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.

Posted by: Jo | July 8, 2016

Show Me Your Glory

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.””

(Exodus 33: 18)

image This last Sunday a special and an especially beautiful event had been planned for our church family and as we reside in Vancouver with its magnificent water ways, the venue that was chosen for an outdoor public baptism, was a beach, with views of the mighty ocean, stretching for miles. This event had a special significance for our personal family as one of our sons-in-law was to be baptised and we were very proud of him to be so willing to declare his love for Jesus Christ.

During the church service on that morning, we sang a challenging song entitled “Show me your Glory.” The phrase kept echoing through my head and I felt it was a message for the event about to take place. The day was beautiful. The sky a brilliant blue. The mountain backdrop behind us like mighty spectators about to watch the ceremony. The wind whipped the water into dancing white caps. The huge rocks on the edge of the water reminding us of the solid Rock we can cling to. The scene seemed to be set to declare the Glory of the Lord and I felt that nature was doing exactly that, proclaiming to all of us the awesomeness of our Heavenly Creator.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19: 1)

The song we sang in the morning was entreating all of us to be brave enough to ask our Heavenly Father to show us his glory and not be frightened. I have always thought it was very brave and a bit audacious of Moses to ask God that question, but the lyrics of our song remind us that perfect love casts out all fear;

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment…” (1 John 4: 18)

image By asking God to show us his glory, we are entering a much deeper and intimate relationship with him. We are asking for eyes to see his incredible power. We are making ourselves more vulnerable by doing so, for as soon as we are aware of his power we realise the responsibility we have, just like the Psalm says, to declare that glory and to proclaim the work of his hands to those around us.

When Mary was given a glimpse of his glory she sang a beautiful acknowledgement that has remained for all generations to come and a wonderful example for us to follow.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1: 46 – 47)

Posted by: Jo | July 1, 2016

Forever Friends

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

(John 15: 15)

image Last week I was walking with a dear friend, on our weekly walk together, and we were discussing friendship in general and in particular our own friendship which had developed over the years into a comfortable relationship in which we could say anything that comes to mind, without having to choose our words carefully or censor any challenging thoughts that might upset the other. These sorts of friendships are so refreshing as they allow us to be totally ourselves.

It is so surprising to read Jesus’ words offering us that same intimate relationship with him, as he tells his disciples and us as well, that he does not see us as servants, but as friends. When Jesus calls us his friends, we enter the most rewarding relationship known to mankind. God opens up this relationship when he calls Abraham his friend.

“But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, who I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend.” (Isaiah 41: 8)

The book of Proverbs has many verses about friends, but makes it clear there is a big difference between acquaintances and true friends and makes it clear that friends love one anther at all times, the good and the bad and even stick close when others, even relatives, might abandon, friends need to become forever friends.

“A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17)

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18: 24)

Jesus is offering to be the perfect friend for us, he will love us at all times, he will never forsake us, but will stick with us whatever happens. He does challenge us when we experience this loving relationship he is offering, and the challenge is to be a loving friend just as he is.

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

image After our walk last week, my companion decided to take the word, friend, and take each letter to describe the essence of true friends and by using an acrostic came up with this;

Friends are forever because they are: Forgiving

Friends are genuine because they are: Real

Friends are uplifting because they are: Inspiring

Friends are supporting because they are: Encouraging

Friends are open minded because they are: Non- judgemental

Friends are life savers because they are: Dependable

When I read my friend’s words I caught a glimpse of what Jesus was promising when he graciously offers us friendship. These words become a living reality when applied to him. For us to aspire to these beautiful qualities our daily walking companion needs to be the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

Posted by: Jo | June 24, 2016

Unity Not Uniformity

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

(Psalm 133: 1)

image Last week I was watching the pageantry taking place in Britain as the country celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday. The Brits certainly have perfected massive displays to honour Royalty, some dating back centuries, and all conducted with such precision it is impossible not to be impressed. I was watching the part where the House Guards were marching past the Queen and as they began to move they appeared to be not a troop of men, but a single body moving in uniformity and it would have been hard to distinguish one from another.  The crowd was not in uniformity, but united in their enthusiasm for the display and showed it in all sorts of ways with loud clapping, waving of flags etc., but of course it was not in an especially rehearsed uniform way, each person retained their own individuality.

This started me thinking about what Scripture means when God’s word urges us as believers to live in unity with the other members of his family. When Jesus is praying for all believers he asks the Father that we remain in unity so the world will see Jesus in us and to know that the Father loves his children.

“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 23)

It is interesting to note that nowhere does the Word tell us we have to be uniform Christians, all of us being exactly like each other, we each have our own personality. The pressure to be like others is prevalent in even our own culture. When we are teenagers we long to be like that beautiful girl, or that football star that everybody idolises or we want to wear the right clothes that fit in with all the other kids, we try to be like everyone else.

These same thoughts can creep into our spiritual lives as well and we can begin to compare ourselves with others, mistakenly believing that we don’t quite measure up in the Father’s eyes if we are not as spiritual as others. We feel that we haven’t got any important gifts and slip into admiring others who we think have spectacular gifts. The one important factor we do need to be in unity with other believers is, there are many gifts, but one Spirit.image

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4 – 6)

We can celebrate our different personalities, our different gifts when we rid ourselves of the rigidity of thinking we must conform to some sort of uniformity. True unity is only found in being united with Christ and when we cherish this beautiful union of his love, we will achieve perfect unity.

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3: 14)

Posted by: Jo | June 17, 2016

Finishing Well

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

(2 Timothy 4: 7)

image Our Home Group had our final Bible Study this week, until September, and much to our joy we were able to complete the Book of Exodus. I was telling my daughter of our success and she remarked, “Did it take you 40 years?” There certainly was a lot of reading, but the general consensus of the group was

We finished well!

As we read the last few chapters we discovered that, that was basically the theme of these final words. We had read earlier of the strict and very detailed instructions that God had given Moses in how to make the Tabernacle and the sacred clothes for the priests and the wonderful way God had given all the skills needed to fulfill the task. The ultimate test for the Israelites was to see if they could put it altogether exactly how the Lord had designed it to be. They did!

“The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Exodus 39: 42)

They finished well!

We were fascinated to read that no squabbles broke out between workers. No changes in the instructions given. No moaning about how hard the task was. They followed God’s commands.

imagePaul knew to finish well, in life, the same principle applied. He knew that to finish the race there was no turning back. No changing the path set before him. No changing the game rules. Listen to the Heavenly Coach.

The road of life can have many side tracks that may divert us from the one true path that leads us always to the Heavenly Father. Much of the media is flooded with advice on how to set goals for oneself from how to lose 10 pounds to how to get a university degree in 6 months. We have to be careful as beloved children of the Father not to stray from his word and start on any other path that is not his.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12: 1)

image It would have been very easy for the Israelites to forget how they were to complete the Tabernacle or even to forget who had been given just the right skills to carry out each task, but God specifically tells Moses to write down the instructions. It is exactly the same for us. God’s word contains everything we need to know in how to lead our lives, we just have to make sure we never forget to read them. We know Paul finished well and this is why;

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

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