Posted by: Jo | April 21, 2017

Accepting The New

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life.”

(Romans 6: 4)

AcceptingTheNew03Just recently our young grandson came bouncing into our apartment in his usual exuberant style and leapt into his grandfather’s lap for a cuddle and then turned to me with another leap. He is nearly five years old and seems to be all arms and legs, so fitting into our laps is proving to be a bit awkward!!  He then quite seriously studied us both and exclaimed;

You two are shrinking!!

He was probably right there, but when I tried to explain he too was changing, he was unable to grasp that he was growing and that was partly the reason for not much room on those laps. A new era was beginning for him.

Sometimes we are like my little grandson, accepting the “new” in our lives is difficult to achieve. We want to hang on to what is familiar, even though the familiar is sometimes painful. We want to accept newness in our lives, but still get entangled in the old doubts, regrets, failures, guilt. Sometimes we want to hang on to what we thought made us happy, but in reality, can be destructive, causing us to falter and not be flooded with the joy of being new creatures. I read a fitting description of this;

Jesus brings a newness that cannot be combined with the old.

Our greatest promise in accepting Jesus’ gift of forgiveness is his promise of making all things new. We are given a new self and Paul urges us to put on that new self, bravely.

“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)

AcceptingTheNew02I like the imagery of “putting on the new self” I can see myself going to my wardrobe cupboard and viewing my clothes and deciding that I no longer need that drab lifeless piece of clothing I can choose to discard it and choose a fresh new apparel to clothe me today. Paul advises us to be clothed with the Lord Jesus himself and certainly that would give us a fresh outlook on the day;

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13: 14)

Sometimes newness in our lives comes from circumstances that have shattered our familiar way of living and we flounder to cope with this new way of life. This is when we can take great comfort from knowing that the Holy Spirit will step in and give us just the new self we need, to do battle with all our fears and worries. We will be able to accept whatever life throws at us.AcceptingTheNew01

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

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 13, 2017

Fear Of Death Dispelled

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

(Hebrews 2: 14 – 15)

GoodFridayDuring our church service this week, we sang a beautiful song of praise and one line kept echoing in my mind long after we had returned home. A line that describes the wonder of the cross and what Jesus achieved by his selfless giving of himself to save us from death and to grant us eternal life;

Trampling over death with death

Our sermon was a powerful one on this theme and simply titled, Victory! As Good Friday draws near there are many questions about how this particular day could ever have been described as Good, but when we realise the incredible battle that went on that day and that the end result was Jesus defeating Satan, it surely was a good day, especially for us, the children of God.

This power over death was long promised for the children of God, the prophet, Hosea, encouraged them by telling them that God had promised them he would ransom them from the grave;

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O, death are your plagues? Where O grave is your destruction?” (Hosea 13: 14 – 15)

Good Friday church services are usually sombre and reflective, and rightly so, but when we remember the victory that was won over the power of evil, we can weep with Jesus through his agony, but rejoice that his sacrifice conquered death. If we see the day as one of only mourning we will miss out on seeing, in wonder, the amazing victory achieved for mankind.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2: 15)

GoodFriday02Sorrow mixed with joy can certainly describe Good Friday, but when we add victory to the day, it takes on a whole different meaning for us and our worship on that day can be filled with that power and we can confidently exclaim with all believers;

“But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15: 57)

Posted by: Jo | April 7, 2017

Who Is My Neighbour?

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

(Luke 10: 29)

Neighbour03My husband and I live in an apartment building and have done for several years, so consequently, we know all the other occupants. This last week a long-time resident sold her apartment and suddenly we realised we were going to have new neighbours moving in. The chatter around the hallways, was definitely centered around this new change, about to happen, and went like this; I wonder who bought the apartment/ will they be young and noisy/ I hope they don’t bring small children with them/ do they have a pet/ will they fit into our quiet, well managed lifestyle we already have here. We have all been left wondering;

Who is our neighbour going to be?

Jesus tells a powerful parable about this very question in the story of the Good Samaritan when “an expert in the Jewish law” wants to test Jesus about what he thinks about God’s law;

“On one occasion and expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10: 25)

Jesus replies with another question, asking the expert what he thinks the law is saying. The expert who obviously prides himself on how knowledgeable he is, quickly quotes straight from Scripture;

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbour as Neighbour01yourself.”  (the expert is quoting from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6: 5 Leviticus 19: 18) 

I often get a jolt when I read this story as I too could quote this well known saying, but would I be able to do what Jesus asks the expert to do?

“…. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10: 28) 

Surely Jesus would not expect me to love these new neighbours if they are wild teenagers who will throw late night parties. Surely, he means we are to love those who fit into our idea of “nice” people. Surely there must be some limits to which neighbours we love.

Jesus repeats his powerful message repeatedly when he is teaching his disciples, but there is a subtle change in the way he delivers the message;

“A new commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34 – 35)

Neighbour02When we are followers of the Lord we have a far greater responsibility, we are now his ambassadors, ready to promote his beautiful message of love. He has showed us perfect love in the way he has loved us, now we need to imitate him in the same way and love our neighbours whoever they are.

Before I meet these new neighbours, who are moving into our building, I pray that the Lord will remind me of the wonderful way he has loved me, despite all my obvious faults and the hidden ones he also knows, so he can help me…

Love my neighbour!

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 31, 2017

Making It Through The Winter

“See the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

(Song of Songs 2: 11 – 12)

winter01We have just experienced here in Vancouver, what one newspaper described as, “a brutal winter”. Other Provinces will protest and regale us with stories of how much worse their winter was than ours, and yes, we are known for our beautiful mountains and our evergreen stately trees, and our usually wet winter, but this year, rain was replaced with violent winds, snow storms and below freezing temperatures. One person was heard to remark, “I don’t know if I will make it through this winter!

Sometimes our lives feel like we are going through a brutal winter and we may also in despair cry out, “I don’t think I will make it though.” The Lord always hears those desperate cries and always has words of comfort for us, however hard our struggles are. In the Old Testament, God spoke his words through his prophets, but these same words have been preserved for us to turn to when we need to hear that soothing voice.

winter02I love this verse in Hosea which reminds us that the Lord is there beside us, even during those winter times in our lives, but he is also encouraging us to hang in there as he will also bring a refreshing spring to revive us.

“Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6: 3)

Hosea as well as assuring us that the Lord will help us, is also reminding us that we too have a part to play during those challenging times in our lives. Twice he tells us to acknowledge the Lord even when we may be despairing, in fact to be active and pressing on no matter what is surrounding us.

Last week, after I was so tired of this winter weather, I stepped out on to my balcony and to my surprise, on my vine that trails around my trellis, I could see a sprig of green. The vine had stood looking brown and lifeless all though this savage winter, but now new life was springing forth, a beautiful sign of hope.

winter03When the children of Israel were bowed down by trouble and felt they too were caught in the depth of despair, God speaks through the prophet, Ezekiel, and offers them, like my little sprig of green, a beautiful word of hope;

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11: 19) 

So, if the winter storms of life have left us with heavy hearts of stone, we must press on to acknowledge that we are the beloved children of the Heavenly Father who promises to come and refresh us with his life-giving spring rains.

Posted by: Jo | March 24, 2017

An Everlasting Inheritance

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

(Psalm 16: 5 – 6)

Inheritance01Just recently I was reading, what for me was a very sad story, an article describing an ugly court case between two brothers and their sister who was contesting the inheritance left by their father. The sister felt she had been unfairly treated by the brothers, who she felt had robbed her of what was rightly hers, and her words were laced with anger at her brothers as she gave her version of what she thought her father intended in his will.  This is a far too common story and always depresses me when I see families divided and quarrelling about money.

When we use the word, inheritance, it does not always mean money, and it is commonly used when we are describing others;

  • She has inherited the graciousness of her mother. 
  • He has inherited his father’s gift of generosity.  

We can be grateful when we look back at those loved ones of our family who left us with delightful inheritances,

  • The gift of laughter, especially when things didn’t look good 
  • Making us aware when we were children, of others who were not as well off as we were  
  • Manners handed down from mothers, practising them never leaving us.  

There is a beautiful example of this in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he recognises and reminds Timothy of the powerful inheritance he received from his mother and grandmother.

 “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which, first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1: 5)

Inheritance02The gift of faith would be worth more than an inheritance of millions.

We can strive to leave this as a legacy for our own children and grandchildren.

We as beloved children of the Heavenly Father are ensured of the most incredible inheritance, it never runs out, always available, will fill our every need. We don’t even need to remember a password to access the richest of blessings.

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1: 11 – 12)

The beautiful story of God rescuing his people reminds us that our inheritance also comes with an insurance policy. God tells his people he has rescued them from the terror of being adrift in an uncaring world;

“But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.” (Deuteronomy 4:20)

Inheritance03Once we are his, we receive the inheritance immediately.  We can call upon the wealth of his blessings, just by seeking an intimate relationship with him. I call it running to the bank when you most need the Holy Spirit. We just need to stay close to him to hear that whisper

 

You belong to me. My inheritance belongs to you!

 

Posted by: Jo | March 17, 2017

Kingdom People

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”

(Ephesians 2: 19)

KOG02During our discussion time in our Home Group, recently we were talking about citizenship and what that means to all of us. We have been meeting together for over ten years so we certainly know each other very well and of cause we all know many of us have come from different countries before settling in Canada. Our discussion ended with a beautiful and joyful realisation that we now could claim that we were all Kingdom people, our citizenship firmly established in the kingdom of heaven. We were no longer divided by where we had been born. We are bound together by the love extended to us by the king of kings, the lord Jesus himself and could join him in his kingdom.

We are studying the gospel of Matthew and are spending a great deal of time looking specifically at Jesus’ words so we don’t miss any of the deep meaning behind them.

Jesus begins his teaching ministry with these words;

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4: 17)

KOG03We tend to think that being in heaven means after we die, but when we look again at these words, we see Jesus is saying heaven is near, meaning he has brought heaven to us here on earth.  Seeking repentance and realising we are bereft without his Holy Spirit, brings about the blessing of entering the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3)

After our Bible study finished I became fascinated by the number of references there is in Scripture to the word, kingdom, in the Old Testament referring to God’s everlasting kingdom and in the New Testament we read the Heavenly Father granting us access to his beloved Son’s kingdom

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1: 13 – 14)

Being Kingdom People means our lives change in all sorts of ways so that others see how blessed we are to be members and long to enter that kingdom to receive forgiveness and all the blessings that go with that. When Jesus begins his ministry, he explains exactly how kingdom people will react to his words and his famous “Sermon on the Mount”, (Matthew 5-7) gives us beautiful guide lines for us citizens to observe.

We have lived in several different countries, and having quite a distinct Australian accent, I have always been distinguished as being foreign to the other people. I love now being a Kingdom person, a citizen like all the other Kingdom people distinguished only by my deep love of Jesus Christ.

KOG04The world has seen many kingdoms come and go, but we have this great assurance that God’s kingdom can never be shaken.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…” (Hebrews 12: 28)

Posted by: Jo | March 10, 2017

Expect 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)

We had an interesting question in one of the Bible studies I attend, which required a lot of thought before GracyAndMercy01answering and I was still thinking about it when the study ended. This was the question;

Which is your favourite verse in the Bible? Explain why you chose it.

The obvious spring to mind, John 3: 16 is why we can call ourselves beloved, forgiven children of God, but I began to think of all those other beautiful verses that bolster our courage, remind us of the ever-available help of our loving Heavenly Father, encourage us to constantly seek an audience with him (in prayer) and then to be flooded with grace and mercy, just by being with him. So, I chose Hebrews 4: 16. One I have turned to many, many times when I needed his grace and mercy to survive a turmoil in my life.

The beautiful story of the sinful woman being brave enough to interrupt a dinner party Jesus was attending, is an excellent example of this verse, (Luke7: 36 – 50) The woman knew she was a sinner, knew she was unworthy to come into the Lord’s presence, but knew deep within her being that her tears of repentance would be replaced with peace as grace and mercy was enveloping her.

“Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”” (Luke 7:50)

When I looked up the meaning of, grace, in the dictionary, I realised why the term, the grace of God, is so meaningful. This was one of the meanings.GracyAndMercy02

Grace (grās):  a manifestation of exceptional favour, a divine influence to regenerate and sanctify.

The definition of mercy also opened my eyes to why receiving mercy from God was such an incredible gift.

Mercy (mərsē): compassion on one who has no claim to receive kindness.

When Paul was writing to the fledging churches, he frequently began his letters by reminding them of the blessing of God’s grace.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1: 2)

One of the most important lessons we learn from the story of the sinful woman, is that she approached Jesus. The message from the Hebrews quote reminds us that unless we approach Jesus we miss that great outpouring of grace and mercy to help us in out time of need.

Confidence is the other important word in this verse. We don’t have to agonise if God will hear us, we don’t have to feel we are so unworthy he won’t GracyAndMercy03accept us, we can boldly expect grace and mercy. I first read this verse in the King James version of the Bible and it is still my favourite.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16 (K.J.V.))

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 3, 2017

Personal Best

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3: 14)

race01Quite a big group from my family have signed up to run in a half marathon race taking place in a few months.  Their ages range from twenty to those in their fifties. The race is on, in all sorts of different ways, those who are older anxious to show the younger ones that they too can run, the younger ones also want to prove they don’t spend their spare time, watching T.V or playing with their smart phones. The pressure is now mounting as preparation for this big race is essential and daily work outs and lots of running is becoming very much a part of all their lives. Thousands enter this race so I am not expecting any of our family to cross the line first, but I was pleased to hear that this is not their aim. The race itself is the most important part and the aim is to increase their personal best time.

The phrase, “personal best” struck a cord with me and I suddenly realised, that should be the aim for us all who follow Jesus. Not to make some half-hearted attempt to live the Christian life, but to persevere in everyway so we give of our best to the Lord

race02“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)

Some of the comments from friends, to the family runners, is also a good comparison to the Spiritual race we choose to run when we commit our lives to the Lord. Some sound familiar e.g.

  • I am too busy to exercise every day. (I don’t have time for prayer and Bible study)
  • My friends are not interested in running (I don’t know anybody who goes to church)
  • I am not good enough at running (I am too sinful, nobody would want me in their church)

I know that all my family members want one thing from this race. They want to complete the course and put their very best effort in doing just that.

This is exactly true for us too as we run that spiritual race and Paul puts it plainly; race03

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20: 24)

Personal best is a phrase I am going to incorporate into my life. It is a liberating thought for all of us. We don’t have to worry if those around us are better runners than us, we don’t have to worry about those who are ahead of us or those who are behind us, all we need to spur us on is the Holy Spirit’s encouragement and to know at the end we will hear.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25: 21)

 

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)

 

 

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