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Because of today’s technology, hand written letters have almost disappeared having been superseded by e-mail, texting, twittering etc.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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Posted by: Jo | September 8, 2017

Expanding Our Capacity To Love

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

(1 Thessalonians 3: 12)

WellDone02Just recently my husband and I were watching an amazing performance on the TV of a young husband and wife playing two pianos at the same time in perfect unison. They seemed to be playing effortlessly and what is more astounding, the audience, could forward requests though an usher, of songs they would like to hear. Their gift of being able to play spontaneously these requests was further evidence of their skill.  I would have loved to be able to play the piano and envied their gift, but when I thought of how this performance, could only have been perfected by hours of practice, I admired them more for not just the gift, but for the effort they must have put into perfecting the gift.

I then began to think about the gifts God gives to each one of his children and how they can remain dormant unless we put a lot of effort into perfecting them, one such gift is the gift of love.  God has gifted us with a great outpouring of his love, this comes with no cost to us, but as Paul reminds us it needs effort on our part to make it a gift back to him;

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1: 6)

How to make God’s incredible gift, a gift back to him?

Gift01Paul had a beautiful prayer for the followers in Thessalonica and a great example for them to follow when he prayed for the Lord to increase their love to overflowing. We can do exactly that; pray for the Lord to help us to love others. I was reading an interesting article about this theme and one lady remarked that as she grew closer to the Lord she noticed, “I believe the new thing God is doing in my life is expanding my capacity and opportunities to love.”

Loving those who are lovable and love us, is easy, but loving somebody is sometimes difficult, but when we ask the Lord to expand his gift to us, he willingly does, and as this lady found out he also provides opportunities to practice the gift.

When we think back to those young piano players, we realise that a lot of hard work had preceded their amazing performance, and they must have had to work together to perfect their skill we need to spend a lot of time with the Lord to perfect our love for others.

If we look up the word, love, in a concordance, we find pages of verses containing what is really the basis of Scripture. If we note the number of times Jesus impressed the importance on his disciples of, loving, we can also see how important it was for him to leave this message firmly in the hearts of those who were to carry it to the world for him.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15: 12)

 

Posted by: Jo | September 1, 2017

Showing Compassion

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

(Colossians 3: 12)

Compassion01These last few weeks, my husband and I have spent many hours in hospital waiting rooms, as we were both having tests that were punctuated by sometimes long intervals in between, which meant just sitting and watching the ever-changing crowd of patients doing the same thing. While I was observing those around us. I was struck by the outpouring of compassion I noticed over and over again between patients and those who were accompanying them. One particular, very, old couple, really touched me. The compassion flowing from the old husband to the old sick wife was beautiful to watch as he stroked her hand and constantly rearranged the rug over her knees to ensure she was warm. His compassion for her was a true testimony of his love.

I also noticed compassion in a different form between nurses and their patients. They may have not known who their patients were, but compassion for another’s suffering was again very evident.

When Paul is writing to the Colossians, he urges them to clothe themselves with compassion. When we clothe ourselves with garments our garments cover us. Paul is urging us as well to cover ourselves with compassion so we can have plenty to share with others. The Psalmists describe our Heavenly Father as being full of compassion;

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” (Psalm 116: 5)

Jesus himself repeatedly displayed this beautiful characteristic. Compassion02

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9: 36)

So, what does it mean for us to display compassion?

If we truly wish to follow Jesus this is an important attribute to cultivate. Compassion means being more aware of others around us and not to be concerned totally with our own welfare. Put others before ourselves. Try to see others’ struggles, rather than judge their faults. It is so easy to blame others for what we see is their own foolish actions and somehow assume we wouldn’t have made those same mistakes. When we realise how our Heavenly Father repeatedly forgives us for our foolish mistakes, it helps us have sympathy for those who need our compassion rather than a long list of dos and don’ts, we think might fix the problem

Compassion03I think Paul sums this problem in a very direct way and a wonderful message for all of us to follow;

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  (2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4)

Posted by: Jo | August 25, 2017

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

(Psalm 46: 10)

BeStill03Last week I had to present myself at our local hospital for a series of tests for my heart. I was not looking forward to them at all as two of them involved entering a dome of moving cameras and the last instructions from the radiologist were, “You must lie completely still and not move at all for the 13 minutes it takes for the test to be finished.”  Usually if I am told to be still the first thing that happens is that I have an urgent need to wipe some imaginary thing off my face. I was dreading the test. On the morning of the test, my husband opened the Bible study we read together every morning, and this was the title;

Be Still

The study was on Psalm 46 and as my husband read out the beautiful words I felt the Lord was talking directly to me. I felt he knew my fears and was reminding me of who I could lean on that day.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46: 1)

As I lay with the machine moving around me, I kept repeating that verse and I could lie still when I acknowledged I did truly know the God who is in complete control of the whole universe. BeStill04

“Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46: 2 – 3)

Apart from being still for a medical test, being still is good advice for all of us who can get caught up in the busy stress filled life that seems to be the norm for many. We forget that we need to spend some time of every day being still before the Lord, so we can hear his voice. If we are frantically on the move every day our souls, that inner part of us, will not be able to be soothed, restored and strengthened.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62 1 – 2)

Frequently, when Jesus was on earth, he would slip away from the crowds to be alone with the Father as he knew how important it was to rest awhile and be still. He now offers us that beautiful respite in these words; BeStill05

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28)

I am praying that I will remember the wonderful example of listening to the Lord and being able to be still during a stressful day that I experienced this week.

Posted by: Jo | August 18, 2017

Well Done!

“His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”

(Matthew 25: 21)

WellDone01One mother was sharing about a camp her young son had been enrolled in during the summer and how impressed she was with the way the camp instructors dealt with rewards for the many physical activities the children competed in. Her son was not specifically an athlete, but loved the camp as everyone was recognised for what ever enthusiasm they displayed while participating in all the games. He came home on the last day, very proudly bringing an award. When his mother opened the envelope, a beautiful certificate was inside;

Participation Award

Our sermon last week was on the parable Jesus told about the talents in which the master who is going on a journey, entrusts three of his servants, each with a certain amount of money and entrusted his property to them Each had a different amount, one received five talents, one two talents and the last servant one talent. At first when we read the first two servants are praised for doubling the master’s money, but the third punished for just hiding his to keep it safe, we feel this seems to be unjust until we look at the deeper meaning Jesus wanted to convey.

WellDone03.pngAlthough the amount of talents was different for each servant, there was no difference in the reward for the first two who had diligently used the money to benefit the master. The third servant had not put in any effort, merely hiding his money in the ground, not benefitting anybody.

This story made me think of the little boy’s award of wholeheartedly participating in every race, even though he may not be in first place. The first two servants received the participants reward just like the little boy.

Our spiritual walk with the Lord is similar. Our master entrusts us with his wealth and all that is his. We can be active participants using whatever gifts that the lord has bestowed on us or we can bury our gifts and lose that beautiful acknowledgement

Well done good and faithful servant.

The writer of Hebrews describes life as a race and urges us to run it with enthusiasm.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12: 1)

WellDone02Perseverance seems to be the key word for us to note. It is with confidence, not a stop and start walk with the Lord, we make a commitment to participate to the best of our ability, not measuring our efforts with those around us but focusing our eyes on Jesus. As Paul writes:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4: 7)

Let us eagerly pursue that great Participants Award!

 

 

Posted by: Jo | August 11, 2017

Courage Or Timidity

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self discipline.”

(2 Timothy 1: 7)

Courage01Some friends and I were discussing what we were like as children and what different personalities our children had developed from us. I certainly was not a timid child, but I was also not the wild spokesperson for the class. None of my daughters are timid, but two of them are much more likely to tackle problems head on!

Later another one of my friends gave me a very interesting quote about this subject which made we think more deeply as to what timidity represents

“Every timidity eventually turns into regret” – Four Seasons in Rome, Anthony Doerr

The more I thought about this quote the more it not only applied to life, but also our spiritual walk. When Paul was writing to Timothy, a young protégé of his, he wanted to encourage him in his faith and sends this beautiful verse to him, ensuring him that timidity will not hamper him because he has the mighty power of God behind him

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self discipline.” (2 Timothy 1: 7)

I think we often underestimate what influence we can have in the kingdom of God. Then that small persistent, voice of timidity begins to intercede, agreeing with us, Courage02undermining our confidence in attempting to try at all;

  • You couldn’t help
  • you haven’t any training in that problem
  • you will never be able to accomplish that
  • you are sure to fail
  • who would listen to you
  • I wouldn’t try that if I were you

There is no sign of timidity when Joshua is given the task to lead the people across the Jordan he is bolstered by a wonderful word from God, ensuring him despite all the obstacles, he will be able to accomplish this because God is filling him with courage.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1: 9)

The secret to having courage is to have the Lord with us. His strength will always outweigh our feeble efforts, but we need to acknowledge his guidance by staying in close with him and obeying his commands.

The lord presents us with many opportunities, many open doors to experience a true fellowship with him, many avenues to use the gifts he has given us. If we allow timidity to stand in the way, regret will become the result. I think the saddest sentence one can utter is – “If only I had tried!

Courage03Sometimes we bravely begin a venture and things seem to be overcoming us, this is when we need to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is always ready to bolster our flagging spirits and listen for that powerful voice as it thunders over what is swirling around us,

“But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”” (Matthew 14: 27)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | August 4, 2017

Treasure in Jars of Clay

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all – surpassing power is from God not rom us.”

(2 Corinthians 4: 7)

Treasure01Many, many stories are written about the quest to find hidden treasure, from wild stories of pirates hiding their loot on isolated islands, to archeologists discovering amazing tombs filled with artifacts worth millions of dollars.   Just recently there was a story about two room mates who bought an old, second hand sofa at a thrift store and when they were trying to clean it, back at their apartment, one of the cushions came off and to their surprise, hidden underneath was a stack of money. Somebody had been using the sofa to store their treasure.

People store, what they consider to be treasure in all sorts of odd places. One old grandmother I knew had a beaten up biscuit tin where she always kept her spare change, figuring nobody would think to look there.

So when Paul says we have a treasure in jars of clay we can relate to what he is saying, the vessel carrying the treasure is not the important part, but what is inside.

Treasure02In the book of Isaiah, the prophet describes us as being moulded by the Heavenly Potter;

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64: 8)

When my children were young, working with clay was part of the arts and handwork at school, and I can vividly remember them racing in after school to show me the amazing shapes they had made. I must be honest, it was difficult to equate with what they were telling me it was as to what I could see, but because they had made it, these works of art were always displayed on the sideboard next to my fine china.

Not only does the Heavenly Father lovingly mould us, he sees each one of us as his treasured possession.

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession…” (Exodus 19: 5)

I love that reassurance that it is not the jar itself that is so important. It is not how clever we are or how beautiful we are.  It is not how charming or talented we are. We are just the vessel carrying the most incredible treasure given to mankind, if we accept this beautiful gift from the Lord Jesus Christ.  When people see a difference in the way we live they will want to find out how the treasure we carry within us can be theirs as well.

Treasure03Isaiah also provides the clue that unleashes this amazing treasure;

“The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”  (Isaiah 33: 5 – 6)

 

Posted by: Jo | July 28, 2017

Hearing His Voice Over The Clamour

“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.”

(Psalm 29: 4)

BeStill01In our family, July is birthday month and those celebrating birthdays range from 59 to 1. Doing justice to such a wide range of ages, takes some planning and certainly the choice of venues varied as to whom was the honoured guest. This last week we had the five-year-old sharing with his little one-year-old sister and the family dinner party was held at a popular Pizza place where children were welcome. The other celebrant in the same week was our daughter and this meal was celebrated in an elegant restaurant. Both were a lot of fun, but the big difference for me was the noise level! The clamour in the Pizza parlor seemed to overpower one as soon as we entered. The music was loud, televisions blared from every wall, the place was crowded and voices were raised to be heard over all the other extraneous noises. It was hard to hear the conversation.

In the quieter restaurant, it was much easier to hear, and distractions were fewer so we could concentrate on exactly what everybody was saying.

I often think life is like that noisy Pizza parlor. We are inundated with strident voices from the media, urging us:

  • to take up this activity
  • don’t miss this movie
  • invest your money
  • think about your retirement
  • worry about your health

News of major disasters or terrorist attacks is beamed around the world in minutes of happening causing our hearts to beat anxiously. The clamour of the world can deafen our ears to that all important voice we need to listen to.

The Lord is always ready to have a special quite time with us, where there is no clamour of the world getting in the way, but we must be the ones to invite him to join us.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3: 20) 

Listening for that knock is also is an important part of then being able to converse and enjoy the warmth of sharing time with the Lord and he describes it as sharing a family meal with him.

If our lives are so packed with things:

  • we must do
  • errands to run
  • telephone calls
  • excessive exercise

there will be no to time to even hear the gentle knock or the tender voice. The Lord has some good advice to ensure there is time for him.

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

BeStill02The more time we spend being still before the Lord sharpens our ears to hear that small voice as it becomes more and more familiar so even in the clamour of the world’s voices we will still hear his, as we face the cross roads of life.

“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)

 

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)

 

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