Posted by: Jo | December 15, 2017

Made With Love

“We continually remember before our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”

(1 Thessalonians 1: 3)

MadeWithLoveOne of my son-in laws has and endearing saying he uses when he asks his wife to make him a cup of coffee and this is the term he uses;

Please make it with love.

He was really echoing what Paul was saying to the young churches as to how important it was to always be prompted by love when serving the Lord in any capacity.

Chapter 13 in 1 Corinthians is a beautiful exposition of what real love means, and is a popular reading at marriages, but it has a far more deeper meaning than love between humans.  It is the very essence of our relationship with Jesus Christ and fortifies and binds together everything we do for him

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3: 14)

During the week our Women’s Bible study had a wind-up Christmas brunch and one of the speakers read a very thoughtful (sometimes funny) exposition of what the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 meant to women in this frantic preparation time preceding Christmas and even though we smiled we realised that the whole message of Christmas is wrapped in the word, love and if we leave that out everything we are doing becomes devoid of any real meaning. MadeWithLove02

This is what we heard;

  • If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love, I am just another decorator.
  • If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, but do not show love, I am just another cook.
  • If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.
  • If I sing in the choir and attend all the services, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point
  • Love stops the cooking to hug the child
  • Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband
  • Love is kind though harried and tired
  • Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linen
  • Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way
  • Love doesn’t only give to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
  • Love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
  • Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust
  • But giving the gift of love will endure

MadeWithLove03Paul sums it all up in these words;

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13: 13)

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by: Jo | December 8, 2017

Empathy For Others

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

(Hebrews 13: 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted by: Jo | December 1, 2017

Heeding God’s Voice

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

(Deuteronomy 30: 20)

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

Come and Hear What God Wants to Say to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: Jo | November 25, 2017

Perfect Peace

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

(Philippians 4:7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Jo | November 17, 2017

Worshipping An Awesome God!

“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!”

(Psalm 47: 2)

WorshipGod03It is always surprising to me how the meaning of words can change with general usage and with time lose all the depth of the power they first had when they came into being. One of those words is, awesome.  Young people use it with abandon, using it to describe a new article of clothing a friend is wearing, or some fun activity they participated in or to just interject it into a story someone is telling them, and by doing so, rob that incredible word of its true impact, rendering it to a casual word uttered without any thought to its real meaning. The other word that has suffered the same fate is worship.  We have heard it casually, such as

  • he worships the ground she walks on
  • all she worships is money
  • young teens worship the latest rock star

Again, taking away the true seriousness of this word.

The dictionary defines the word, awesome as Inspired by what is subline and majestic

The dictionary describes the word worship as To honour, to revere, to regard with deep devotion, to adore.

WorshipGod02So, when the Psalmist called the Heavenly Father, awesome, they were using it in its true sense and again they knew the true meaning of worship.

“Come, let us bow down and worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95: 6 – 7)

Our church is conducting a wonderful series on studying the book of Revelation, and on Sunday our young worship leader led us through Chapter 4, entitled, Worship and the Royal Throne of God.  John is taken by the Holy Spirit and can witness true worship and watches in awe as numerous creatures praise God continually saying;

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4: 8)

Then the 24 elders cast down their crowns before the Throne of the Most High God and John hears them exclaim;

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4: 11)

True worshipping of an awesome God.

Our young Pastor then asked us to rethink about what we considered worship to be and, WorshipGod01in particular, our own participation in worship. I had to think long and hard about this and realised that perhaps I had become casual about praising our Heavenly Father and not remembering his majesty and forgetting what an awesome God he is.

Going back to re-read many of the Psalms is a great way to revive our sense of awe and a wonderful way to instill real worship into our prayers which I find so powerful in the Psalmist’s words;

“Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God. You are very great; and you are clothed with splendour and majesty.” (Psalm 104: 1)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | November 10, 2017

Who Can Be Trusted In Today’s World?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

(Proverbs 3:5)

  • Trust01Social media publishes “fake news”
  • Politicians speak falsehoods.
  • Lovers betray each other.
  • Famous people disappoint us when sordid happenings in their past lives are exposed.
  • Friends let us down.

Who can we trust in today’s world when greed, power, sex seem to take centre stage?

When I was a child my father would tell us of contracts he made which were sealed with a handshake, which he called a gentleman’s agreement, a complete trust in the other’s promise to deliver. I cannot imagine that happening today. We have often heard the flippant reply “trust me” when we know the speaker is far from trustworthy. Lawyers would laugh at my father’s innocence in expecting a handshake to stand up in court.

Fortunately, in the midst of this turmoil of distrust, there is one solid, unchanging, unmoving, solid foundation that never moves, never changes, always trustworthy

The Word of God

The Heavenly Father has given us his holy word to ensure us that he can be totally trusted whatever chaos is happening in the world around us. It is surprising to look through a concordance and find the many verses that contain the word, trust. When we see one word emphasised we need to take heed. Trusting God and his Word is the basis of our belief.Trust02

“O, Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” (2 Samuel 7: 28)

Trust is very much a part of the prayers of the Psalmists and can be found over and over again in their praises to him, repeating how comforting it is to have someone we can completely trust.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9: 10)

Too often we still place our trust in shaky methods of dealing with life’s problems. I frequently mistakenly think that I have everything under control and blindly go ahead in my own strength with whatever presents it self to me during the day, often causing myself lots of grief by not asking the Lord first to direct my path. As I have grown older I am learning to start my days by asking God to be with me in any decisions I might have to make and then trying to keep that prayer firmly in my mind as the day unfolds and if I know in advance of a major happening looming in the family, my husband and I join Trust03together in handing it over to the Father.

One of my favourite songs we sing at church echoes that thought and comes straight from Scripture.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)

 

Posted by: Jo | November 3, 2017

Spontaneous Prayer

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18)

SpontaneousPrayer01Last week, one of our granddaughters popped in to see us for a quick visit, just to see how we were, as my husband has not been well. Her time with us brought us great joy and her chatter lifted our spirits and we were delighted with the warm relationship we have with her.  I was thinking back on this visit when our Bible study was studying prayer and, in particular, the verse from Thessalonians where Paul was encouraging young Christians to pray continually so their relationship with Christ Jesus would never grew cold. I suddenly realised that the Heavenly Father likes us to pop in and see him spontaneously without feeling that we need to ask him a whole lot of pressing needs, but can come just like our granddaughter, to spend an intimate time with him, just sharing whatever we are doing. I always find great wisdom in the Psalms, and the Psalmists knew how important it was to be constantly in touch with the Lord

“Look to the Lord and his strength; and seek his face always.” (Psalm 105: 4)

One way to do this is to talk to him while we do those mundane tasks, such as

  • washing the dishes
  • driving on one of those countless errands
  • running on that treadmill
  • not only keeps us in touch

helps the time to pass quickly. I watch a lot of the young people nowadays carrying that SpontaneousPrayer02smart phone, seemingly fastened to their hand, and chatting to someone wherever they are.  We could do the same chatting to our Heavenly Father without even purchasing a smart phone.

Spontaneous prayer often results in an honest outpouring of what we are feeling right at the moment. The other day I had taken a walk in the afternoon down to the waterfront which is quite close to where we live and as I rounded a corner a little gust of wind scattered beautiful Autumn leaves from the magnificent golden and red trees which line our street, over me and others walking along. At the same time, I spied the sun shimmering on the water of the harbour and I had to exclaim out aloud, (not too loudly so as not to startle those around me), my praise to God for the beauty he had created.

“O’ Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8: 1)

Of course, we also need those times when we set aside everything else and concentrate our thoughts of praise and thanksgiving and forgiveness in prayer as we seek God’s guidance and direction. Times when we need to stop speaking and listen to his voice. SpontaneousPrayer03

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

But the spontaneous prayers bring about a new and intimate touch to our relationship which deepens our walk with the Heavenly Father.

 

Posted by: Jo | October 27, 2017

Humbling Ourselves Before The Lord

“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up”

(James 4: 10)

Humble03I was reading an article just recently about a well, known statesman in our country who had just died, after a long career in government and the article was extolling the wonderful things he had achieved in his lifetime.  The words all sounded familiar for an obituary until I came to this sentence, “He was a very humble man.”  I was surprised to see them and then had to question myself as to why I was surprised as I did not usually associate that word with prominent, dynamic people constantly in the public eye.  I then began to rethink what being humble meant. I first went to the dictionary;

  • Having a low estimate of oneself
  • Not self asserting or assuming
  • Opposite of proud

I then went to Scripture and found that an equally prominent man, also with a huge job leading people, also achieving incredible feats, was described in the same way.

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 2: 3)

When we remember how God honoured Moses by speaking face to face with him and entrusting the sacred commandments to him, we realise that being humble is a worthy attribute to have and one that the Heavenly Father rewards.

So how do we assume the mantle of humility?

We have all probably heard the joke about the man who told all his friends of how proud he was that he was a humble man.  Pride!!  It certainly gets in the way of our best Humble04intentions and there are several verses of warning about how quickly pride can bring about disaster e.g.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18)

Sometimes we mistakenly allow pride to confuse our walk with the Lord. We can take pride in the fact that we don’t need any help in dealing with life’s struggles, not realising that attitude builds up a barrier between us and the Lord who longs to be a part of our everyday life and to lift us up when despair drags us down, but if we don’t ask we miss out on that healing touch. We need to be humble enough to admit we haven’t got it all together.

We can take pride in our achievements, neglecting to acknowledge how the Lord has blessed us so we are able to achieve. We have heard the expression, he prides himself on being a self-made man, thus ignoring the Lord’s hand altogether.

Sometimes it is hard to admit we need help from others, as pride in a different form takes over and we allow ourselves to suffer unnecessarily when help could so easily bring about relief.

Jesus himself is unashamed to tell us he is humble and welcomes us to share the same way with him, Humble05anything that is burdening us. So, we can be lifted by the loving hand of the Lord.

“Come to me all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11: 28 – 29)

Posted by: Jo | October 25, 2017

Dealing With Worry

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

(Matthew 6: 25)

Worry01I must admit I am an incessant worrier. One of my daughters told me recently if I am not worrying, I worry what I should be worrying about. I am not proud of that at all and have tried over and again to curb this bad habit of mine and to trust in the Lord that he has everything under control.  Last week, I was holding my youngest granddaughter (only 14 months old), in my arms as she slept in my lap, and as I looked at her trusting little face I remembered a beautiful verse in the Psalms that likened us as safe as a little child being held in the arms of our Heavenly Father.

“But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131: 2)

Small children totally trust the adult to hold them safely in his or her arms and as I held my little darling, I made a promise to myself to remember this moment and when that wretched worry starts to consume me to think of myself being a child being firmly held in the powerful arms of the Heavenly Father and knowing that he will deal with anything that is worrying me. I can hand it over to him.

Jesus himself tells us to become like children and he demonstrates this by calling a little child to him and saying; Worry02

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3 – 4)

Jesus was speaking to his disciples who were being caught up in the world’s thinking and worrying as who was going to be the greatest in heaven, when the little child was content to be just called to stand beside Jesus.

I started to explore this beautiful thought of staying childlike in our relationship with the Lord, when the world is busy shouting, grow up, and act like an adult. God spoke through the prophet, Isaiah, to ensure the children of Israel that they could relax as they would be comforted like a mother comforts a child so there was no need to worry about whatever was happening around them.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66: 13)

Worry03We sing a beautiful song in our worship time in our church and the final line in every stanza ends with;

I am a child of God

I am going to put my trust in that amazing truth!

 

 

Posted by: Jo | October 13, 2017

They Are A Law To Themselves

“They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honour.”

(Habakkuk 1: 7)

Why01This week, the study my husband and I do together every morning, featured the book of Habakkuk and in the first chapter, the prophet is complaining to God at the state of the world as he sees it. As we read the first chapter I felt I was echoing Habakkuk’s words. He was horrified at what he was witnessing, at what was happening around him and I could relate to every word he said.  I too had cried out to God when I first heard of the senseless shooting of innocent people at a fun music concert and then the constant stream of persecuted refugees fleeing their own countries in flimsy boats was heart breaking to watch on the news. This is what Habakkuk cried out to God;

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds.” (Habakkuk 1:2)

Habakkuk felt free to complain to God and God answers him and in his answer, I found an inkling of what the real problem was then and still exists in our own century. Why02The answer comes in these words;

“They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honour.” (Habakkuk 1: 7)

As I have noted before in my blogs, I often come across a phrase used in our everyday speech that comes from Scripture and can remember my parents talking about some arrogant person who didn’t think he needed to obey any laws and consequently did what ever he chose to do and they would shake their heads and mutter, “he acts like he is a law to himself”.  God explains to Habakkuk that the evil perpetuated in his time and of course in our present time is done by those who have abandoned God’s law and allowed their own evil selves to be the ones they honour, honouring God and his righteousness, totally ignored.

The giving of the law by the Heavenly Father was always intended to be a gift to God’s people, not a burden of commands to burden them down, but a liberating pattern for all God’s family to live by, a protection from being caught up in evil practices, a guideline for living at peace with one another. The prophet, Isaiah, learnt what happened when we live by God’s righteous laws;

“The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

Why03At the end of the book Habakkuk is changed. He has learnt to trust that God is in control and will eventually work out all things for his glory and the closing verse is a good one for us all. Like Habakkuk we need to remember the Mighty God we serve and as we trust him he will give us the strength to follow him and to live by faith in him, despite what is raging around us.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3: 19)

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