Posted by: Jo | July 31, 2015

Anointed By The Oil Of Joy And Gladness

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God , your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

(Psalm 45:7)

Our sermon this Sunday was exploring the second last Psalm (133) in the series known as the The Songs Of Ascents. imageI felt our young minister would expound on the first verse about brothers living together in unity, and of course he did, but then he surprised me by an in-depth look at the reference to the anointing of Aaron by the precious oil.

“It is like the precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.” (Psalm 133:2)

This precious and expensive oil was not just a sprinkle on the top of the head, it was a real soaking of head and beard even running down over Aaron’s clothing and because of the ingredients, myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia and olive oil (Exodus 30:23 – 25) the recipient was left surrounded by an exquisite aroma.

This ceremony was originally reserved for priests serving in the temple, and perhaps we might have overlooked the incredible privilege we have been granted through Our Saviour, that we too are now considered to be part of a royal priesthood and so too become recipients of this anointing, so joy and gladness envelope our very being.

“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)

The writer of Hebrews writes to assure the new believers that they have this anointing

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Hebrews 1:9)

image And with this fragrant blessing comes a special purpose for us believers, who now carry this oil of gladness and joy with us wherever we go and Isaiah tells us how we can make use of it.

Firstly we can reach out to those who are poor in spirit who do not know the Lord. We can bind up the broken hearted, we can help those trapped by fear and evil and bring them freedom from that darkness, we can comfort those who grieve, we can bring beauty instead of ashes for those who are mourning we can bring praise instead of despair into a desperate situation (Isaiah 61:1- 3).

Being anointed gives one a sense of authority. We don’t have to ask, “What can I do to help?” We have been commissioned by the Holy Spirit to act as one of Christ’s ambassadors and bring with us joy and gladness for those around us who most need it. The other great benefit is for ourselves when we go through turbulent times, we can draw on that same anointing oil to ease our pain. The fragrance of knowing our Lord and Saviour spreads through our lives blessing us and others.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him, For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14 – 15)

Posted by: Jo | July 24, 2015

Memories Keep Us Focused

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”

(Psalm 77:11 – 12)

image This week our family celebrated the birthday of our first born daughter and when it arrived my mind was flooded with memories of that special day and I remembered where we were living at the time and marvelled yet again at how she had survived in the hands of two inexperienced young people like us, who had left our own country and were living in London with no family to support us and all our friends being about the same age. Those same friends did support us and memories of their help still brings a rush of warm feelings and thankfulness when I relive those days in my mind. My thoughts about my first born made me think about another young mother who certainly had a much different situation than mine to contend with and yet we are told, she made a special effort to store up everything that happened that day in her mind, so the memories would be saved;

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary treasured all those miraculous signs that proved what the angel Gabriel had told her about this Son of the Most High. Those memories would sustain her and support her even through the dreadful crucifixion of her precious son.

One of the most important reasons to go over our memories, especially those troublesome, scary or sad times, is to recall how our Lord was able to guide us through those choppy waters.image Too often once we survive one of those experiences we tend to forget where the help came from and just give a big sigh of relief that we made it through. So firstly, we need to store firmly in our minds who the thanks are due to, and to keep remembering this so we can praise His Name and then secondly we need to draw upon that storehouse of memories to give us strength for the next time we are assailed by woes.

It is not only the bad times we need to store in our memory, remembering the joy and the love we exchange with our Heavenly Father keeps our relationship alive and vibrant by remembering the delight it brings us;

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who take delight in them.” (Psalm 111:2)

Often the advice for couples in their marriage is to remember why they first fell in love with each other and to keep those memories alive by keeping them as vibrant thoughts. Good advice for us as well to never let our love for the Lord to grow cold and lifeless because his love for us will never change.

In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is portrayed as a craftsman watching the Creator forming the world and us. What a beautiful mental picture to store away in our memory, of the world and us being created to bring him delight.

“Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Proverbs 8:30 – 31)

image Filling our minds with memories of the powerful helper always at our side and then to remember how the Lord delights in us will certainly keep us focused and we don’t have to run to the computer or any other device, we can just sit quietly in his presence and allow the memories to flood in.

Posted by: Jo | July 17, 2015

The Sword of The Spirit – The Word of God

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”

(Ephesians 6:17)

imageJust recently, my husband I were watching a documentary on the television, about an ancient order of Chinese monks, who, although they had diminished in number, still practised their handed down rituals from hundreds of years before. We watched in fascination as little boys were introduced to the intricate movements each one had to perfect in order to become a fully-fledged monk. The instructor was very strict; the feet had to be exactly how he had demonstrated, the head in line with a certain part of the body, the hands in the right position. We then witnessed the senior monks demonstrating these movements, now perfected, as they handled different types of weapons, their bodies moving as if one with what they were holding, and as these were instruments of war, they looked controlled and dangerous, but at the same time their beautiful precise movements made me think of ballet dancers. One section in particular showed their prowess with swords and as they began to move, again I got the impression that the sword and the man had become one.

While I was marvelling about this, I remembered Paul telling the Ephesians to take the sword of the Spirit to counteract the attacks of evil. He was not talking about a real weapon, but a more powerful force than anything man could contrive, the Word of God. The passage in Ephesians 6 (The Armour of God) lists six important parts of armour associated with the current soldier of the day and Paul links them with corresponding Christian spiritual warfare, reminding them they need this protection to ward off and protect them from evil. The first five parts of armour are related to protection from attacks, but the sixth and most powerful one is clearly a weapon not just to protect one, but to be used in action, not in passive resistance, but to be exerted with all its strength. The writer of Hebrews describes it like this;image

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any doubled edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

We often see God’s word as comforting, encouraging, full of love and of course our Heavenly Father wants us to be drenched in his love, but we too often forget the other side of absorbing his word into our very souls – its incredible power over evil. Our Christian walk can be undermined in very subtle ways, sometimes just in thoughts that creep into our minds, sometimes as one Pastor put it by “friendly fire” attacks from unlikely places and perhaps fro
m those we trusted, sometimes from events that we allow to consume us, sometimes our own egos get in the way and we listen to the wrong voices and the Lord’s voice becomes blotted out.

This is when we need to pull out the most powerful weapon of all

GOD’S WORD

The way it is the most effective is, just like those monks I was watching, when we are so steeped in it we become as one with that precious word and we use it against any attack of the enemy. The psalmists knew where the word had to be planted.

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

 

Posted by: Jo | July 10, 2015

Living What We Believe

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

(Psalm 133:1)

image Our Home Group has just finished studying together, the letter to the Ephesians, and although the last chapter (Chapter 6) on the armour of God receives a lot of attention in articles and sermons, we all thought the most important chapter for us was Paul’s call to examine how we actually live out what we believe in our everyday day life, (Chapter 5). He presents it this way, what a challenge!

“Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15 –16)

The book of Proverbs makes it very clear who the wise and the unwise are and frequently implores those who would be followers of the Lord to earnestly seek wisdom and not to be led astray by the foolishness of the world. We who know the Lord have an invaluable store of God’s wisdom ready and available for the asking whenever we need direction.

“Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” (Proverbs 2:9 – 10)

When we are listening to, or reading God’s word, it is so easy to be in complete agreement with every word, so easy on a Sunday morning to be filled with a desire to please our Heavenly Father, so easy in our Bible Study group to be with one accord with faithful believers, but the big question arises when we begin our daily routine, How do we live what we believe?

image Paul begins within our own family and addresses relationships with husbands and wives, children and parents and his section on slaves and masters equates well with the modern work place. One sermon I listened to on this topic pointed out that we can slip into having two distinct personalities if we are not careful; our spiritual life we display when we are with Christians and the life we display to the world.

When I was a young school teacher it was imperative that before starting any lesson, a detailed plan as how I was going to present it, would be carefully thought out then written down in point form to keep me on track and help me not to be distracted from the task at hand. I have been thinking about this topic, of living what we believe, and thought we as followers of Jesus need a daily plan to tackle the day before we begin.

I found such a plan in Psalm 25 which I use as a daily prayer before starting the day. David knew that of course Our Heavenly Father would help us to be everything he wants us to be, so his prayer features these major ways that the Lord can help us; Showing us his way for the day, (not straying from his word), teaching us to stay on his path (not the world’s), guiding us in what is true (not being misled by those around us)

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4 – 5)

imageWhen we are armed with that of sort of help every day, living what we believe becomes a whole lot easier.

Posted by: Jo | July 3, 2015

Cry Out In The Darkness

“You, O Lord, keep my light burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”

(Psalm 18:28)

image There have been lots of criticisms lately about social media and the harm it can produce if not properly monitored, but it also has another side of connecting friends and family and as I grow older, I find it a great source of not only keeping in touch with my friends, but of sharing innocent sweet moments of family, and also I often find it a mood changer by making me laugh at the clever witticisms of others. One friend often sends me quite thoughtful statements and the one I received this week made me nod in agreement. It went like this;

Body:“I am very tired, time to lie down and sleep

Mind:No not yet, we have to go over all those mistakes you made today and those foolish words you wished you had not said. Then we have to start worrying about how much you ate and how much you now weigh. Then we have to worry about your job and all those bills that are adding up. Then we have to go over yet again all the wrong decisions you made in the past…

As I read it I though no wonder we find this described in God’s words as “the terror of the night” (Psalm 91:5) and how often we can relate to staring into the night as worry and fear become accentuated by the darkness around us.

image There is a beautiful selection in the Book of Psalms known as, The Songs of Ascents, 120 – 134, which the pilgrims sang on their way to Jerusalem to worship. I like the message in the last Psalm (134) as the last of the pilgrims leave the temple they know that the Levite priests on duty will have to stay and guard the temple during the night and offer this advice to keep the terrors of the night away;

“Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.” (Psalm 134:1 – 2)

What wonderful advice for us still today. What a powerful way to stop worry invading our minds. What a great reminder that he who can dispel any darkness is right there with us just waiting for us to cry out to him.

“…I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

Darkness of all different sorts can descend on us at any time of the day, not only at night time. Fear and worry can obliterate joy so that gloom encircles all that we attempt to do and life becomes a mechanical set of activities. We can even forget that help is at close hand as the worries cloud our vision. image This is when we most urgently need to turn to God’s word. Listen to his invitation and cry out to him for help. He will hear and lighten the darkness for his children.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:18 – 19)

Posted by: Jo | June 26, 2015

Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

(Hebrews 12:2)

image Our congregation in our local church is experiencing an unsettling, very disturbing time of upheaval, in which all the members have become divided about the major decisions being made. Many of us were feeling bewildered and lost, so both my husband and I were pleased to join a group who decided to meet to pray together, during the prayer time one of the members had a wakeup call for us all. She had suddenly realised we were focusing so much on the problem at hand we had forgotten to focus on Jesus himself, “the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) What a relief to abandon the problem to him. What a relief to let go. What a relief to stop and listen to that small voice instead of the loud voices of dissension racing through our minds. We had allowed the problem to distract us so much we had taken our eyes of Jesus.

Later I was thinking of how easily one can be distracted in all sorts of life pursuits, in particular while driving, and we read that one of the major causes of road accidents are now caused by distracted drivers who are using all sorts of electronic devices while they drive, from cell phones to lap tops. The list goes on from ladies applying make up to pouring coffee to eating lunch and being distracted leads to lack of concentration and imageoften results in dangerous driving and accidents.

Our Christian walk is no different and distractions that cause us to take our eyes away from the Lord can also lead to dangerous situations. David knew only too well that life produces many traps that can snare us so easily, if we are trusting ourselves to solve them without consulting the Lord to direct us;

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:15)

Our prayer time also revealed that concentrating on what we perceived were others’ shortcomings was a sure way of distracting us and losing our focus yet again on our “perfecter of our faith” who warned us;

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no intention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

So again we heard the Lord’s message for us all for any division that divides his loved ones.

Repentance Forgiveness

Whatever situation is causing us grief, being humble enough to allow the Lord to show us where we might be part of the problem brings about incredible healing and no matter what any of us may be embroiled in from family  problems/ neighbours/ work colleagues fixing our eyes on Jesus is the one sure way to see things his way.image

“Show me your ways, O, Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4 – 5)

Posted by: Jo | June 19, 2015

The Key To The Treasure In Store For Us

“He will be a 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 33:6)

image This last week one of our granddaughters turned twenty one and as I was thinking back to when I turned twenty one, memories came flooding back into my mind about what in Australia, was a very momentous milestone. This was the age you became an adult and were able to vote for your country’s leaders, you were now officially considered to be a responsible member of the community and sometimes as part of the celebrations you were very formally given the keys to the house and everyone would sing that silly old English song, “I’ve got the keys of the door, never been 21 before” Today children consider themselves adults long before turning twenty one and birthday milestones don’t have as much weight as they once did.

The importance of keys, though, is still noted in our present society, and the word is often used by motivational speakers in these phrases, “the key to success is… the key to presenting yourself lies in… the key to a successful launch is…” The formal handing over of the home that has just been purchased always takes the form of presentation of keys, allowing access to the new owner.

So when the Lord speaks through Isaiah, to us, about that important key that allows us access to all the treasures of our Heavenly Father, we stop and listen very carefully. Especially the word “treasure” has great meaning for us. Famous childhood stories would end with the dramatic finding of that old, rusty box, securely locked, and only the hero or heroine would have that precious key to unlock the treasures therein and we would all hold our breath as the lid slowly opened to reveal strings of pearls and diamonds etc.

We don’t have to go on long perilous journeys to find the treasure that the Lord Jesus Christ has for us. He graciously provides access for us. He is the key to the richness of life with him, acknowledging him as our Saviour, opens that treasure trove of his love.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God , namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2 – 3)

Sometimes we forget that this beautiful store of knowledge and understanding is readily available to us and foolishly decide to rely on our own understanding in dealing with life’s problems, this is when we need to take heed of these words in the book of Proverbs and vow to eagerly accept the Lord’s gracious gift.

“…and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3 – 5)

image

Posted by: Jo | June 12, 2015

No Tear Goes Unnoticed By Our Heavenly Father

“For the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

(Revelation 7:17)

image Just recently a long-time friend and I were talking about our lives and the many experiences we had shared together as neighbours, friends and nearly twenty years of volunteering together in an outreach ministry to Single Mothers. The stories were interlaced with lots of laughter, but also sprinkled with tears as we remembered not only the challenges of the women we worked with, but the upheavals of our own personal lives, that we also weathered together. My friend remembered one very difficult stage of her life and as she was speaking I suddenly remembered her beautiful gift of poetry and also remembered the poem she had given to me during that terrible trial she was facing. The Lord had spoken comforting words to her which she was able to record through her gift of writing. That following day I found the poem and marvelled how our Heavenly Father was able to wipe away her tears through the gift he had given her. I asked her if I could share it with you;

Beloved

You are my dear, beloved child,

I hear each word that causes you such pain

I’ve seen each tear, you have not cried in vain,

I’m right beside you when you stumble and you fall

I’ve heard your anguished cry for help and answered quick your call

I’ve picked you up and carried you when battles you have lost

Each one has long since been forgiven on the cross

Come, now and rest awhile beneath the shadow of my wings

And so refresh your soul

Come, drink from quiet, peaceful streams

And I will make you whole.

– Elvera Corben, 1987

As I re-read my friend’s poem I was yet again able to marvel at the Father’s love for his children. Once we commit our lives to him we will never cry alone. We will never have to say, “nobody cares about what I am going through” No tears will ever fall unnoticed, we have his promise that no matter what has happened, no matter what mistakes we may have made, no matter how huge the problem is, he will be right beside us;

“…The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8)

Sometimes we may see tears as a form of weakness, but Jesus himself was not ashamed to cry in front of others at the death of his friend Lazarus, so he can identify with any raw emotion that can overcome us.

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

image We can look forward to that special day when there will be no need to cry anymore for sorrow and sadness will be no more.

“…They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10)

Posted by: Jo | June 6, 2015

Seeking Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault…”

(James 1:5)

image When I was a child the most incredible source of knowledge that I was aware of, was to be found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I can still see my Father’s copy of those mighty tomes, lined up in the right alphabetical order on his shelve, ready to be delved into immediately any discussion came up, or any problem needed solving. Likewise my own husband insisted when our children began to go to school, we needed to buy our set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, so they would not be without this wonderful source to help them with their studies. Discovering answers from them certainly contained a lot of searching and reading, and one had to buy additional volumes to keep the knowledge up to date, but one trusted the publishers to be diligent in overseeing the accuracy of their work. O, how things have changed with technology taking over. “Just Google it” I hear my grandchildren say!! Seeking wisdom has certainly changed. It now seems to be found with a click of a button.

imageBut, and this is a big one, many hands have access to the internet. False information can easily be transferred to web sites, it is hard to verify who contributed to what and how does one sort through what is really worthy to be acknowledged and what should be discarded. So where to turn to for that wisdom that has stood the test of time, has been challenged and found to be true, has been the rock for countless generations? Only God’s Word can make this claim;

“Every word of God is flawless….” (Proverbs 30:5)

The first step in being able to access this wisdom (and no you don’t need to remember the password) is to get to know the author. David discovered that once he sought to know the Lord more intimately, and only then, God was able to allow his wisdom to flow through David’s very being, to invade his heart so wisdom resided within him and he was able to recognise God’s hand in this beautiful transferring.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalm 51:6)

image Scripture also urges us to seek wisdom from others who have sought and found this precious gift. How many times have we urged our teen agers to choose wisely the companions they share their lives with? This verse from Proverbs is just as true today as when Solomon penned it for his son to heed;

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

Life is perplexing and when problems arise and decisions need to be made, it is tempting to use the world’s avenues to find solutions and we often overlook the depth of wisdom to be found in God’s word and when we remember his beautiful offer and seek him it is amazing how the problems unravel and when we share this great news with others we lead them to a greater understanding of God’s riches.

“Those who impart wisdom will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

Posted by: Jo | May 29, 2015

An Authentic Seal

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit”

(Ephesians 1:13)

image Just recently I had reason to go through some very old papers of mine because I had received in the mail, from my dear friend in Australia, a piece of nostalgia from my past and the envelope contained my wedding invitation to her which she received 58 years ago. She was my bridesmaid that day and she had tucked the invitation away for safe keeping and while sorting through one of her cupboards had come across it and on an impulse had popped it in the mail for me. I decided to place it in my special trove of treasures I keep (haven’t we all that special box or draw filled with all sorts of memorabilia?) As I sorted through these memories from my past, I started to read through some official documents; my teacher’s certificate, a legal document, a diploma I had earned and I noticed they all featured a seal attached to the bottom, signifying the document was authentic and was verified by the authority that had placed it there. Some of the seals were embossed deep into the paper so they could never be removed.

As I was contemplating these various seals I remembered how often in ancient times placing a king’s seal upon a verdict, an edict, a proclamation was the most binding of all procedures. We have many instances in Scripture where this is recorded, one is in the book of Esther.

“Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring- for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.” (Esther 8:8)

A piece of clay was often used and once applied the king would roll his personal signet ring over it sealing it for all time. Even when I was younger, documents were sealed by melting wax and imprinting the mark of the lawyer/ company etc. thus making the seal unable to be removed and the paper valid.

With a deeper understanding of a king’s seal, how much more are we awed and grateful for the beautiful message Paul has for us. We have been stamped, sealed by the mighty seal of the King of Kings. Nobody, nothing can ever cancel his ownership of us when we accept his beautiful offer of belonging to him

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21 – 22)

image Sometimes life seems to be a constant challenge as we seek approval from all sorts of different avenues. Physical beauty seems to be the one the young amongst us feel is the most important one to strive for. We seek approval from others, always feeling we have to compare how well we are doing with them. We seek approval in the work place even within our own church family, and this constant searching for approval drains us of joy. This is when we have to remember we have the stamp of approval from the only one that really matters, Our Heavenly Father, and to remember his seal cannot be broken and Jesus tells us to stop running after those joyless pursuits, the one authentic seal of the Holy Spirit is all we need.

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:27)

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