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)

 

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 8, 2017

Empathy For Others

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering”

(Hebrews 13: 3)

Empathy01As I have written several times in this blog, words and their meaning fascinate me and when I came across the word, empathy, while reading, I started to think of its deeper meaning and why it is quite different from its sister word, sympathy.

While sympathy, means being affected by the condition of another, empathy has the power to fully understand the pain of another. We can watch a sad movie and weep many tears because we are affected by the sorrow portrayed and can feel sympathetic, but can leave the theater go home and forget the characters. The writer of Hebrews was stressing this to his readers when he urges them to imagine they are suffering with those who are suffering, not to just feel sorry and sympathetic, but to genuinely attempt to feel their pain and so help to relieve that pain.

The perfect example of extreme empathy is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus chose to become a man, so he could experience every feeling that mankind feels. He chose the limitations of the human body, so he could relate totally to us.

“For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  (Hebrews 2: 17. 18)

Empathy02So how do we become people of God filled with empathy for others who are suffering? To begin with we must be careful not to jump into a situation and blurt out, “I know how you feel.”  The response would be, “How could you possibly know how I feel.” We must learn how to be sensitive to heartache and despair, depression and grief and the only way we can do that is with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit dispenses gifts to those who earnestly desire to have them, and they are there for the asking and these gifts used for God’s glory are very powerful, when they are used with his guidance.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5: 22)

Sometimes God uses our own suffering to create in us an empathy for others who are going through the same darkness and encourages us instead of wallowing in our own sorrow to reach out to them and to say confidently, “I know how you feel”, and to use the gifts of the Spirit to bring comfort to those sorrowing.

Empathy03Bad things often happen in our lives and in the lives of those around us without warning and we can be prepared for being filled with empathy if we stay close to the Heavenly Father. I love David’s prayer that prepares him for whatever is going to happen and a beautiful one for us to pray every morning before the day starts.

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

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 1, 2017

Heeding God’s Voice

“…and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…”

(Deuteronomy 30: 20)

Heed01A very thought-provoking cartoon appeared on my Facebook page last week that I was glad someone had posted. It featured two churches side by side and at the front of the first one, appeared the title for the Sunday sermon;

Come and Hear What God Wants to Say to You

In front of the second was this title for the Sunday sermon

Come and Hear What You Want God to Say to You. 

The first church had nobody entering, the second had a stream of church members lining up to go in.

Perhaps that points out what is happening to our own modern-day attitude to what we expect God to do for us, rather than to listen to him and obey his law.

Heeding what God had said in his law, given to the Children of Israel, was their greatest problem and a wonderful wake up call for us all. Over and over again the Israelites disobeyed God and landed themselves in all sorts of trouble. They were no longer listening to his word let alone heeding the wisdom that word held for them. One of my favourite stories in the Old Testament, is the story of the young king Josiah who thought he was living the way God had ordained until an amazing discovery was made by his servants while renovating the temple, in some dusty corner they found ancient scrolls, long hidden from sight and when they took them to the high priest, he discovered they were actually God’s sacred word. Heed02

When the high priest took the scroll, and read it to Josiah, he was overcome with incredible grief that he and his people had drifted away from God because they had not been reading or heeding God’s word.

“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.”  (2 Kings 22:11)

He ordered all the people to be gathered together and asked the priest to read God’s word aloud to all of them, so they could listen and heed what he was saying to them.  A great revival in honouring God was the result.

The other story I like is the one about the little boy Samuel who hears somebody calling him, but does not recognise God’s voice until the priest tells him this;

“Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down and if he calls you say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3: 8 – 9)

Heed03Samuel did so and listened and became a mighty prophet for the Lord

Unfortunately, sometimes our prayers resemble more these words, Listen Lord while your servant speaks!

Solomon knew the wisdom of practising listening skills and writes in the first chapter of Proverbs this good advice for us;

“let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1: 5)

 

Posted by: Jo | November 25, 2017

Perfect Peace

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

(Philippians 4:7)

Peace01My husband and I have just lived through some stressful days as he was required to have a blood test to check the cancer he is experiencing in his bones and we were both very anxious about the result, as he is coping with a new form of treatment and the side effects have been quite severe. We had four days to wait for the result which was to come in a phone call from the Cancer Agency and the night before it was due, we both felt panic and unease overcoming us. The next morning, we awoke early and began our regular study and prayer, both very apprehensive about what the day would bring.  As my husband opened our study guide, these are the opening words he read out aloud;

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27)

We both felt the incredible presence of the Lord reassuring us that he knew how we were feeling and was encircling us with his peace and, as we felt that peace, the fear did disappear, and we were able to face what the day was to bring, and thanks be to God the news was good.

Peace02In the turmoil of stressful living it is hard to remember that one of the many beautiful promises Jesus makes to his followers is, peace. I tend to think of the word peace as being associated with tranquil settings, such as sitting beside a lake, or walking along a path bordered with tall stately, trees, or watching a sunset seated on a beach, but the amazing part of the peace Jesus offers, is that it can occur whatever we are doing and despite what chaotic happenings may be enveloping us.

The most important thing for us to remember is, that we can only experience that peace if we stay close to his presence because as soon as we drift away the world intercedes with ugly thoughts of worry, stressful situations overwhelm us, obstacles we are facing seem insurmountable. The Psalmists knew how important it was to seek peace actively and David uses a strange word that does not seem to fit with a sense of peace until we think deeply about his words;

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 14)Peace03

“pursue” is a verb full of action. That peace that transcends all understanding is only available when we keep a steadfast relationship with the Giver of perfect peace.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26: 3)

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)

 

 

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)

 

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