Posted by: Jo | January 13, 2017

For His Name’s Sake

“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

(Psalm 23:3)

namesake01Just recently I was watching a dedication of a new wing at one of our hospitals which was to be named in honour of a tireless worker in our community who had worked hard at raising money for research and had now passed away.  His name would be now revered in big letters at the entrance to this wing. Later as we were driving through our city I saw many examples of names emblazoned on schools, parks and buildings which were an honouring of certain person/ persons. While I was contemplating the importance of remembering these names, I thought of the many times God speaks to his people through the prophets, telling them of the importance of his Name and how it is to be respected and honoured.

“But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my Name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.” (Ezekiel 20: 22)

When we belong to the Lord we assume the incredible privilege of bearing his name. When Samuel is speaking to God’s people, he reminds them to remember in awe what this means;namesake02

“For the sake of his great Name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.” (1 Samuel 12: 22)

As I was reading some of the names on the schools around our neighbourhood I thought to myself, “I wonder who that person really was?” and wondered why the name had been preserved, but as there was no record readily available to tell future generations of the full story, the significance of the name was lost. The Lord has promised that will never happen to his Name.

When we read the beautiful Psalm 23, we begin to understand what, For his name’s sake, means.  When we bear his name, we will be lead by the caring Shepherd, comforted by him, protected, never alone, surrounded with goodness and love, but there is an underlying message for this abundance of blessings. We will be guided on paths of righteousness for a reason, the glorifying and preserving of his Name.  When we display his righteousness through living and obeying his commands we are giving witness to his name.

Sometimes in our human frailty, we think our walk with the Lord is mainly about us and our needs, but when we realise the honour it is to be called one of his, we long for our lives to be a living testament to that Everlasting Name. There is a lovely song, Your Name is a Strong and Mighty Tower, namesake03which expounds on this theme and one of the verses sums this up.

Jesus in your name we pray

Come and fill our hearts today

Lord give us strength to live for you

And glorify your name. 

 

Check out youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj7xTDlOqog (You Are My Strong Tower by Kutless)

Posted by: Jo | January 6, 2017

Refreshing Our Memories

“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body.”

(2 Peter 1: 12- 23)

remember02Christmas time is a time of family gatherings and we were fortunate to be able to gather our bunch all together on Christmas day this year. When we all get together somehow all the old stories get told and the grandchildren, (now mostly adults with only two little ones) love to hear these stories and especially if about them or even more important about their parents, when they were children. This year one of our daughters pulled out of her Christmas present a piece of soap attached to a rope. Her sisters burst into gales of laughter, while the grandchildren begged me to tell the story behind this strange addition to her present.

Memories are very precious in a family and the retelling of them is such an important part of keeping the family history alive. When Peter was writing to the young fledging Christians, he wanted them to be very much aware of the importance of this in their spiritual walk and of course a great reminder to us as well. When we go through difficult times and experience the wonderful intervention of the Holy Spirit and come through these trials with his help, there is a danger of slowly forgetting as life settles down again. remember04We need to keep those experiences in the fore front of our minds, to help us face bravely whatever revolts against us, and to remind ourselves of God’s power.

David knew very well how necessary this was

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.” (1 Chronicles 16: 11- 12)

Memories become so much more powerful when they are shared with others and just as we share them with our earthly families it is also very much a part of strengthening for the family of God, we belong to, when we love the Lord. Psalmists knew the recounting to future generations ensured knowledge of the Heavenly Father would never be lost for our children

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever, from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” (Psalm 79: 13)

The end of a year is often a time of refection and I found myself doing this as I was checking the nearly expired calendar for dates I needed to add to the new remember052017 calendar and while I read those scribbled notes, memories of some of the ugly times we went through came flooding back, but immediately wonderful memories of how the Lord carried us through surfaced, and I was able to spend time thanking him for being our rock this year. We can keep a calendar of his grace and mercy in our minds and constantly return to refreshing our memories of his incredible love so those beautiful memories always remain fresh in our minds.

Posted by: Jo | December 30, 2016

Putting On Our New Selves

“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)

puttingonournewselves02When I was, a child growing up in Australia, the beginning of the new school year coincided with the beginning of the new calendar year, so everything started afresh together.  As Christmas falls in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere our holidays stretched over a delightful 6-week period of lazy days on the beach and mostly running bare foot through our friends’ gardens with abandon, not really thinking about the year to come, but the start of the school year brought about a very distinct change in perspectives. Suddenly we needed to be focused, the lazy days of just indulging our selves, were now to finish, minds now had encompass new subjects to be studied at school, life assumed a new purpose.

As this new year arrives I began to reflect on what this means as being children of God and realised that newness in all its forms is a part of our walk with the Lord. Paul talks about “putting on a new self” which made me think again about my childhood. In Australia, all school children wore uniforms and of course proper school shoes, no runners, or flip-flops in those days. puttingonournewselves01After all those carefree days of not wearing shoes, made one very aware of what new shoes felt like! Putting on our new selves for the Lord may also make us aware of different life styles.

Paul also tells us that putting on this new self means discarding all those things that hinder us so we can grow in the knowledge of who our Lord is.

“…since you have taken off your old self, with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3: 9 – 10)

New year resolutions abound at this time of the year, and it’s a time of looking back to remember the good and the bad of the year we are leaving. Many of us wish we could turn back the clock somehow and change some of our actions. The wonder and the joy of belonging to the Lord is that we have incredible help to change at least our attitudes and not to be bound by what we have allowed to take over our lives. We can look honestly at ourselves and state quite plainly what we want to see changed in our lives and the Lord reassures us that when we do this, a remarkable change takes place and we become new creatures.

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

So, we can joyfully greet this new year knowing we leave the old behind and allow the Lord to change us so puttingonournewselves04we reassemble his image.

“and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:10)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 23, 2016

What Child Is This?

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:12)

whatisthischild01We have welcomed a new baby granddaughter into our family this year, and as I gaze at her sweet little face I am yet again, overcome with the wonder of new life. It is amazing how the sight of a little baby softens people’s faces and I enjoy being the one to be pushing the stroller as the wee one acts like a magnet and passers by stop what ever they are doing to catch a glimpse of this miracle of new birth.

As the shopping centers are once again flooded with the sounds of the old familiar carols, my mind is carried back to another small, vulnerable baby whose birth was to rock the earth. The beautiful carol, “What child is this?” poses a question for all mankind.  All of us wonder in awe with those first shepherds and reflect on those amazing words from the mouth of the angel of the Lord;

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 11)

The Creator of the universe allows his Son to become a human baby!

This astounding fact was the subject of our sermon this last Sunday, and made us all think again what this could mean and our pastor gave us an incredible quote to begin understanding this miracle.

God’s yes to humanity

When we go back to Genesis we read how God created the world and as we read the image.pngprogression from light, land, vegetation, day and night, sea creatures, land creatures (Genesis 1:1- 25) we see that his comment after each was;

“…And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1: 25) 

But the final creation is startlingly different as God decides to make creatures made in his own image and as he reflects on the final addition to the earth his comment expands;

“God saw all that he had made and it was VERY good.” (Genesis 1: 31)

A beautiful affirmation for us all, in his eyes we are all worthwhile and certainly worthwhile to send his Son in the form of a baby to become one of us.

The lyrics of the carol, “What child is this?” answer the question for us, the first verse includes this statement, Christ the King. The second verse, The Word made Flesh. The third verse, The King of kings. This is certainly no ordinary baby.

whatisthischild02So, as we listen to those beautiful carols and look into all the Nativity scenes we see in homes, churches and public places, we can say with conviction.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 14)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 16, 2016

Getting To Know You

“will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

(Jeremiah 24:7)

gettingtoknowyou01One of my favourite musicals was, The King and I, and one of my favourite songs in this spectacular production was, “Getting to know you”. Its lyrics are timeless and when check on the exact words, I’m struck again by the incredible meaning behind that word, knowing, especially when it is used regarding knowing a person. As I read the words I felt many of the lines could be fitting in describing how we learn to know who our Heavenly Father is and the wonderful joy it brings as we explore our relationship with him.

Getting to know anybody always takes some effort on our part and as well, time spent with that special person. It can only develop when we feel free to be ourselves. This is also true with our relationship with the Lord, we need to spend lots of time with him so we know how to converse with him and to be confident that we no longer must prove who we are, or to pretend we are anybody except our true selves. These words in the song sum it up

Getting to know you

Getting to feel free and easy

When I am with you

Getting to know what to say

Somebody was describing how well they knew a friend and put it this way. “I know her in my heart” This is exactly how our Heavenly Father wants us to know him and promises to help us to achieve this gettingtoknowyou02

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord…” (Jeremiah 24: 7)

The psalmists also knew that once we became completely comfortable with the fact that the Lord knows us through and through, our meeting with him becomes so much more relaxed, as the words in the song say, “free and easy”.

“O, Lord you have searched me and you know me. You know me when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139: 1 – 3)

I find it very liberating that the Lord knows everything about me, good and bad, and still loves me and wants me to feel totally at ease in his presence with no need to pretend to be anything else!

The Father certainly knows us, but if gettingtoknowyou03we want to have a true relationship with him we must spend lots of time, getting to know him. Jesus Christ has provided the way to do just that.

“Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17: 3)

So, whenever that lovely song starts running through my mind, I smile and think of it as an invitation to go and spend some more time getting to know my Heavenly Father

Posted by: Jo | December 9, 2016

Whatever you Do

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

(Colossians 3: 17)

image.pngRecently I have been attending a Bible study which emphasised spiritual formation and its thrust was to deepen our spiritual lives and after each session we were all given exercises to practise during the following week. Some were more difficult than others and I struggled especially with the one that asked us to go a complete day without uttering one negative statement, but the final exercise was a very powerful one and one I am trying to incorporate into my daily life (I found it to be very difficult!) This exercise was to focus on the Lord in every action, spoken word or thought for a complete day, being conscious of his presence every minute.

Many years ago, I was introduced to the beautiful Celtic prayers and found this including the Lord in everything they did during the day, was their strength. I love this one that they would say before starting the day, ensuring his powerful presence surrounded them every minute.

Circle me, O Godimage.png

Keep hope within

Despair without

Circle me, O God

Keep peace within

Keep turmoil out

Circle me, O God

Keep strength within

Keep weakness out

Paul has a wonderful way of encouraging us to be aware of the Lord all day, he recommends we keep in step with the Holy Spirit. If he is walking side by side with us we have a great ally.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5: 25)

Sometimes a sermon stays in one’s mind long after it is delivered and I remember one, in particular, given about this topic of allowing Christ in to every aspect of our lives, and the story the pastor told us went like this;

A young man on so touched by the Sunday morning service, he asked Jesus to be with him every day, as he went to get into his car to drive home, he was surprised to see Jesus sitting in the passenger seat, He drove home very carefully aware of his presence. That afternoon he felt very calm and peaceful with Jesus sitting across from him in his living room. Next morning, he was surprised to see Jesus ready to go to work with him and was a little nervous as he had a busy day ahead and suggested Jesus would be better to stay at home, but Jesus once again sat in the car. The man was aware all day that he had to control his anger etc. with Jesus listening to everything he said.  image.pngAt the end of the day he told Jesus that he and his mates were going to the pub for a drink and was horrified when Jesus said he was coming too.

The story is a simple one, but it does make us think that when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, we are inviting him into our lives, not just saying we will see you next Sunday. The Psalmists knew that proximity to the Lord brought great blessings on their day.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness.” (Psalm 89: 15 – 16)

 

 

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

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