Posted by: Jo | February 16, 2018

Life In His Name

“But these are written down 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)

LifeInHisName01We are studying the gospel of John in our Women’s Bible study at our church and using an in-depth study guide to really absorb the wonderful truths found there. For our first study we were asked to learn the verse in Chapter 20 where John explicitly tells his readers and of course us, the whole purpose he had in writing down these words.  John 20: 31 tells us that life in Jesus’ name is what he wants us all to totally take to heart.

I was looking up a concordance for verses containing the word life and at first, I was amazed at the number of verses about life and then I went to the book of John to find there were over 30 verses! We obviously need to take note of that word in Scripture.

When God first chooses the children of Israel to be his chosen vessel to reveal to the rest of the world who he is, Moses, delivers a powerful speech to really emphasise the fact that they do have a choice to follow the Lord’s commandments or to basically choose not to, and face death,

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before your life and death, blessings and curses. 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. For the Lord is your Life…” (Deuteronomy 30: 19 – 20) 

I read a quote some time ago about life which I thought came from Henry Thoreau, but I couldn’t trace it.  Here is the quote that I feel is very telling about our present generation

Most people are living quiet lives of desperation 

What a sad reflection in contrast to what our Saviour promises for those who would follow him; LifeInHisName02

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10: 10)

Today’s world would try to undermine the truth of that verse by selling the idea that life is in the individual’s hands and it is up to the effort one applies to living to how successful one is, implying that we are capable of creating our selves. We are offered various ways of doing this from exercise, meditation, mind games of all sorts with the over riding thought; You can make it! 

The gospel of John suggests the exact opposite! We are encouraged to believe in the beautiful promises of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, hand over ourselves to Him, give our worries and our burdens to him, allow Him to lead us, don’t struggle with life, allow Him to be our guide and then we will be able to have life in His name and have it to the full.

 

 

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Posted by: Jo | February 9, 2018

Coping With The Struggles Of Life

“To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me”

(Colossians 1: 29)

Struggle01This last week, our whole family have been struggling with a problem involving a member of our extended family and I began to be overwhelmed with worrying about this situation and the effect it was having on some of our members. I felt powerless to help in any concrete way, then one morning during this week my husband opened our Bible study and read the heading for the day, “Praising Though Problems” I immediately realised the Lord was showing us exactly where we were to expend our energy, not on worrying, but praising!

The article was encouraging us to remember the powerful God we served and to praise his name and to remember all the other times we have felt his strength carrying us through other struggles.

Paul writes to the Colossians and is not ashamed to tell them that he calls upon the Lord’s energy (Colossians 1: 29) and allows that energy to work through him.

The following day, in our study, there was yet again another message from the Lord, the illustration was little Linus from the Peanuts comic, constantly walking around holding tightly to his security blanket and our writer reminded us that we too had a security blanket that we could use at any time we were struggling with problems. Our security blanket is the love, grace and mercy our Heavenly Father is always ready to wrap us in if we just call on his name. Peace began to settle upon me as I began to hand over my worries to him Struggle02

One of my favourite passages in the Bible about praising, is found in Isaiah 61 and several verses have been turned into a beautiful praise song, telling us not to dwell on what ever is dragging us down, but to put on the garment of praise and God himself will bestow it on us the oil of gladness

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61: 3)

It is often hard to take that advice, but I have found that once I start, even though it may be reluctantly, it becomes easier as I repeat the powerful words, mainly from the Psalmists who knew who to turn to when disaster overtook them. One of my favourite praise passages comes from Psalm 16 and I love the strong stance David takes. It is hard not to be shaken when trouble arises in our lives, but the Lord can support us, so we will not be shaken.Struggle03

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16: 7 – 8)

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | February 2, 2018

The Changing Seasons Of Life

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”

(Ecclesiastes 3: 1)

Life01Just recently while reading a writer’s observations on a Bible passage, I came across a phrase that not only caught my eye, but immediately intrigued me and set me thinking of the depth of meaning behind it. The phrase was, The winter of old age.  I certainly qualify to be classified as being, in the world’s eyes, old, and at first the phrase depressed me a little, then I remembered what was written in Ecclesiastes and the message behind those words encouraged me to live this season of my life even though it is the winter, with all the activity I can and still glorify God in any way I can

Life is of course, like the four seasons of the year. The Spring brings new birth and we begin the ordained life set before us. In Summer we are in full bloom, Autumn, we have grown wiser and not so foolhardy, yet the Winter can be a very satisfying and rewarding time of our lives as well!

Life02Solomon left this wise message for his son and all of us to strive for;

 “Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16: 31)

Unfortunately, our modern generation sees the aim of life is to stay perpetually young to keep the blush of youth. The media perpetuates this by offering face lifts, tummy tucks, colour rinses to take away any grey hair. Old age is something to dread, not something to look forward to. Scripture sees it differently. Old age can be respected by the youth when they realise what the grey hair can represent;

“The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendour of the old.” (Proverbs 20: 29)

Job reminds his friends;

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring about understanding?” (Job 12: 12)Life03

We old people need to remember that we can be an example to the young people in our lives, so they don’t see crabby, complaining, elders, constantly bemoaning their loss of youth, always talking about what life used to be like, instead exhibiting the joy it is to know the Lord and allow them to see old age is not something to fear, but something to embrace. Psalm 92 has a beautiful passage which promises this will happen if we walk closely with the Lord Jesus Christ

“The righteous will flourish like the palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright, he is my Rock and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92: 12 – 15)

Life04

Posted by: Jo | January 26, 2018

Keep It Going

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”

(James 1: 12)

Encourage01When I was a young child we used to play a fun game at birthday parties called “Keep it going”. Children were divided into two teams and each given a balloon which was thrown to the first child in each team and then the game was to keep the balloon in the air without letting it fall to the ground as each child pushed it up to the next child. We would all shout with enthusiasm.

Keep it going!!!

Looking back on those words, I can see they were a wonderful message for how we tackle pursuits, dreams, goals and life itself and especially in this new season of the year when we make all sorts of resolutions to improve ourselves. It is also a powerful message for our love and our passion to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. How do we keep that enthusiasm going?

The early Christian church knew the importance of keeping the incredible good news of Jesus Christ, that they had heard and believed, alive! They faced much opposition and trials in the early days and needed encouragement to not lose heart, but to keep going. When Paul is writing to Timothy, he encourages him to persevere, as this goal is such a worthy one.

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do , you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4: 16) 

Encourage02When we, ourselves, have discovered the joy of following the Lord Jesus Christ, we are anxious to tell others immediately, so they too can experience this joy.  Jesus has some important advice on how we can keep this going to his glory. When he tells the parable of The Sower. If we want the message to spread and grow. We must be deeply rooted in his word. Firmly nourished by it so we can keep it going and then be able to witness, and amazing bountiful crop of believers.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8: 15)

Sometimes we face obstacles and troubles in our own lives that weaken our resolve to keep going on our walk of faith. Just like we must exercise to keep our earthly bodies fit, we have to build up our spiritual bodies as well, by spending time in prayer, reading God’s word, and by meeting with fellow Christians. Just like the childhood game I described, we also need the encouragement of others to keep our love alive. We need to hear the cries “Keep it going!!”.  We also need to offer that same help to others who may be flagging. We need to keep that balloon up high as we pass our love and encouragement on.

As we remember that beautiful passage from Corinthians that love perseveres we can put our faith in that;

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13: 6 – 7)

So, if we begin to feel a little flat we can always think of that childhood game and whisper to ourselves;

Keep it going!!!

Encourage03

Posted by: Jo | January 19, 2018

The Dash Poem

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence; with eternal pleasures in your right hand”

(Psalm 16: 11)

Dash01Just recently a dear friend attended a funeral of one of her friend’s husband and was very touched by a relative reading the poem “The Dash Poem” – Linda Ellis. The title itself is intriguing and I didn’t grasp the significance of it until my friend explained what it meant. Too often when we read the funeral announcement in the media, or we are studying a grave stone, we see the dates when the person was born a dash and then the dates the person died. The poem points out that the dash between birth and death is the life lived! How that dash is lived is really who the person is and how that dash is fulfilled is the most important information.

We often don’t realise how time can pass so quickly and how we sometimes squander the precious moments given to us in useless pursuits The Psalmists were aware of and knew it was important to value the life given to us.

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.” (Psalm 39: 5)

The poem points out that we all don’t want to come to the end of that dash with regrets and unhealed relationships. Our aim is not how much we have accumulated in wealth, but how much love we have given to others and to help others in their dash.

When Moses was speaking to the children of Israel, he pointed out that if they wanted to Dash02live life to the fullest they had the choice of ignoring God or holding fast to him.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before your life and death, blessings and curses. 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. For the Lord is your life; and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19 – 20)

Now we, as followers of Jesus Christ, have the same choice. We can choose to live our lives totally absorbed in pleasing ourselves, ignoring the love and guidance of our Heavenly Father, or we can give value to our lives by listening to the words of wisdom in his Word and following in the footsteps of Jesus. Our dash can become an example to our family and others of how life can be lived abundantly. Jesus has promised us this good life that no one can steal from us if we choose to hand our life over to him

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10: 10)

Dash03

Posted by: Jo | January 12, 2018

Loving From The Inside Out

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”

(1 Samuel 16: 7)

Judge01My father was always quoting sayings to us children as we grew up and because he said them so often, many of them have stayed in my memory.  One of his sayings was;

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

The meaning behind this statement completely eluded me as a child until I grew older and more experienced and as I travelled through life I found it to be a very wise warning not about what book to buy, but how to make sure the person who was presenting themselves to me, was the real person they were pertaining to be. Time and time again we read stories of well- known people who the world admires suddenly falling from grace as their true, often quite sordid selves, are revealed.  One of Henry Thoreau’s well, known quotes puts it this way;

There is no odour so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted

We as followers of Christ need to always remember that we represent him and our love for him can never just be a superficial covering hiding any tainted thinking or bad behaviour. We sang a beautiful song at our church service on Sunday morning and one line stayed in my mind long after we left church. This was the line

Loving from the inside out

Judge02True love comes from the heart, not from what we say, not how many times we help at church functions, not how much money we give to good causes, not even if we are working to aid the poor and homeless. The only way we can have the love of Christ flowing from us to others if we seek him with our whole heart. We need to love from the inside!

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29: 13)

The Pharisees in Jesus’ time prided themselves on how well they kept the Jewish rules of behaviour and looked down on those who they believed were inferior to them. Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to point out that loving God was not keeping a set of rules. I like the way Luke introduces the parable;

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.” (Luke 18: 9)

How do we practice, loving from the inside out?  When the Lord spoke to Jeremiah he said it clearly, if we seek him with our whole heart we will be loving from the heart not just with outside actions. Judge03I love David’s prayer which is a great one to start each day;

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

 

Posted by: Jo | January 5, 2018

In Awe Of God’s Majesty

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”

(Psalm 19: 1)

InAwe04New Years day, here in Vancouver Canada, dawned crisp and cold, the mountains covered in a blanket of sparkling fluffy white snow. One of my granddaughters and her boyfriend planned an amazing trek up one of the massive peaks surrounding our city and rather than sleeping away the morning after the celebrations of the party the night before, they rose at 05:30AM, drove to the foot of the mountain, aiming to be at the best position to see the first sunrise of 2018. They steadily climbed until they had the prime spot. They were rewarded with one of the most splendid displays of God’s glory as the sun rose and filled the sky as only the Creator could with a breathtaking sight of shimmering yellows and golds as the mighty sun rose into the sky and sprinkled light on the snow-covered trees and flooded the mountain with day light.

I was very proud of these two to attempt the climb and be humbled by God’s display of glory. Many of us are unable physically to climb huge mountains, but it was a good lesson for me to stop and look up from man made structures that surround us in cities, and not to forget God’s beauty is all around us and not to lose the awe of how nature constantly declares his glory. The psalmists over and over again remembered to InAwe02attribute glory to the Creator inspired by what they saw around them.

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

Another valuable lesson I learnt, this one from a friend, was to look for his glory in the unexpected, she had observed and marvelled at, the beauty of trees that had lost all their leaves in winter. She pointed out to me the intricate patterns the bare branches formed as they stood starkly against the sky. Before she had made me aware of this I had not bothered to look too closely at a bare tree. Now I too marvel how each tree has its own distinctive personality.

Another unexpected reminder of his majesty is the dark clouds hovering over us announcing a storm. Beautiful poems are written about white puffy clouds against a blue sky, but when we study those storm clouds the colours are very dramatic, with grey mingling with creamy beige and dense black, God’s paint brush, swirling through the air as the colours change minute by minute.

We live by the sea, so yet again we have a moving canvas, as the water changes from dull green, topped by white crests, to sparkling clear green, sprinkled by rays of sunlight.

InAwe03God’s beauty is all around us and we need to keep looking so we never lose that wonderful sense of awe of the majesty of our Creator. The Psalmists never forgot who formed the earth and that the earth constantly reflects his glory

“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Psalm 102: 25)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 29, 2017

Don’t Leave Me Behind

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord”

(Psalm 89: 15)

Behind01Christmas time in the city in which we live, is ablaze with lights during the festive season. Local homes are festooned with colourful light displays, lampposts in the streets have decorative lights entwined around them, shops use every opportunity to attract customers with cheerful lighting. The hundreds of lights dispel the gloomy weather of winter. The reason for the lights is to celebrate the birth of Christ, the King and we are made aware of this incredible happening by Crèches nestling among the myriad of lights, but as we approach the New Year and life returns to normal, slowly the lights begin to disappear. Some homeowners choose the 1st January, others the 6th January, but the festive lights all vanish as the New Year takes over.

As we pack away our crèches, do we somehow leave behind the wonder and glory of that momentous day? As the hum drum of normal life takes over, does it dispel the love and warmth of the Christmas spirit?  Does the urge to help others less fortunate than us fade and we become unaware of those in need around us?

Recently in a shopping mall at the height of the frantic shopping, a little boy running behind his mother, was heard to cry;

Don’t leave me behind

Perhaps that might be what the Lord is saying to us as we begin again the challenge of a brand, New Year.  Isaiah, the prophet, had some wise advice for the children of Israel and of course for all of us;

“Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2: 5)

If we choose to walk in the light of the Lord, we won’t be leaving behind the beautiful message of Christmas, but will be keeping his love alive within us and Jesus himself tells us the amazing impact this has on those around us.

“In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 16)

Behind02None of us have any idea of what the New Year will bring, but we can be certain that whatever darkness may intrude upon our lives, we have this solid reminder that as his chosen ones any darkness will quickly dissipate and disappear, banished by his wonderful light.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2: 9)

 

Posted by: Jo | December 22, 2017

On Whom His Favour Rests

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”

(Luke 2:14)

In ancient times the word, favour, was an integral part of a king’s power. He had FavThing01absolute power to bestow his favour on those specially chosen by him.  The story of Esther is a prime example of a king choosing to favour Esther when she attempted to come into his presence without being invited, to beg the king to save her people.  The king chose to grant her his favour;

“If I have found favour with you, O, king, and if it pleases you,  your majesty grant me my life – this is my petition. And spare my people.” (Esther 7: 3)

The Jewish people were saved by the king granting his favour to Esther’s plea.

We too, now know that we have been saved by the words of the beautiful song of the angels as they announced to the shepherds that the long, awaited child King had been born in Bethlehem.

FavThing02When we understand the significance of the word, favour, we can begin to realise that was an astounding song the angels sang to alert the shepherds that this day a King had been born and yes, his favour would now rest on his beloved family and it would come wrapped in peace, ready to envelop all those who would recognise him.

The prophet Isaiah prophesied, hundreds of years before, about this incredible day in history, and the Jewish people had waited expectantly for their Messiah to arrive.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

The word favour may have lost some of its significance in today’s world, but we all recognise what favourite means when it is used to describe a person and we would all crave to be the teacher’s favourite when we were small children, but the good news of Christmas is that when we follow Jesus, each one of us, no matter who we are, become the Father’s favourite child.

In the hub bub of Christmas activities, it is easy to lose the sense of wonder, and to just concentrate on the sweet baby Jesus in the manger, but as we reread the story, knowing FavThing03the amazing story of why that baby is the center of all the true meaning of Christmas, and knowing who he really is, we can have the same reaction as the shepherds and glorify, the Heavenly Father in all we say and do as we celebrate the birth of the Holy Child.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2: 20)

 

Posted by: Jo | December 15, 2017

Made With Love

“We continually remember before our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”

(1 Thessalonians 1: 3)

MadeWithLoveOne of my son-in laws has and endearing saying he uses when he asks his wife to make him a cup of coffee and this is the term he uses;

Please make it with love.

He was really echoing what Paul was saying to the young churches as to how important it was to always be prompted by love when serving the Lord in any capacity.

Chapter 13 in 1 Corinthians is a beautiful exposition of what real love means, and is a popular reading at marriages, but it has a far more deeper meaning than love between humans.  It is the very essence of our relationship with Jesus Christ and fortifies and binds together everything we do for him

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

During the week our Women’s Bible study had a wind-up Christmas brunch and one of the speakers read a very thoughtful (sometimes funny) exposition of what the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 meant to women in this frantic preparation time preceding Christmas and even though we smiled we realised that the whole message of Christmas is wrapped in the word, love and if we leave that out everything we are doing becomes devoid of any real meaning. MadeWithLove02

This is what we heard;

  • If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love, I am just another decorator.
  • If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, but do not show love, I am just another cook.
  • If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.
  • If I sing in the choir and attend all the services, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point
  • Love stops the cooking to hug the child
  • Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband
  • Love is kind though harried and tired
  • Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linen
  • Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way
  • Love doesn’t only give to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
  • Love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
  • Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust
  • But giving the gift of love will endure

MadeWithLove03Paul sums it all up in these words;

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13: 13)

 

 

 

 

 

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