Posted by: Jo | November 20, 2015

The Wonder Of Praise

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; Give thanks to him and praise his name”

(Psalm 100:4)

image One of my daughters works in a management position in a big busy office and has quite a lot of responsibility with a team of others she supervises and often felt that perhaps nobody was aware of how diligently she performed her tasks, but was pleasantly surprised to be called into her overseers’ office last week to be told that her boss had received an e-mail from another person in management which was essentially a glowing report of my daughter’s work ethics. My daughter later confided to me how that one acknowledgement had given her such a lift and she suddenly realised that her efforts had been recognised.

We can all relate to my daughter’s story about the wonderful power praise has. Lots of seminars have been given about how to use praise in raising our children, encouraging those suffering from low esteem, allowing slow learners to blossom, cementing relationships in marriage by praising our spouses. We all function so much better with praise being an essential part of our lives.

Scripture has much to say about praise. Checking the word in a concordance will give you pages of reference and the majority of the verses are praising God. I was wondering about why this was so, as God certainly doesn’t need praise in the way humans need it, and then as I read one of David’s psalms I suddenly realised that when David used the word he was recognising the incredible attributes of our Heavenly Father; his forgiveness; his compassion; his deep love for us; his power over evil; his out pouring of blessings. When we recognise and tell God we do know who he is and we know who we are in relationship to him, love and blessings flow between us. Praising God is recognising who he is.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:2 – 5)

image It is so easy to forget that when we opt to follow the Lord, every aspect of our life is now shared with him and this becomes such a pleasant experience if we remember to acknowledge that through praise;

“Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him.” (Psalm 147:1)

When we learn to recognise the wonderful attributes of God through praising him, we find that as we do, we stop focusing on ourselves, we are freed from being self absorbed, we begin to notice the attributes of those around us which in turn allows us to give praise to those who need it.

The psalmists had a great grasp about what it meant to praise God and vowed praising would be a lifelong practice.

“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” (Psalm 146:1 – 2)

Posted by: Jo | November 13, 2015

Walk With Heads Held High

“I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high”

(Leviticus 26:13)

image One of my granddaughters is a member of a university women’s soccer team and this last weekend her team was playing an important game in an out-of-Province competition and they won. I was telling one of my friends about the win and she was very impressed as now they proceed to the next level and she said to me. “They can certainly hold their heads up high now!” Her comment made me think about all the meanings behind that phrase and I remembered hearing it in my childhood as I heard my parents discussing a friend who had gone through some tough times, “Now he doesn’t need to be ashamed, he can hold his head high.”

Body language does speak loudly and shame can be shown clearly by downcast eyes and head bent low. Guilt, sorrow, depression, low self esteem, can have the same effect as if something heavy is actually hanging around one’s neck and the effort of straining to look for any joy, proves too difficult. The psalmists were certainly brave enough to admit how they could be devastated by raging emotions;

“Why are you downcast, O, my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:5)

But it as if the writer suddenly comes to his senses and tells himself;

“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)

He ends the Psalm by repeating those words to remind himself to keep the reason for hope firmly embedded in his mind. A good lesson for all of us.

David also has some good advice when we are downcast by whatever causes our heads to droop;

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

image These wise words tell us not to focus on that snare, whatever is trapping us in despair, but to look away, don’t allow the problem to entangle us, look beyond it and look to the Lord.

Paul gives a very good description of that low feeling that can overtake any of us.

“For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn- conflicts on the outside, fears within.” (2 Corinthians 7:5)

But Paul remembers his, and our source of all comfort, and realises it was God who comforted them all by sending someone to stand in for him.

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” (2 Corinthians 7:6)

The God of all comfort is always standing by ready to take away any of those ugly feelings that can overtake us and trap us in that snare that keeps our heads down low, but we need to hold up our heads high and remember we are his children and he has promised to free us from what hinders us to live the abundant life.

imageThe old, old hymn still holds a wonderful message for us all;

Turn you eyes on Jesus

Look full in his wonderful face

And the things on earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.

Posted by: Jo | November 6, 2015

Inside Voices

“The quiet voices of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.”

(Ecclesiastes 9:17)

image We have a wild, noisy friend, who is Italian by birth, and I had to laugh at the caption she posted at the bottom of a picture posted on social media. It read, “Italians don’t have inside voices” We agreed with her that the description fitted her exactly. The phrase, “inside voices”, suddenly transported me back to my school teaching days when I used it to encourage a roomful of noisy kindergarteners that there were voices for the playground and inside voices we used in the classroom. In the playground one could be loud, but in the classroom we all needed quiet voices.

It is interesting to see that the Lord uses his quiet, inside voice to get our attention and if we are not listening carefully we will miss out on a close intimate relationship with him. I love the story in the book of Kings where the prophet, Elijah, is totally burnt out and cries out to God that he feels he is the only one left who is trying to follow him. God tells him to go outside because he is going to meet him there. The sequence of events is surprising;

“…Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11 – 12)

The Lord speaks to Elijah in a gentle whisper;

“…Then a voice says to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”” (1 Kings 19:13)

We all know all too well that the voices of the world are loud and compelling. We are bombarded with messages from the media that entreat us to try all manner of activities that consume our time. Prayer time, which is often referred to as “quiet time” gets lost in the shuffle of everyday living. No wonder we sometimes don’t hear that gentle whisper from the Lord.

Jesus reminds us in the book of Revelation how important it is to keep our ears open;

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

image I find it fascinating that Jesus doesn’t ask us to hear the knocking, it is his voice we need to hear. Then the next big step is to invite him in. No use just telling him that we hear the knocking and his voice, we have to open the door and fellowship with him.

The other wonderful advantage of constantly listening to that voice, is that we have the assurance of going in the right direction;

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” (Isaiah 30:21)

Posted by: Jo | October 30, 2015

Road Signs

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you”

(Psalm 32:8)

image This year we have had two family members go for road tests to obtain their driver’s license. One was our teenage granddaughter, getting her first ever license, and the other was a son-in-law needing to change his foreign license to a current Canadian one. In both cases there was a strict procedure to follow, first a written test to make sure applicants knew and understood all the road signs, secondly the road test to see if those taking the test strictly followed the rules of the road which were posted clearly in sight of all drivers. As I was driving in our neighbourhood this week I was observing the many signs that have been designed to keep both drivers and pedestrians safe and thought this is a wonderful example of how we need signs in our Spiritual journey to allow us to live life to the fullest and I grasped what the Lord was saying through the Psalmist in Psalm 32:8, that he will be the one to teach us how to navigate life’s highway.

As I was driving up to an intersection I saw the sign, YIELD I knew I had to stop and give way to any other car approaching and thought what a pity we don’t see that huge sign when we are involved in a heated argument with another.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

image The next sign I passed was at the ramp that led onto the highway, MERGE. If only that sign was apparent above terrible divisions that occur in church congregations where neither side is willing to merge into one united body of believers.

“I appeal to you, brothers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no division among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

The next sign that alerted me read WARNING, uneven rough surface ahead.

How many times in our life do we need to observe that wise sign and be prepared for what is coming and to remember that when we are facing rough times in our journey we can remember that our Heavenly Father has gone before us and remain calm as his words comfort us.

“…I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble..” (Jeremiah 31:9)

As I continued my drive I approached a school zone where a huge sign was obvious to all, SLOW DOWN

In this present age, life seems to be a hectic race against time and all the time saving devices that have been invented seem to have the opposite effect. imageCramming exercise, driving children to activities, taking yet another life skill course, working etc. seem to crowd the days so that all important message of slowing down gets lost. Time to be rejuvenated by spending time just enjoying life with friends and loved ones seems to get lost, but most of all we need to slow down to spend time with our Heavenly Father to draw on his love and guidance and allow him to be our navigator on the road of life.

Posted by: Jo | October 23, 2015

Choosing To Follow

“…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

(John 8:12)

image The last few weeks has been a frenzy of campaigning in this part of the world (Canada), as the country decides who will be the governing party to lead the country for the next few years. The promises of the candidates for the different parties seem outrageously extravagant, painted with rosy expectations of what we, the people, can enjoy if we just choose them for the position. The faces on all the bill boards have huge smiles and the one I saw was very straight forward, “The Choice is ….” This made me stop and think about what choosing and allowing somebody to lead, meant. We live in a democracy so we are allowed to choose which political party we think will do the best job, of course this is not guaranteed and governing parties often fail to live up to expectations. Choosing and following, spiritually is very different from that of the world.

Choosing and following has been part of the relationship between God and his children right from the beginning. The big question of who and what to choose, was posed by Moses after he had been given the law of God, designed to care and protect the children of Israel, and he urges the people to choose the life the Heavenly Father has prepared for them.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before your life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him….” (Deuteronomy 30:19 – 20)

image Jesus himself poses the same question to us. His campaign to persuade us to follow him, contain the most powerful promises of all time.

“..I am the way and the truth and the life…” (John 14:6)

Then he tells us what to do;

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.” (John 12:26)

During our election campaign, I was interested to see how many volunteers were prepared to put their efforts into seeing the message of the candidate they were promoting, spread to the public. Their enthusiasm was obvious as they followed the one they were representing to all the public meetings displaying the party signs on tee shirts, placing posters on every corner, speaking to as many bystanders as they could.

I thought, a bit sadly, that we as Christians do not always put as much effort as that to promote the lovely message of love the One we represent, has for all mankind.image

When the disciples heard Jesus’ loving invitation they were prepared to leave everything behind to be with him;

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men”. At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:19 – 20)

The beautiful hymn is a wonderful affirmation of the way we can cast our vote, spiritually.

Following Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back, no turning back

Posted by: Jo | October 16, 2015



“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

(Psalm 100:4)

In Canada, Thanksgiving, is celebrated on the second Sunday inimage October during the beautiful Fall season of crisp invigorating air, swirling leaves of every colour and bright orange pumpkins decorating stores and door steps. Families gather together for the traditional roast turkey and pumpkin pie and for a time to stop and reflect, with gratitude, on their blessings. Being taught to remember to say thank you for gifts given and as a polite way of refusing with a “ no thank you” begins very early in life, so it was easy to see how one little girl was very confused watching her mother preparing for the Thanksgiving dinner and asked , “But who are we thanking?”

Who are we thanking?

Children in their innocence can ask the most, simple yet the most profound questions and this one makes us all stop and evaluate to whom we direct our own thanksgiving. We may have all been guilty of saying without thinking, “Thank goodness I caught the train in time/ bought the right size/ had enough money in the bank” etc., not really addressing anybody in particular. We may attribute our good fortune to our own endeavours, coincidence, and good luck. The Psalmists looked at life in a very different way, seeing God’s hand in the everyday things of life;

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1)

Recognising God’s hand in our lives is an amazing way of remaining focused on what really matters in life and expressing our gratitude to him changes the whole way we look at our circumstances. I have discovered myself that while going through very difficult times the only way I can prevent being overwhelmed by them is to deliberately stop and find something to give thanks for;image

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

The secular world has tried to harness this sense of gratitude and use it as a form of therapy to maintain good emotional health, but the little girl’s question remains unanswered and the thankfulness has an emptiness.

Paul has a far better understanding of what true thankfulness means, and what is more important, knows what the result is;

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6 –7)

Many of the old hymns we sang as children had a simple but compelling message and this one I remember as summing up what true thankfulness means.

Counting Blessings

Count your blessings

Name them one by one

See what God hath done

Count your many blessings

Name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done

Posted by: Jo | October 9, 2015

Being Commissioned


“But your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time”

(1 Kings 8:61)

image A few months ago, our city police force was replacing the head of the whole detachment and because of the importance of this job and the huge responsibilities attached to such position, a special public ceremony was planned in which the chosen person stood in front of peers and dignitaries and was officially commissioned and part of the proceedings involved a solemn declaration to uphold, in every sense, the responsibilities being undertaken. I was thinking about this ceremony, when last Sunday there was an announcement that two young people from our congregation were leaving on a short term mission trip and after explaining to us the nature of the trip, our Pastor asked them to come forward to be commissioned and he laid hands upon them and prayed for them.

At the end of the service our Pastor reminded us that it is not only those who volunteer for missions, but as followers of Jesus, we are all commissioned by the Holy Spirit for service.

When I looked up in the dictionary what commissioned meant, I grasped what an incredible honour it was to be considered worthy of this calling. One of the meanings is;

Authority given to act as an agent for another.

image What an amazing privilege to represent Jesus in our daily life! As an agent we are free to tell others of his great love and to pave the way for others to find him. As his agents we will be reflecting the joy it is to know him in whatever situation we find ourselves.

As I continued to read the definitions I realised that acting as an agent meant quite a bit of input on our part. Another definition reads;

Commit to entrust oneself to a cause.

When we entrust ourselves to another we are virtually accepting the other person’s values. God’s values are found in his word and Paul reminds his readers that these precious words have been entrusted to us;

“On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

The third definition I read about being commissioned was perhaps the most defining;

To act in a prescribed manner

Jesus summed up what this meant when he was asked about the law and summed it up this way;image

“A new command 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)

What wonderful words to hang on to as we listen to the Royal commissioning from above. Being an agent of love seems to me a very fulfilling role and what an honour is bestowed upon us as we gratefully accept.

Posted by: Jo | October 2, 2015

Re-Capturing Wonder

“Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes”

(Psalm 17:7)

image I was watching, just recently, a delightful video on the internet showing toddlers seeing bubbles blown into the air for the first time. Their little faces were filled with wonder as they reached to catch one of these fascinating objects and as they burst, they doubled over with laughter and waited expectantly for the grown up adult to produce more bubbles so they could try again to catch these elusive beings. It was impossible to watch without being infected by their joy and I was suddenly saddened to think that as we grow older we somehow lose that sense of wonder. We seem to settle into complacency, our lives governed by routine, we don’t expect to be impressed by anything new so of course we miss some of the wonderful things happening all around us. I read where marriage counsellors repeatedly hear a spouse say, “Something is missing in our relationship.” I would guess often times it is wonder.

This too can happen in our Christian walk where, without us really noticing, the excitement of following Jesus fades slowly, our prayer time and worship becomes just another routine of the day, we fail to be awed by the wonder of the Mighty God we serve.

Job had slipped into underestimating who God really was, and I love this passage where God gives Job a wakeup call to who he really is and reminds him of his mighty power.

“Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders; Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:14 – 16)

Nature is certainly one of the best places to be yet again awed by wonder. In the same video I was watching, one of the little girl’s bubbles burst over the garden and forgetting about that pursuit, she bent right over to study a little flower that caught her attention and again her face was etched by wonder. Capturing the wonder of a child is a great way to enrich our lives.

When we begin to feel a slight cooling, a loss of excitement, a dulling of expectation in our Christian walk, we need to re-read what God said to Job;

Stop and consider God’s wonders

image The Psalmists cried out to God to show them his wonders and then spent their times telling others about them. The word, wonderful means just that, filled with wonder. When the people saw what Jesus was doing among them they recognised that his actions were wonderful.

“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” (Luke 13:17)

To recapture childlike wonder, we need to take a fresh look at our lives, to re-read God’s word with an open expectation to be filled with wonder, to be ready to be over awed as he does wonderful things in our lives, to look at others as wonderful creatures created by God, not to be afraid to have a child like attitude to life.

Posted by: Jo | September 25, 2015

Who Am I?

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

(Exodus 3:11)

clip_image002When I was young, one of the favourite games played at parties, was called, “Who am I?” Whoever was hosting the party would write on slips of paper the names of famous people. These could be from all walks of life and may be still alive or perhaps part of history. When the game began, the host would pin the slip of paper with the famous person’s name on to each guest’s back, and the object was to discover who you were representing. The first guest to guess the right person won the game. The rules were simple, you went to other guests and were to ask questions like this “Am I a man?” or “Am I a famous queen?” Etc. The person asked could only reply, yes or no and then the round of questions would continue.

We may sometimes wonder who we are. Perhaps we might have reached a point in our lives when we ask ourselves that question, who am I? We may have doubts about our abilities to achieve our goals. We have the feeling that nobody knows who we really are or that no one really cares to find out. We may have a wonderful opportunity opening up in our lives and doubt enters our mind and we ask the question am I capable of handling this? Who am I to take that on?

God’s word is a great place to go for perplexing questions to be answered. Some of the most powerful characters had to not only ask themselves how valuable they were, but took the same question to God. Moses is a prime example of asking that big question. He had grown up in a royal palace after he had been drawn from the river Nile as a baby and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. He blew all his good fortune by losing his temper and killing an Egyptian. He runs away and for years spends his life tending sheep until God seeks him out with a wonderful chance to come back to Egypt and become a leader of his people. Does he jump at the chance? No way. He asks that dreaded question of self-doubt (Exodus 3:11) It is God’s answer that we all need to take heed of when we lack confidence.clip_image004

“And God said, I will be with you…” (Exodus 3:12)

Jeremiah is another one who doubts his ability because of being young when God tells him he has been chosen for a special role (Jeremiah 1:6) and again God assures him that he will be given the right words to speak because God himself will put them there,

“Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9)

Jesus himself assures his disciples not to worry about how they will cope with difficult situations, the Holy Spirit will be there right with them;

“for the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say” (Luke 12:12)

Whatever situation we are facing, it is so encouraging to remember that our true identity is defined by our Heavenly Father who calls us his children and refers to us as his beloved and we can boldly answer that big question Who am I? With this reply,

I am a beloved child of God!

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)


Posted by: Jo | September 18, 2015

What Fuels Our Lives?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

(Matthew 5:6)

image There was an interesting story in our local newspapers this week about a gas station that inadvertently mixed a low octane gas with its much more expensive and higher rating gas. It caused much embarrassment to the station owners and much anger from the irate customers whose cars were designed to operate at their best on the higher level of gas. The equation was simple; higher level of fuel, higher level of performance.

In our present day society, athletes know the importance of what sort of fuel they put into their bodies to achieve their best performance. This may take the form of vitamins/ power drinks/ the right balance of proteins etc… So as Christians what is the fuel we use to keep ourselves as powerful servants of the Lord? How do we keep that high level of his love coursing through our very beings?

I love finding in Scripture, those little stories that have great depth, but might be overlooked in a casual reading. I was reading how God was telling Moses how to build the tabernacle, and he could have been thinking how are we ever going to do this when God explains who is really behind the process;

“Then the Lord said to Moses, See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze. To cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”  (Exodus 31:1 – 5)

We can see where Bezalel got his fuel, he was filled with the Spirit of God.

What a great passage to remind us if we feeling like we are running on low we only have to go to our source of power and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately the world offers all sorts of different fuel.  We are bombarded through the media and tricked into thinking that we can achieve our goals by trusting ourselves to provide the impetus


image We can see the results of greed being the fuel for all sorts of activities. Selfishness can be the fuel to amassing wealth. Striving to be famous at whatever the cost is not far behind.

Our loving Lord offers us free of charge, all the power we will ever need. In fact the power is made to fit exactly the beloved child who is asking, the only step needed by us is to seek that fuel every day so we function exactly how our Creator designed us to be. The fuel supply is found in reading God’s word, spending time in prayer, worshiping him together with other believers, committing our lives to his direction every morning.

Our tanks will be overflowing if we take this beautiful prayer of Paul’s to heart;

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers

%d bloggers like this: