who were taking pride in their knowledge of the law, but not putting it into practice and what was even worse, hindering others from experiencing the joy of living God’s word.

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourself have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11: 52)

So what is the key to knowledge that Jesus is talking about?

Firstly, it is still important to know the Heavenly Father through his word. Unless we read and study Scripture, we will not know who our Lord and Saviour is. Next we need to call upon our Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, to illuminate the words so we grasp the meaning. Then we have knowledge.

HeadHeart03But the next step is the most important one, this beautiful knowledge needs to be stored deep in our hearts. What a pity not to take this final step. The boy in the story who only knew all about his car mechanically, was missing out on the joy of driving his car. When we hide God’s word in our hearts we have the joy of actually living with and walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | August 26, 2016

Our Daily Bread

“Give us today our daily bread.”

(Matthew 6: 11)

Bread02When I start to think about bread, a friend who is the most incredible baker of bread I have ever known, always pops into my head. When she offers to come and see us and bring us some of her fresh baked bread, there is no hesitation in our voices as we agree wholeheartedly we would love to see her (of course not only for that delicious bread). Bread in its various forms has been the most widely consumed food in the whole world for thousands of years, even going back to pre-historic times when it is thought early man mixed gruel with water and let it dry into a paste. Tracing its various components, shapes, recipes through the world’s ethnic groups is quite fascinating and I found it to be a very enlightening study as I was getting ready to write this blog.

Bread is very much a part of Scripture and we first read about it in Genesis when Abram (later to be called Abraham) meets Melchizedek and he blesses Abram;

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High and he blessed Abram…” (Genesis 14:18)

Bread then takes on a special significance through out the whole Bible until it reaches its most important role in Jesus’ words;

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6: 33)

Bread03When I was a child, the Lord’s prayer was said every morning at school before actual classes began, but as no one ever explained it to us children we just rattled it off without thinking what it could possibly mean. It wasn’t until I became an adult and a committed Christian that I discovered the powerful message behind those beautiful words and it was only just recently that I grasped the importance of give us our daily bread.

When I was younger I assumed when we used the words, daily bread, we were asking to have enough to eat for the day. Later I assumed it meant more than that and it encompassed all we needed to sustain us such as our finances etc., but when we read Jesus’ words

“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6: 47 – 48)

We see the real reason Jesus taught his disciples and us, to ask for our daily bread, lay in the fact we are asking not just for food, far more than that, we are asking for Jesus, the bread of life, to sustain us during the day. Just like we need daily food to sustain us, so too, do we need to ask every day for that infilling of the power of consuming the bread of life.  It is such a pity that the Lord’s prayer is often mumbled, rattled off without even thinking about what the powerful words mean and what an amazing change happens, when, before Bread01we begin, we ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate these beautiful words so they minister to our souls.

“This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:58)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | August 19, 2016

Brand New

“Like new born 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: 1 – 3)

BrandNew01_smallOur family has been celebrating the birth of a little new granddaughter and she has become the centre of many activities during the last three weeks. The wonder of studying her tiny little features has gripped us all. The big tough men among our relatives seem to melt as they hold this sweet bundle close to their chests.  Teenage cousins even put down their smart phones to take their turn to have a cuddle of such a tiny creature.  Aunts study her closely to see who she might resemble among our big clan. She is a brand new addition to our family.

Brand new!

I used this term lately in telling a friend we had a brand new baby granddaughter and afterwards I began to think what exactly that term meant. Scripture talks about us becoming new creatures after we have experienced and accepted the loving forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ

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

So what does it take to make us “brand new.”  I went to a special site that examines common phrases and sayings, and I was intrigued by the meaning of the word, “brand”. It comes from a German word that means; flame, firebrand, torch, fire and to associate it with another word can mean;

Fresh from the fire, moulded into just the right shape. Refined to just the right degree to be made perfect.

We talk about branding cattle. stamped for ownership. BrandNew02_smallCars are carefully engineered to perform and when approved the brand name is attached proudly in a prime position for all to see.

It is wonderful to find how we become new creatures in Christ. We sing a new song, no longer a dirge of complaining, no longer a list of requests, no bad mouthing of others, a song of joy displaces the old habits.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God….” (Psalm 40: 3)

Even our minds can be changed as we don that new self;

“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: 23 – 24)

Another beautiful gift we receive as we become new creatures is “hope”. Whatever is happening around us cannot ever quash that amazing gift.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1: 3 – 4)

BrandNew03_smallJust as our little newborn craves milk so she can grow, we too as Peter tells us, (1Peter 2: 2) must crave to become that beautiful new creature the Heavenly Father designed us to be and when we do this the next beautiful gift we receive is this;

“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 | August 12, 2016

Longing To Worship

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

(Psalm 122: 1)

image This Sunday during our service, our congregation sang a powerful song I had not heard before and the lyrics played over and over in my mind all day. The phrase that struck me was

I long to worship You

I began to think deeply as to what that phrase actually meant. When I was a child I can remember adults discussing some besotted young man and his young lady in these words, “He worships the very ground she walks on.” I could not fathom what that could possibly mean. I have also heard, as an adult, the word used in a derogatory manner, “He just worships money”. I decided to check the dictionary to see what the true meaning was, this is what I found;

  • To adore with apparent acts
  • To regard with extreme respect
  • Filled with adoration and to venerate.

Always the Psalmists help me to grasp the deeper meaning of walking with the Lord and David has a beautiful description of what worshipping our Heavenly Father means;

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.” (1 Chronicles 16: 28 – 29)

So again reflecting upon our song I wondered how we can reach the point in our spiritual walk where wanting to worship turns into a deep emotional longing which needs to be expressed.

David tells us to ascribe the glory to the Lord his name deserves. In our present society unfortunately his name often gets very little respect and is often even used as slang or as a swear word. Jesus taught his disciples and us the importance of revering his name in the Lord’s prayer;

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9)

image When we treat his name with reverence, we are performing an act of worship. Other acts of worship can take many different forms. David tells us to bring an offering and come before him. The Heavenly Father has no need of gifts or money, but what is most pleasing to him is when we come before him and offer ourselves to him. When we love someone deeply we long to praise them to tell them how much we love them. Telling the Lord just how much we love him is a sweet act of worship. I found the words of the Sunday song and they really speak to me of true worship.

I have not come

To ask you anything

Except for the privilege to

Glorify your name

Let my singing and my prayers to you

Fill you up

O, God that you might be satisfied

I long to worship you

I long to worship you

To stand in your courts and tell

How marvellous you are

To you I raise my hands

I want to lift you up

Here in your presence Lord

I long to worship you

Posted by: Jo | August 5, 2016

Solid Rock

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”

(Matthew 7: 26)

image My husband and I have been watching a fascinating series entitled, “Slow train through Africa”, in which an Englishman travels through Africa using sometimes very antiquated trains, to explore remote places which are off the beaten track and seldom visited by tourists. Last week he visited a deserted town which had once been a bustling thriving place, fuelled by the lure of finding diamonds. The diamonds ran out and the town died. What grabbed my attention was the tour, through the deserted houses. They had been built literally on sand, and the camera picked up the ravages blowing sand can do. The sand had started to bury the town. Graphic pictures showed bathrooms with tubs full of sand, staircases appearing eerily out piles of sand, windows with barely any glass showing, sand literally taking over.

This episode made me think of Jesus’ words that concluded his famous sermon, and how the scene on the T.V was such an amazing illustration of what Jesus was warning his listeners about.

Make sure what you are building your life on will stand the test of time!

David knew exactly whose hands he was going to place his life in. He was going to choose a steadfast Rock, the Lord God Almighty;

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation…” (2 Samuel 22: 2 – 3)

The lure of making a fortune had clouded the vision of those in my story and too often that is the same today. The world constantly paints the picture of happiness being achieved by making lots of money / being wealthy will solve all life’s problems / possessions will guarantee you esteem / life will be easier if you can amass lots of money.

Jesus explained exactly what he meant by choosing to build on solid rock. His words are the solid foundation which will stand firm and withstand any storm or raging wind of misfortune, that can attack our lives.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7: 24)

When we look closely at Jesus’ words, we see two messages. Firstly, we need to hear his words, so we can heed his advice. Secondly, we need to actually live what his words are saying.

image We live near a rugged Coastal Range of mountains which hikers love to climb. From the bottom of the cliffs it looks very inviting and even looks like an easy climb to ascend to the top of one famous trail, but every summer, hikers ill prepared for some quite dangerous terrain get themselves into serious trouble and need to be rescued. Warning signs have been posted. Advice on emergency supplies to be taken along etc. seem to go unread and ignored. These climbers are certainly not making wise choices.

Once we know who our Heavenly Father is, the wise choice is obvious. Trust his words. Live them.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26: 4)

Posted by: Jo | July 22, 2016

The Perfect Giver

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

(James 1: 17)

image Just recently I was rummaging through one of my draws looking for an old photo when I found a small cardboard box at the bottom of the draw.  It had been painted with bright colored flowers on top, with glitter scattered around, and the sides were also painted with vivid colours.  As I picked it up memories came flooding back of the small giver who had so lovingly given it to me. My giver was one of my granddaughters who had given it to me when she was young and I can still see in my eyes mind, her serious little face explaining to me the box was to keep my jewellery in. I don’t possess a lot of valuable jewellery, but that little box was priceless and is still years later, and the value rests in the memory of the giver.

When we know Jesus Christ, we know the perfect giver. After I found my little gift, I started to check Scripture for references to the gifts he pours out on us. It was astounding. He begins with the promise of eternal life. Now that is a pretty big gift!!

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10: 28)

While we are waiting to join him he gives us the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, who will guide us, protect us while we are on earth.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever.”  (John 14: 16)

image The next gift I found brings great comfort as we live in a world of turmoil, but with this gift we can relax in the knowledge that peace can envelope us no matter what is happening around us,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27)

When we begin to worry about the next pay check or how we will ever make ends meet, we can take comfort in Jesus speaking in the Sermon on the Mount, who assures us that he will meet our every need if we seek him first.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 33)

Jesus is not only the perfect giver, he is also the prefect gift to mankind and when we recognise his twofold personality, imagewe are showered with his goodness and we can in turn shower that goodness to those around us.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9: 8)

Posted by: Jo | July 15, 2016

Let There Be Light

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

(Genesis 1: 3)

image Dark, ugly stories flooded the media this week, with racial violence escalating in the United States and with the rest of the world embroiled in senseless killings of innocent people, fuelled by hatred. It was hard not to be overcome by feelings of despair for mankind and feelings of being inadequate to do anything about it. Turning to God’s word has always been my solution to try to find the Lord’s directions to his people and to listen to his voice rather than the clamour of the world’s strident shouting.

Scripture describes evil as darkness and it is interesting to see how often that feature is prevalent in literature/poems/cartoons and even in present day violent videos where the evil one wears black. When I was a child an Aunt, who loved the theatre, would take us to the Pantomime and we always recognised the bad one, dressed in black, and we were encouraged to shout out aloud if we could see him creeping up to the heroine all dressed in white. We loved the power we had to help defend our sweet little heroine.

Evil is not so easy to pick in our present day, as it comes in all forms and shapes, but God’s word tells us that light, His Light, exposes what is evil. The message being that we need to stay in that bright light that evil hates so much.

“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3: 19)

Paul goes one step further and encourages us to use light as our armour against evil.

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13: 12)

image So how can we, as normal human beings, have any effect on the rampant evil of today? God’s word tells us how. We have to light up the world with his light and shine so brightly darkness will quiver. Jesus tells us that he is that light so if we stay close to him through prayer and reading his word we will never walk in darkness.

“…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8: 12)

When we feel that overwhelming feeling of, “what could I possibly do” we can remember that we can shine his light wherever we are. In fact, we are told not to hide our light, but make it visible to all around us by living according to God’s word and spreading his love, so others will be attracted to his light. A great way to dispel darkness.

When I was in Sunday school, this sweet little song summed it all up; image

Jesus bids us shine

With a clear pure light

Like a little candle

Burning in the night

In this world of darkness

So we must shine

You in your small corner

And I in mine.

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