Posted by: Jo | July 21, 2017

An Open Mind

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

(Luke 24: 45)

OpenedMind01Just recently my husband and I were studying the last chapter of the book of Luke and many sermons have been written about this wonderful story of Jesus travelling beside two disciples who were very downcast after Jesus had been crucified as they had not yet heard of his resurrection. They did not recognise the Risen Jesus, but were astounded as this person they thought was a stranger, began to explain what the Scriptures meant and how they all pointed to the fact that the Messiah had come in the form of Jesus Christ.

Even though I have read this chapter many times, this time of reading I was struck by the phrase, “he opened their minds.”  I started to think more deeply as to what that meant and how important it was for us today to have an open mind to absorb what God is saying to us through Scripture.

We speak about, the mind, in all different ways in our present day

  • this is a mindless task
  • he is a doubled minded man
  • I cannot make up my mind
  • she must be out of her mind to do that
  • I think I am losing my mind.

I often return to the Psalmists for their wisdom and they grasped how important it was to keep their minds free of wrong thoughts/ wrong ideas/ mindless and unthinking useless thoughts.

“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” (Psalm 26: 2 – 3)

OpenedMind02Jesus himself summed up the Commandments in two important ones and the first emphasised that we love the Lord God not only with our hearts and souls, but with our minds as well.

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

The dictionary describes the mind as a place of thought/ feeling/ purpose/intention

It is probably the most private place in our bodies and I must be honest, sometimes when I am thinking ugly thoughts about somebody I am glad they cannot hear them, but when uneasy thoughts invade my mind and doubts and fears overtake me, I know that if I open my mind to the Holy Spirit, he can deal with them so much better than I can.

OpenedMind03Paul assures us in his letter to the Romans that we can be renewed repeatedly in our minds. We don’t need to be trapped into worldly ways, if we open our minds to the blessing He wants to bestow on us.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 2)

 

Posted by: Jo | July 15, 2017

What A Powerful Name It Is!

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name”

(Philippians 2: 9)

PowerfulName01Just recently we were invited to visit a beautiful property owned by a very wealthy business man. The man was not going to accompany us, but he assured us that everybody who worked for him would be notified that we were coming and all we had to do was to mention his name and that we were his guests and we would be looked after. That proved to be exactly what happened. If we mentioned his name we were treated like royalty. His name was the key that opened all doors. I was thinking about the importance of names in our present everyday life, and the beautiful song we sang at our church service this Sunday, reminded me that we know the wonderful name that is above all names. This was the song.

What A Powerful Name It Is! The name of Jesus!

That name is so powerful that Paul reminds the Philippians that it has so much power every knee will eventually bow before it.

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2: 10 – 11)

PowerfulName02I think that sometimes we forget the wonderful privilege it is to be able to call on the name of Jesus Christ. That powerful name opens the door and allows us into the presence of the Heavenly Father. We have access to the ear of the Creator of the universe, only because we can use Jesus’ name to allow us to do so.

After the resurrection, the disciples quickly realised, the power that name held and when Peter and John were approached by a crippled man begging for money, Peter called on that name and a miracle occurred!

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3: 6 – 8)

Unfortunately, the world does not revere this precious name and it is casually used even sometimes in swearing. We who belong to the Lord have a great need to preserve the reverence that powerful name deserves.  We can do that by remembering when we use it to have that reverence it deserves. Many prayers end with the words, in PowerfulName03Jesus’ name, but so often those words roll off our tongue without us acknowledging we have just blessed the words we have spoken with incredible power.

John tells us by believing in that all powerful name our lives will be filled with his Spirit and everything we do in his name will be blessed.

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  (John 20: 31)

 

Posted by: Jo | July 7, 2017

Nature Reflecting His Glory

“O, Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

(Psalm 8: 1)

Nature01Summer has suddenly made its presence felt in B.C. Canada, where we live, and the relief of seeing sunlight, feeling those pleasant, light breezes and warm temperatures, gives one the urge to step outside man-made structures and revel in the outdoors! This week end, thanks to a son-in law and our daughter, we could do just that, as we went away on a trip with them.  Our route took us through breathtaking vistas which made me exclaim in wonder at the Creator’s work in moulding the earth and every turn of the road would bring yet another example of his glorious creativity.

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 108: 5)

We live on the coast, but our trip took us through fertile valleys, over steep mountains, some still wearing their caps of snow, through beautiful little glens filled with wild flowers until we finally reached the hot, dry grape growing area, our destination.

While we were travelling, I began to realise how easy it is to forget the hand behind every living creature, every living plant and tree, every craggy outcrop of jagged rock. We get lulled into thinking that man is in control of nature and our media is filled with stories of breakthroughs that mankind is making in new fertilizers, wonder drugs, new methods of beating the seasons, so we can eat strawberries all year round. This constant focusing on man’s achievements, distances us from acknowledging the one who is the Creator and sustainer of all living creatures.  We lose a little of the awe of who he is and I especially felt on this trip that I had not spent enough time remembering this in my daily walk.

Nature02After we returned home I went back to reading Job’s story, where God reminds Job of whose hand created the amazing earth he allows us to live in;

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38: 4 – 7)

The whole weekend away I tried constantly to be aware of the Master’s hand on everything I saw and as we were staying by a beautiful lake I also saw his power as one evening a strong wind came up and the calm waters of the lake turned into choppy waves. I was surprised by the effect concentrating on God’s creation had on me. A feeling of serenity enveloped me. A feeling of tranquility ensured. A letting go of anxiety. Nature03A chid like feeling that I did not have to worry, the Heavenly Father was in control.

Psalm 148 is a psalm of praise coming from the very earth he created and one worth reading when we his created ones also want to praise him.

“Praise him sun, and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.”  (Psalm 148: 3 – 4)

 

Posted by: Jo | June 30, 2017

Safe Within his Refuge

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…”

(Deuteronomy 33: 27)

Refuge01My husband and I frequently watch a programme on the television about a wild life refuge which often amazes us, when we see damaged and often badly hurt birds or animals, brought to the refuge and then restored and released back into their own habitat. We also had an example of this in our own area, recently, when the media reported a baby bear cub being found in distress with no sign of the mother and this little one was transported to a local refuge centre to be cared for.

The word, refuge, is one of those words that immediately brings such reassuring thoughts to our minds. The dictionary uses these;

  • Protection from danger
  • a place of safety
  • security
  • shelter
  • comfort
  • asylum
  • a stronghold
  • a place to be helped 

The Psalmists knew that when the Lord God promised to be their refuge there was always a place of safety to run to when troubles beset them;

“I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91: 2)

refuge04Psalm 91 is one of my favourite psalms, especially when I am facing all sorts of problems or even if I just want to be soothed by the reassuring love of the Father. To be able to just grasp a little of the enormity of this love, his word paints beautiful pictures so we can relate to how he wants to comfort us. This verse, in particular, always speaks to me;

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91: 4)

There are times when I would like to retreat from the world and this beautiful thought of snuggling under the protective feathers of the Lord brings a deep sigh of contentment, but of course we need to voluntary go and seek that refuge and we do that through prayer and then we need to release, whatever is attacking us, to him to take care of.

As we read through this psalm of comfort we get a range of problems that can be solved by entering the refuge of the Lord;

Verse3 talks about being saved from “the fowlers snare” Evil is always bated and ready to trap us, but by always seeking to stay in that safe refuge we will be safe.

Anxiety can rob us of our sleep, but once again if we choose the refuge, even those restless nights will be no more.

“You will not fear the terror of the night…” (Psalm 91: 5)

refuge03The first verse of this magnificent psalm shows us the door always open of the safest refuge anyone would ever want. We just have to ensure we enter and dwell with him

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91: 1)

I heard a beautiful description of what this means and I find great comfort in this

Evil cannot penetrate the shadow of the Almighty!

 

Posted by: Jo | June 23, 2017

Learning What No Means

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

(Deuteronomy 6: 5 – 7)

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

We want her to learn what “no” means.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: Jo | June 16, 2017

Content With Today

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

(Psalm 118: 24)

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

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

Morning Glory

Champagne sunshine bubbling though a canopy of variegated green

Stately trees silhouetted against a sapphire sky

Taking their place in history.

Quiet nature content with today

Letting the ebb and flow of existence

Tell the story.

Happy and sad but unaffected by emotion

Accepting the inevitable rhythm

Of life.

– Anonymous (My Friend)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: Jo | June 9, 2017

Walking Humbly With The Lord

“Walking Humbly With The Lord.”

(Proverbs 11: 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: Jo | June 2, 2017

Who Is Guiding The Boat?

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

(Psalm 48: 14)

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

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

Who is guiding the boat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Jo | May 26, 2017

Taste and See

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

(Psalm 34: 8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Jo | May 19, 2017

Freeing Ourselves From Unforgiveness

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

(Colossians 3: 13)

Father and SonJust recently I heard such a sad story about a mother and daughter trapped in a cycle of unforgiveness that had enveloped them for years, even evident in the tragic circumstances surrounding approaching death. The daughter is dying of cancer, but even though the mother has at last come to see her, angry words and accusations have erupted between them. Unforgiveness, has surrounded both, like an impenetrable brick wall that they have both built brick by brick, that so sadly could have been torn down with the beautiful power of asking for forgiveness.

This is a far too familiar story between children and parents, but it permeates all walks of life and all types of relationships from siblings/close friends/work associates even invading our church families, bringing division and unhappiness.

We can formulate all sorts of excuses about not forgiving others. We feel if we do, it looks like they won. Perhaps to others we look like weak personalities who let others walk over the top of us, when we are willing to be the first to forgive. We would like to wait so those who have hurt us make the first move. The Psalmists knew where true forgiving begins and we would be wise to follow their example;Forgiveness01

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” (Psalm19: 12)

The big step in any broken relationship begins with us. In Psalm 19, David begins with himself, asking God to point out where he is at fault and where he might not even be aware of his faults, he asks forgiveness from the Lord first. He then asks God not to let these wilful parts of his being rule over him;

“Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over” (Psalm 19: 13)

An unforgiving spirit can have tragic results on the person who stubbornly hangs on to grievances and the writer of Hebrews warns us all that we will miss out on the grace of God if we allow the root of bitterness, which is often the result of not forgiving other, to grow in our lives.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12: 15)

Of course, we all know it can be very difficult to forgive those who have badly hurt us and in our own strength sometimes impossible to do, but we have been promised an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will help us to have the courage to bring about peace. The Forgiveness02incredible outcome of being a peacemaker is that we receive a rich blessing from our Heavenly Father and as we forgive, so too we are forgiven and set free from the ugly burden of unforgiveness.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5: 9)

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