Posted by: Jo | February 24, 2017

Nourishing One Another

“The lips of the righteous nourish many.”

(Proverbs 10: 21)

nourish01This month my husband and I celebrated 60 years of marriage, (when I write that number I must go back and check again and say to myself that cannot be right!) We have a large family with four daughters and their spouses and eight grandchildren, so my daughters felt that celebrating 60 years together definitely called for a party and they organised a wonderful day for us all, plus old friends. One of my friends spoke to me after the party was over and I was very touched at what she said, “I love the way your children nourish you” She was not referring to the incredible food that was such a hit, but she meant she saw something more in our relationship.

Nourish, is such a lovely word. It means so much more that just setting a plate of food in front of someone. When I went to check in the dictionary to see the complete uses of the word, I was not surprised to read each description spoke of loving care e.g. foster/ cherish/ help to grow/ maintain/ strengthen/ encourage.

I began to realise that when Jesus said these words;

“Jesus said, “Feed my sheep…”” (John 21: 17)

nourish02He was asking Peter to nourish, in the full sense of the word, all those who would choose to put their trust in him. It is also a call for us to look around in our own lives and ask the Holy Spirit to show us who needs nourishing.

We know that the feeling of hunger shows us we need some form of sustenance. Hungering for something does not always mean we need physical food. Emotional needs can cause deep hunger and in some circumstances, leave one in a fragile state. We can be so lonely that a hunger for friends or someone to love us can mar our everyday life.  We can hunger for acceptance in a world that is obsessed with only those that look and act like us. We can hunger for a mentor or a teacher to help us to succeed.

There is one form of hunger that we all need to encourage in ourselves and God’s word shows us how that can be nourished so it becomes a beautiful blessing;

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5: 6)

nourish03When we become nourished by spending time in the Lord’s presence our cup overflows just as David describes in that beautiful Psalm 23

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23: 5)

Once we are thoroughly nourished, we then have a great supply to call upon to help nourish others.

 

Posted by: Jo | February 17, 2017

A Spirit Of Gentleness

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

(Ephesians 4: 2)

We have had the joy this week of minding our little six month old, gentleness01granddaughter for a few hours, and we love the way she now sits up on the floor and if we surround her with lots of toys, she reaches out to grab them and proceeds to wack all of them with wild abandon. Those flailing little arms need to be avoided if you are holding her, to make sure eye glasses don’t land on the floor, so I was very surprised when she fell asleep on my lap and when she woke, reached out one little hand and very softly began to stroke my face.  The gentleness of her touch was in stark contrast to how she played with her toys.

Gentle, is another one of those words that sound like its meaning and it is interesting to read that Paul emphasised the importance of portraying this beautiful characteristic in our Christian walk;

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4: 5)

On the world stage there is not much evidence of gentle behaviour, as we listen to political opponents gentleness02attack each other with harsh words which only achieve a response of equally harsh, aggressive words in return. I was thinking while listening to one of these tirades that it was a pity they weren’t aware of the wisdom in the book of Proverbs;

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15: 1)

Our model of gentleness is Jesus himself, who instead of dealing harshly with us when we wander away from him and forget to keep his commands, gently forgives us as he himself, because of becoming one of us, can understand the temptations we go through;

“He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.” (Hebrews 5: 2)

gentleness03So too can we gently forgive others when we remember how gently Jesus deals with us.

One of the favourite verses that many Christians love, myself included, is the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit,(Galatians 5: 22), but I feel we have to first study the opposite of this verse (Galatians 5: 19- 21), before we can allow that precious fruit to flourish and grow in our lives. Gentleness is one of the powerful fruits the Holy Spirit gives us, but first look what Paul warns us about in verse Galatians 5: 20

hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, dissensions, factions, envy.

Just by turning on the evening news we will view examples of nearly all of these. Even in our church communities, sadly, we can experience dissensions, discord, factions, but a spirit of gentleness can dilute many problems, we must choose to use this beautiful gift when confronted by any examples of the above.

Reminding ourselves that all the fruits of the Holy Spirit are gifts, helps us to be confident to use them, we don’t have to work hard to avail ourselves of them, we can just graciously accept them.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 22 – 23)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | February 10, 2017

Make Every Effort To Rest

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…”

(Hebrews 4: 11)

I love writing and I love words, especially words that roll off the tongue and have such a fascinating meaning. rest01One such word is, oxymoron.  It is fun to say and so much fun to add to the list of odd sayings that fall into that category. We all say them without realising, e.g. youthful senior, act naturally, plastic glasses, pretty ugly, civil war, new classic. (I am sure you are all thinking of some good ones right now.)

So, when we were studying Hebrews in our Bible study class I was surprised to read making an effort and rest in the one sentence. It seemed an oxymoron to put effort and rest together, so I began to explore why the writer of Hebrews would coin those two words.

The children of Israel first heard this beautiful promise when God spoke to Moses, assuring him that his presence would go with then to the promised land and they would find rest.

“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”” (Exodus 33: 14) 

This beautiful promise of rest meant a lot to the Psalmists and they began to get a deeper understanding of what God was promising. David realised that true rest could only be achieved through seeking God.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” (Psalm 62: 1)

Getting enough rest is a common mantra in today’s stressful lifestyle many live. We are often told how important it is to sleep so many hours a night, to remain healthy. God’s rest has a much deeper meaning and life changing effect on our lives. He is offering rest from all that besets us, rest from constant worry, a rest from anxiety, rest from carrying any burden weighing us down, rest from sorrow. rest02

But first of all, we do have to make sure we are very close to the Heavenly Father so we can really absorb all the benefits of the sort of rest he is offering us.

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

Psalm 91 (one of my favourites) goes on to outline the great benefits of being in the protection of that mighty shadow and when I read it I think it sounds like an insurance contract and I feel like shouting at the end

I am signing up for that!

Jesus also extends this beautiful offer to those who choose to follow him; rest03

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

Again, some effort is needed to get to that rest. We have to come to him. Too often we spend needless energy trying to fix problems in our own strength not realising we can creep into the protection of that mighty shadow and allow the rest that the Father has promise take over.

One of my favourite quotes about rest comes from St Augustine;

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” 

 

Posted by: Jo | February 3, 2017

Seeking God’s Face

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

(Psalm 105: 4)

face01Our little baby granddaughter has reached that stage of recognising the familiar faces of the family and some friends who visit frequently, but has now become quite wary of strange faces she does not know and makes this very clear by the expression on her face. I was thinking about how important faces are for us humans when my grandson made us all laugh when he saw me when I had taken off my glasses, “Put them back on Nana. You look like a stranger.” was his response. We often say to a friend, “Oh I was so glad to see a familiar face in the crowd”.  Faces of our loved ones remain in our minds long after they have died.

So, when we read these impassioned cries of the Psalmists who long to see the face of God, we get a glimpse of what they really mean. They wanted to have an intimate relationship with him. They want to be so familiar with him, they want to please him in everyway;

“Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119: 135)

face02We know ourselves that when we please those we love, we receive in return the glow of a smile and our little baby granddaughter rewards us with such a big smile when she sees our faces, ours shine as well.

So many of the verses contain a great longing to be close to the Heavenly Father especially when they are going through difficulties and long for the warmth of his presence;

“Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.” (Psalm 31: 16)

Only Moses was allowed to see God so, the longing for the rest of mankind was unfulfilled until the Heavenly Father graciously sent his Son to reflect all his beautiful, unconditional love.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.”  Made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4: 6)

Allowing Jesus to portray the face of the Heavenly Father is an incredible gift from God, a beautiful compliment to all mankind, a becoming one with us as a sign of love, a bonding that could not be broken.

face03We cannot see the physical face of Jesus today, but his sacrifice for us has allowed us into the presence of the Father and the warmth of being close to him is to feel the warmth of his smile and the radiance of that smile fills us with a radiance we can pass on to others.

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (Psalm 34: 5)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | January 27, 2017

How Beautiful Are Your Feet?

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns.”.”

(Isaiah 52: 7)

beautifulfeet01Our church is spending the month of January concentrating on the spreading of the good news by missionaries, but also pointing out that spreading that good news is also a part of every Christian’s walk. Last week our Pastor really grabbed my attention by suddenly flashing on the overhead screen this question;

How beautiful are your feet?

And then he filled the screen with the verse from Isaiah 52: 7

He went on to encourage all of us to examine our everyday lives to see where the Lord could use us to carry that beautiful message of good news and as he finished he asked us all to stand and look at our feet as he prayed a blessing on every pair of feet in the building.

To be honest I don’t think my feet are beautiful at all, but all through this week I have been thinking through that compelling verse from Isaiah and delving into what it means for all of us. In Isaiah’s beautifulfeet02time messengers were a very important component of everyday living, and mostly messages were delivered on foot so those feet became very special when the news was good tidings.

We as followers of Jesus have so much good news to carry to others, but sometimes our feet are not on the right path to reach those who are the most wanting or those who most need glad tidings to replace sadness, grief in their lives. Some need to hear the message of peace instead of discord and some have never heard of the salvation freely given to them.

The best news for mankind arrived through the messenger, the angel of the Lord;

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10 – 11)

Choosing where we walk is a big part of following the Lord’s commands and we all need guidance as to which path will allow us to bless others with that wonderful good news, the messenger angel had for all people. I often go back to the wisdom the Psalmists used. God’s word will show us where to go.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)

Proverbs is the other great source of wisdom which spans centuries and all cultures and is as relevant today as when it was written thousands of years ago.  I love this verse which talks about “snow” beautifulfeet03in harvest which sounds odd until you realise that the snow refers to a cold drink which brings refreshment not only to the hearers, but also to the master who sent the message. How lovely to think our feet bringing good news to others will also be a joy to our Heavenly Father who sends us in his name

“Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.” (Proverbs 25: 13)

 

Posted by: Jo | January 20, 2017

When Doubt Creeps In

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”.”

(Matthew 14: 31)

doubt01Last week I read a very deep and thoughtful blog written by a Christian, in which the author boldly and honestly shared the agony she was going through as doubt about her faith was flooding her whole being.  The response she received in comments was amazing, as believers rallied around her with their also honest stories, with prayers, Bible verses, lovely encouraging words of hope.  As I reread her words, I was struck by her bravery in sharing a weakness that a lot of us try to hide from others and I was reminded that the Psalmists were also very brave in writing about their struggles when they felt God had forgotten them or perhaps wasn’t even there.

“Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Psalm 77: 8 – 9)

Being honest in front of God is a great way of dealing with doubt and the result of this honesty is the Psalmist regaining his great trust in God even before the Psalm finishes, as he remembers the deeds and miracles he has already witnessed;

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; Yes, I will remember your miracles long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77: 11 – 12)

doubt02Sometimes we begin to have doubts about our selves and a feeling of unworthiness can envelope us as we begin to focus on our shortcomings and find it hard to believe that our Heavenly Father could even love us at all. Again, being honest about our feelings before the Heavenly Father, can bring a rush of reassurances from him and as the writer of Hebrews tells us, we can approach him confidently so we can be bathed in grace and mercy;

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)

Jesus assures us that faith is not measured by size, like the world measures wealth, status, or power, in fact he tells the disciples that faith as small as a mustard seed could have the power to move mountains.

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17: 20)

doubt03A simple statement, I BELIEVE will move a mountain of doubt. And even if we begin to doubt, the Lord will catch us in his arms just as he did for Peter. (Matthew 14: 31)

 

Posted by: Jo | January 13, 2017

For His Name’s Sake

“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

(Psalm 23:3)

namesake01Just recently I was watching a dedication of a new wing at one of our hospitals which was to be named in honour of a tireless worker in our community who had worked hard at raising money for research and had now passed away.  His name would be now revered in big letters at the entrance to this wing. Later as we were driving through our city I saw many examples of names emblazoned on schools, parks and buildings which were an honouring of certain person/ persons. While I was contemplating the importance of remembering these names, I thought of the many times God speaks to his people through the prophets, telling them of the importance of his Name and how it is to be respected and honoured.

“But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my Name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.” (Ezekiel 20: 22)

When we belong to the Lord we assume the incredible privilege of bearing his name. When Samuel is speaking to God’s people, he reminds them to remember in awe what this means;namesake02

“For the sake of his great Name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.” (1 Samuel 12: 22)

As I was reading some of the names on the schools around our neighbourhood I thought to myself, “I wonder who that person really was?” and wondered why the name had been preserved, but as there was no record readily available to tell future generations of the full story, the significance of the name was lost. The Lord has promised that will never happen to his Name.

When we read the beautiful Psalm 23, we begin to understand what, For his name’s sake, means.  When we bear his name, we will be lead by the caring Shepherd, comforted by him, protected, never alone, surrounded with goodness and love, but there is an underlying message for this abundance of blessings. We will be guided on paths of righteousness for a reason, the glorifying and preserving of his Name.  When we display his righteousness through living and obeying his commands we are giving witness to his name.

Sometimes in our human frailty, we think our walk with the Lord is mainly about us and our needs, but when we realise the honour it is to be called one of his, we long for our lives to be a living testament to that Everlasting Name. There is a lovely song, Your Name is a Strong and Mighty Tower, namesake03which expounds on this theme and one of the verses sums this up.

Jesus in your name we pray

Come and fill our hearts today

Lord give us strength to live for you

And glorify your name. 

 

Check out youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj7xTDlOqog (You Are My Strong Tower by Kutless)

Posted by: Jo | January 6, 2017

Refreshing Our Memories

“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body.”

(2 Peter 1: 12- 23)

remember02Christmas time is a time of family gatherings and we were fortunate to be able to gather our bunch all together on Christmas day this year. When we all get together somehow all the old stories get told and the grandchildren, (now mostly adults with only two little ones) love to hear these stories and especially if about them or even more important about their parents, when they were children. This year one of our daughters pulled out of her Christmas present a piece of soap attached to a rope. Her sisters burst into gales of laughter, while the grandchildren begged me to tell the story behind this strange addition to her present.

Memories are very precious in a family and the retelling of them is such an important part of keeping the family history alive. When Peter was writing to the young fledging Christians, he wanted them to be very much aware of the importance of this in their spiritual walk and of course a great reminder to us as well. When we go through difficult times and experience the wonderful intervention of the Holy Spirit and come through these trials with his help, there is a danger of slowly forgetting as life settles down again. remember04We need to keep those experiences in the fore front of our minds, to help us face bravely whatever revolts against us, and to remind ourselves of God’s power.

David knew very well how necessary this was

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.” (1 Chronicles 16: 11- 12)

Memories become so much more powerful when they are shared with others and just as we share them with our earthly families it is also very much a part of strengthening for the family of God, we belong to, when we love the Lord. Psalmists knew the recounting to future generations ensured knowledge of the Heavenly Father would never be lost for our children

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever, from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” (Psalm 79: 13)

The end of a year is often a time of refection and I found myself doing this as I was checking the nearly expired calendar for dates I needed to add to the new remember052017 calendar and while I read those scribbled notes, memories of some of the ugly times we went through came flooding back, but immediately wonderful memories of how the Lord carried us through surfaced, and I was able to spend time thanking him for being our rock this year. We can keep a calendar of his grace and mercy in our minds and constantly return to refreshing our memories of his incredible love so those beautiful memories always remain fresh in our minds.

Posted by: Jo | December 30, 2016

Putting On Our New Selves

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

(Ephesians 4:22 – 24)

puttingonournewselves02When I was, a child growing up in Australia, the beginning of the new school year coincided with the beginning of the new calendar year, so everything started afresh together.  As Christmas falls in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere our holidays stretched over a delightful 6-week period of lazy days on the beach and mostly running bare foot through our friends’ gardens with abandon, not really thinking about the year to come, but the start of the school year brought about a very distinct change in perspectives. Suddenly we needed to be focused, the lazy days of just indulging our selves, were now to finish, minds now had encompass new subjects to be studied at school, life assumed a new purpose.

As this new year arrives I began to reflect on what this means as being children of God and realised that newness in all its forms is a part of our walk with the Lord. Paul talks about “putting on a new self” which made me think again about my childhood. In Australia, all school children wore uniforms and of course proper school shoes, no runners, or flip-flops in those days. puttingonournewselves01After all those carefree days of not wearing shoes, made one very aware of what new shoes felt like! Putting on our new selves for the Lord may also make us aware of different life styles.

Paul also tells us that putting on this new self means discarding all those things that hinder us so we can grow in the knowledge of who our Lord is.

“…since you have taken off your old self, with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3: 9 – 10)

New year resolutions abound at this time of the year, and it’s a time of looking back to remember the good and the bad of the year we are leaving. Many of us wish we could turn back the clock somehow and change some of our actions. The wonder and the joy of belonging to the Lord is that we have incredible help to change at least our attitudes and not to be bound by what we have allowed to take over our lives. We can look honestly at ourselves and state quite plainly what we want to see changed in our lives and the Lord reassures us that when we do this, a remarkable change takes place and we become new creatures.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5: 17)

So, we can joyfully greet this new year knowing we leave the old behind and allow the Lord to change us so puttingonournewselves04we reassemble his image.

“and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:10)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 23, 2016

What Child Is This?

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:12)

whatisthischild01We have welcomed a new baby granddaughter into our family this year, and as I gaze at her sweet little face I am yet again, overcome with the wonder of new life. It is amazing how the sight of a little baby softens people’s faces and I enjoy being the one to be pushing the stroller as the wee one acts like a magnet and passers by stop what ever they are doing to catch a glimpse of this miracle of new birth.

As the shopping centers are once again flooded with the sounds of the old familiar carols, my mind is carried back to another small, vulnerable baby whose birth was to rock the earth. The beautiful carol, “What child is this?” poses a question for all mankind.  All of us wonder in awe with those first shepherds and reflect on those amazing words from the mouth of the angel of the Lord;

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 11)

The Creator of the universe allows his Son to become a human baby!

This astounding fact was the subject of our sermon this last Sunday, and made us all think again what this could mean and our pastor gave us an incredible quote to begin understanding this miracle.

God’s yes to humanity

When we go back to Genesis we read how God created the world and as we read the image.pngprogression from light, land, vegetation, day and night, sea creatures, land creatures (Genesis 1:1- 25) we see that his comment after each was;

“…And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1: 25) 

But the final creation is startlingly different as God decides to make creatures made in his own image and as he reflects on the final addition to the earth his comment expands;

“God saw all that he had made and it was VERY good.” (Genesis 1: 31)

A beautiful affirmation for us all, in his eyes we are all worthwhile and certainly worthwhile to send his Son in the form of a baby to become one of us.

The lyrics of the carol, “What child is this?” answer the question for us, the first verse includes this statement, Christ the King. The second verse, The Word made Flesh. The third verse, The King of kings. This is certainly no ordinary baby.

whatisthischild02So, as we listen to those beautiful carols and look into all the Nativity scenes we see in homes, churches and public places, we can say with conviction.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 14)

 

 

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