Posted by: Jo | November 17, 2017

Worshipping An Awesome God!

“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!”

(Psalm 47: 2)

WorshipGod03It is always surprising to me how the meaning of words can change with general usage and with time lose all the depth of the power they first had when they came into being. One of those words is, awesome.  Young people use it with abandon, using it to describe a new article of clothing a friend is wearing, or some fun activity they participated in or to just interject it into a story someone is telling them, and by doing so, rob that incredible word of its true impact, rendering it to a casual word uttered without any thought to its real meaning. The other word that has suffered the same fate is worship.  We have heard it casually, such as

  • he worships the ground she walks on
  • all she worships is money
  • young teens worship the latest rock star

Again, taking away the true seriousness of this word.

The dictionary defines the word, awesome as Inspired by what is subline and majestic

The dictionary describes the word worship as To honour, to revere, to regard with deep devotion, to adore.

WorshipGod02So, when the Psalmist called the Heavenly Father, awesome, they were using it in its true sense and again they knew the true meaning of worship.

“Come, let us bow down and worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95: 6 – 7)

Our church is conducting a wonderful series on studying the book of Revelation, and on Sunday our young worship leader led us through Chapter 4, entitled, Worship and the Royal Throne of God.  John is taken by the Holy Spirit and can witness true worship and watches in awe as numerous creatures praise God continually saying;

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4: 8)

Then the 24 elders cast down their crowns before the Throne of the Most High God and John hears them exclaim;

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4: 11)

True worshipping of an awesome God.

Our young Pastor then asked us to rethink about what we considered worship to be and, WorshipGod01in particular, our own participation in worship. I had to think long and hard about this and realised that perhaps I had become casual about praising our Heavenly Father and not remembering his majesty and forgetting what an awesome God he is.

Going back to re-read many of the Psalms is a great way to revive our sense of awe and a wonderful way to instill real worship into our prayers which I find so powerful in the Psalmist’s words;

“Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God. You are very great; and you are clothed with splendour and majesty.” (Psalm 104: 1)

 

 

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Posted by: Jo | November 10, 2017

Who Can Be Trusted In Today’s World?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

(Proverbs 3:5)

  • Trust01Social media publishes “fake news”
  • Politicians speak falsehoods.
  • Lovers betray each other.
  • Famous people disappoint us when sordid happenings in their past lives are exposed.
  • Friends let us down.

Who can we trust in today’s world when greed, power, sex seem to take centre stage?

When I was a child my father would tell us of contracts he made which were sealed with a handshake, which he called a gentleman’s agreement, a complete trust in the other’s promise to deliver. I cannot imagine that happening today. We have often heard the flippant reply “trust me” when we know the speaker is far from trustworthy. Lawyers would laugh at my father’s innocence in expecting a handshake to stand up in court.

Fortunately, in the midst of this turmoil of distrust, there is one solid, unchanging, unmoving, solid foundation that never moves, never changes, always trustworthy

The Word of God

The Heavenly Father has given us his holy word to ensure us that he can be totally trusted whatever chaos is happening in the world around us. It is surprising to look through a concordance and find the many verses that contain the word, trust. When we see one word emphasised we need to take heed. Trusting God and his Word is the basis of our belief.Trust02

“O, Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” (2 Samuel 7: 28)

Trust is very much a part of the prayers of the Psalmists and can be found over and over again in their praises to him, repeating how comforting it is to have someone we can completely trust.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9: 10)

Too often we still place our trust in shaky methods of dealing with life’s problems. I frequently mistakenly think that I have everything under control and blindly go ahead in my own strength with whatever presents it self to me during the day, often causing myself lots of grief by not asking the Lord first to direct my path. As I have grown older I am learning to start my days by asking God to be with me in any decisions I might have to make and then trying to keep that prayer firmly in my mind as the day unfolds and if I know in advance of a major happening looming in the family, my husband and I join Trust03together in handing it over to the Father.

One of my favourite songs we sing at church echoes that thought and comes straight from Scripture.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)

 

Posted by: Jo | November 3, 2017

Spontaneous Prayer

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18)

SpontaneousPrayer01Last week, one of our granddaughters popped in to see us for a quick visit, just to see how we were, as my husband has not been well. Her time with us brought us great joy and her chatter lifted our spirits and we were delighted with the warm relationship we have with her.  I was thinking back on this visit when our Bible study was studying prayer and, in particular, the verse from Thessalonians where Paul was encouraging young Christians to pray continually so their relationship with Christ Jesus would never grew cold. I suddenly realised that the Heavenly Father likes us to pop in and see him spontaneously without feeling that we need to ask him a whole lot of pressing needs, but can come just like our granddaughter, to spend an intimate time with him, just sharing whatever we are doing. I always find great wisdom in the Psalms, and the Psalmists knew how important it was to be constantly in touch with the Lord

“Look to the Lord and his strength; and seek his face always.” (Psalm 105: 4)

One way to do this is to talk to him while we do those mundane tasks, such as

  • washing the dishes
  • driving on one of those countless errands
  • running on that treadmill
  • not only keeps us in touch

helps the time to pass quickly. I watch a lot of the young people nowadays carrying that SpontaneousPrayer02smart phone, seemingly fastened to their hand, and chatting to someone wherever they are.  We could do the same chatting to our Heavenly Father without even purchasing a smart phone.

Spontaneous prayer often results in an honest outpouring of what we are feeling right at the moment. The other day I had taken a walk in the afternoon down to the waterfront which is quite close to where we live and as I rounded a corner a little gust of wind scattered beautiful Autumn leaves from the magnificent golden and red trees which line our street, over me and others walking along. At the same time, I spied the sun shimmering on the water of the harbour and I had to exclaim out aloud, (not too loudly so as not to startle those around me), my praise to God for the beauty he had created.

“O’ Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8: 1)

Of course, we also need those times when we set aside everything else and concentrate our thoughts of praise and thanksgiving and forgiveness in prayer as we seek God’s guidance and direction. Times when we need to stop speaking and listen to his voice. SpontaneousPrayer03

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

But the spontaneous prayers bring about a new and intimate touch to our relationship which deepens our walk with the Heavenly Father.

 

Posted by: Jo | October 27, 2017

Humbling Ourselves Before The Lord

“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up”

(James 4: 10)

Humble03I was reading an article just recently about a well, known statesman in our country who had just died, after a long career in government and the article was extolling the wonderful things he had achieved in his lifetime.  The words all sounded familiar for an obituary until I came to this sentence, “He was a very humble man.”  I was surprised to see them and then had to question myself as to why I was surprised as I did not usually associate that word with prominent, dynamic people constantly in the public eye.  I then began to rethink what being humble meant. I first went to the dictionary;

  • Having a low estimate of oneself
  • Not self asserting or assuming
  • Opposite of proud

I then went to Scripture and found that an equally prominent man, also with a huge job leading people, also achieving incredible feats, was described in the same way.

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 2: 3)

When we remember how God honoured Moses by speaking face to face with him and entrusting the sacred commandments to him, we realise that being humble is a worthy attribute to have and one that the Heavenly Father rewards.

So how do we assume the mantle of humility?

We have all probably heard the joke about the man who told all his friends of how proud he was that he was a humble man.  Pride!!  It certainly gets in the way of our best Humble04intentions and there are several verses of warning about how quickly pride can bring about disaster e.g.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18)

Sometimes we mistakenly allow pride to confuse our walk with the Lord. We can take pride in the fact that we don’t need any help in dealing with life’s struggles, not realising that attitude builds up a barrier between us and the Lord who longs to be a part of our everyday life and to lift us up when despair drags us down, but if we don’t ask we miss out on that healing touch. We need to be humble enough to admit we haven’t got it all together.

We can take pride in our achievements, neglecting to acknowledge how the Lord has blessed us so we are able to achieve. We have heard the expression, he prides himself on being a self-made man, thus ignoring the Lord’s hand altogether.

Sometimes it is hard to admit we need help from others, as pride in a different form takes over and we allow ourselves to suffer unnecessarily when help could so easily bring about relief.

Jesus himself is unashamed to tell us he is humble and welcomes us to share the same way with him, Humble05anything that is burdening us. So, we can be lifted by the loving hand of the Lord.

“Come to me all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest. 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: 28 – 29)

Posted by: Jo | October 25, 2017

Dealing With Worry

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

(Matthew 6: 25)

Worry01I must admit I am an incessant worrier. One of my daughters told me recently if I am not worrying, I worry what I should be worrying about. I am not proud of that at all and have tried over and again to curb this bad habit of mine and to trust in the Lord that he has everything under control.  Last week, I was holding my youngest granddaughter (only 14 months old), in my arms as she slept in my lap, and as I looked at her trusting little face I remembered a beautiful verse in the Psalms that likened us as safe as a little child being held in the arms of our Heavenly Father.

“But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131: 2)

Small children totally trust the adult to hold them safely in his or her arms and as I held my little darling, I made a promise to myself to remember this moment and when that wretched worry starts to consume me to think of myself being a child being firmly held in the powerful arms of the Heavenly Father and knowing that he will deal with anything that is worrying me. I can hand it over to him.

Jesus himself tells us to become like children and he demonstrates this by calling a little child to him and saying; Worry02

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3 – 4)

Jesus was speaking to his disciples who were being caught up in the world’s thinking and worrying as who was going to be the greatest in heaven, when the little child was content to be just called to stand beside Jesus.

I started to explore this beautiful thought of staying childlike in our relationship with the Lord, when the world is busy shouting, grow up, and act like an adult. God spoke through the prophet, Isaiah, to ensure the children of Israel that they could relax as they would be comforted like a mother comforts a child so there was no need to worry about whatever was happening around them.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66: 13)

Worry03We sing a beautiful song in our worship time in our church and the final line in every stanza ends with;

I am a child of God

I am going to put my trust in that amazing truth!

 

 

Posted by: Jo | October 13, 2017

They Are A Law To Themselves

“They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honour.”

(Habakkuk 1: 7)

Why01This week, the study my husband and I do together every morning, featured the book of Habakkuk and in the first chapter, the prophet is complaining to God at the state of the world as he sees it. As we read the first chapter I felt I was echoing Habakkuk’s words. He was horrified at what he was witnessing, at what was happening around him and I could relate to every word he said.  I too had cried out to God when I first heard of the senseless shooting of innocent people at a fun music concert and then the constant stream of persecuted refugees fleeing their own countries in flimsy boats was heart breaking to watch on the news. This is what Habakkuk cried out to God;

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds.” (Habakkuk 1:2)

Habakkuk felt free to complain to God and God answers him and in his answer, I found an inkling of what the real problem was then and still exists in our own century. Why02The answer comes in these words;

“They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honour.” (Habakkuk 1: 7)

As I have noted before in my blogs, I often come across a phrase used in our everyday speech that comes from Scripture and can remember my parents talking about some arrogant person who didn’t think he needed to obey any laws and consequently did what ever he chose to do and they would shake their heads and mutter, “he acts like he is a law to himself”.  God explains to Habakkuk that the evil perpetuated in his time and of course in our present time is done by those who have abandoned God’s law and allowed their own evil selves to be the ones they honour, honouring God and his righteousness, totally ignored.

The giving of the law by the Heavenly Father was always intended to be a gift to God’s people, not a burden of commands to burden them down, but a liberating pattern for all God’s family to live by, a protection from being caught up in evil practices, a guideline for living at peace with one another. The prophet, Isaiah, learnt what happened when we live by God’s righteous laws;

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

Why03At the end of the book Habakkuk is changed. He has learnt to trust that God is in control and will eventually work out all things for his glory and the closing verse is a good one for us all. Like Habakkuk we need to remember the Mighty God we serve and as we trust him he will give us the strength to follow him and to live by faith in him, despite what is raging around us.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3: 19)

Posted by: Jo | October 8, 2017

Awake! My Soul!

 “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.”

(Psalm 57: 8)

MySoul01One morning this week, I awoke early, before the sun had risen and that beautiful, pre-dawn stillness filled the air. I decided to go out for a little while and sit on our balcony and as I sat down, my eyes were drawn to the sky and I was amazed to see stars twinkling everywhere I looked. Vancouver, where I live, does not often treat us to such a spectacle as this. Rain, cloud, mist, heavy fog in winter is more likely to feature in the view we have from our apartment! As I gazed at God’s incredible handiwork, I felt a deep stirring within me and felt I started to understand what David was writing in Psalm 57 about that inner part of ourselves that responds to the Father’s love, our souls.

The soul is that inmost part of our being and Scripture always differentiates it from what else makes up our earthly bodies. When Moses is talking to the Israelites he says this about how we are to love God;

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6: 5)

MySoul02Jesus repeats this to his disciples again urging them to love the Lord God with the deepest most inner part of their bodies.;

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22: 37)

When David cries out for his soul to awake, he wants to feel deep love flowing between the Father and his inmost being. This deep connection to the Father’s love is available to all of us, but sometimes we have hidden that most personal part of our being deep within us and lead a superficial relationship with the Lord, wary of the intimacy that opening that door of our soul might bring.

David certainly had no fear of intimacy with God and is humble enough to admit that in his darkest hours he becomes like a child who clings to a parent when he or she is afraid;

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; and your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63: 7 – 8)

Our Ladies Bible Study at our church is studying Prayer this Fall and using Phillip Yancy’s book*, “Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference?” as our MySoul03guideline. Prayer is certainly the most effective way to open our souls to God and this book shows not only for our own benefit, but to take the deep love and compassion we receive as we open our souls to him, to all those around us.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise his Holy Name.” (Psalm 103:1)

 

Posted by: Jo | September 29, 2017

Avoiding Stumbling Spiritually

“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

(Psalm 119: 165)

stumble01Stumbling physically, has beset some of our Home Group lately, me included. I was foolish enough to go walking with inappropriate footwear and stood on a stone, stumbled, and turned so quickly I broke a bone in my foot. Another lady stumbled down the back stairs of her apartment building and ended up breaking her ankle. Stumbling obviously needs to be avoided. Scripture has many verses about stumbling and I suppose looking back to the uneven paths in ancient days and the flimsy sandals they wore, it would be a perfect illustration that everybody would understand when it was used to describe falling off the path chosen by God.

I am always fascinated when I find a common phrase used today, and find it originated in Scripture, “stumbling block” is one such phrase. We often hear it used e.g. his arrogance is a stumbling block for him to ever succeed/ her love of spending is a stumbling block to her ever saving enough to buy a house etc. There are lots of warnings about what can make one stumble and Jesus himself warns us all about who can cause the most dangerous stumbling block of all which might draw us away from God’s will.stumble02

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”.” (Matthew 16: 23)

Paul also warns us not to ever put any stumbling blocks in the way of other believers. This can so easily happen, even within our own churches, by judging others, not making newcomers welcome so they give up on coming to church, by setting man made rules about how church services are run and condemning those who don’t abide by them.

“Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14: 13)

Fortunately, for us who choose to follow in our Saviours footsteps, he goes before us smoothing out the bumps which may make us stumble. Jesus tells us he is the light of the world and we all know how foolish it is to try to walk safely if we are in a dark place without a flashlight, so choosing to walk in the Lord’s light is a very wise decision, rather than to try to walk in the dark by ourselves

“It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (John 11: 10)

stumble03One of my favourite verses is David’s confident appraisal of his life as he knows he is walking with God in the light of life.

“For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56: 13)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | September 25, 2017

Called By Name

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voices.”

(John 10: 3 – 4)

ByName01There is something about hearing your own name, even in a crowded room with lots of conversations taking place, if you hear someone mention your name, it triggers a reaction in your brain and you find yourself immediately looking in the direction from which you heard it. Our family is at present being entertained by our little, fourteen, month old, granddaughter, who is trying hard to speak and loves to point to one of us and attempt to say our names. Of course, we all jump in to help her as the satisfaction of even hearing a somewhat garbled version brings us great delight and she is rewarded with lots of smiles in return.

Our personal name distinguishes us from others. It gives us identity. Many years ago, there was a sitcom called, “Cheers” which was a name of a popular pub and the series was always begun with the theme song about why it was so popular and one of the reasons was contained in this lyric, “Where everyone knows my name.”

We all long to be recognised!

Jesus calls himself that Good Shepherd who knows all his sheep by name;

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14)

When we allow Jesus to be our shepherd and accept his offer to guide us and lead us through our everyday life, we will never feel that we are not known, we will never feel again that we are just a part of the nameless crowd.

ByName02When the Lord calls us by name, it is not the fact of just our names he knows, he knows absolutely everything about us.  Out in the world, there are very few people we let know, perhaps none, of our personal thoughts, our fears, our insecurity, even our hopes and desires. David writes a beautiful Psalm (Psalm 139), about this topic in which he revels in the fact that the Heavenly Father knows all there is to know about him and he can relax, knowing the Lord loves him just as he is, he doesn’t need to pretend to be anybody else.

“O, Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:  1 – 2)

ByName03Our thoughts are the most private part of our personalities and we only divulge them to those we totally trust, the Prophets also knew that to know that the Lord knew every thought they had was liberating, not something that they had to conceal.

“Yet you know me, O Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you.” (Jeremiah 12: 3)

We can have the same confidence about our relationship with the Lord, knowing he accepts us just as we are when he calls us his own

 

 

Posted by: Jo | September 17, 2017

Letters Written on Our Hearts

“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”

(2 Corinthians 3: 3)

HeartWritten01Letter writing unfortunately, in my mind, is fast becoming a thing of the past and I was reminded of this in a very nostalgic way a few weeks ago by a parcel that arrived in the mail from my sister in Australia. She had sold her house and was moving so she had spent many hours clearing out closets. During one such sorting through old papers, she came across a letter I had written to her nearly 50 years ago and decided to send it back to me. My husband and I and our three little girls had moved to an island in the Central Pacific for my husband to become the Dentist for the islanders and the Australian and English workers who filled many roles for the Australian Government and my letter was describing in great, detail that incredible adventure.  As I read my own words, written so many years ago, my heart gave a little leap as memories came flooding back.

HeartWritten02Paul communicated to those early believers through his letters and used this beautiful illustration to describe how when we take the Lord into our hearts all believers can become a letter from Christ to the world.

Before we can fill that role, we need to have the Lord’s words firmly placed in our hearts so others will be able to notice them. The Psalmists were very aware of this;

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119: 11)

Again, the Psalmist prays for the Lord to give him discernment in reading Scripture so he faithfully can represent him;

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in you law.” (Psalm 119: 18)

When we try to live God’s word we will become those living letters of Christ to the world that Paul so aptly describes.

Because of today’s technology, hand written letters have almost disappeared having been superseded by e-mail, texting, twittering etc. The sad thing about these sterile printed words is they are unable to portray the character of the person sending them. HeartWritten03Handwriting always carries with it the flavor of the writer. I have kept some of my father’s letters and when I see that spidery writing his image immediately pops into my mind. Paul even impresses this on his readers when he writes to them;

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.” (2 Thessalonians 3: 17)

If we want to be those living letters for Christ we need to be genuine. We certainly remain ourselves but, the all, important words written on our hearts will leave behind the flavor of Christ.

 

 

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