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Posts Tagged ‘The Message version of the Bible’

Jo 17I love the Psalms. Time and time again, I come back to them—particularly when I am busy. In my old Bible that I am reluctant to pension off because I know where everything is in it, there are many verses in the Psalms I have highlighted via a wiggly line drawn beside them. And many of these are now etched in my mind, so that they feel like old friends when I come across them again.

Yet I often still find surprises along the way. One morning recently, we needed leave home earlier than usual, in order to mind our grandchildren for the day. I rushed around, organising this and that, but then found myself with a few minutes spare before we actually had to walk out our door. So I decided I could read at least a few verses of the psalm I was up to and thus have it in my mind as we drove to our daughter’s house. I opened my Bible to Psalm 116—yes, I had read that yesterday. I turned the page and there before me was Psalm 117—all two verses of it!

Praise the Lord, all your nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

That was it! I was sure I had never seen this tiny psalm before, yet I must have. Despite its brevity, I decided it packed quite a punch. And it was just the right length for me to remember, as we hurried out to begin a day full of interesting activities with our two young grandchildren.

Later that evening, as I sat down to re-read my huge psalm of the day and ponder on it some more, I decided it pretty much sums up in a nutshell what our amazing God is like and how we are called to respond to him.

Great is his love toward us’—that to me surely gets straight to the heart of the gospel. In my own life, it was God’s love that first drew me to him as a fifteen-year-old. Even after all these years, I can still remember thinking, ‘Wow! God knows me! And God loves me!’ Then many years later in my life, I believe God gave me a glimpse of his amazing love for me all over again one New Year’s Eve. I saw in my mind a picture of someone whom I knew was Jesus holding me as a baby and looking down at me with the most incredible love shining from his face. He was speaking tenderly and saying over and over again, ‘Wow—Jo-Anne!’—and I knew I would remain loved and secure in his arms forever, just as this psalm goes on to say. Whatever happened in my life, the Lord would remain faithful.

And, after more than fifty-five years, that is still my testimony. God has rescued me so many times, picked me up and held me close until I was strong enough to stand again. So what can I do but praise the Lord from my heart, as The Message version of this psalm encourages us all to do?

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!

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Jo 17This past week, I found myself more than once in complaining mode. There were various events, large and small, ongoing and one-off, that brought this on. For the most part, I stewed in silence. But in the end, after venting my feelings to someone close to me at great length, I began to surface from my morass of self-pity and see things in a more reasonable light.

Yes, I decided, I had good reason to complain about some things that had occurred and some decisions others had made. I was right in feeling a little ripped off. As for some of the ongoing situations, I decided it was okay to be honest and acknowledge the difficulty these were causing me. But what was my response to be from this point on? Where was the healthy and godly way forward for me?

You see, it had dawned on me at last that God was still there in the midst of everything. God knew all my muddled, confused thoughts and mixed emotions. Not only that, God still loved me with the most amazing, tender, caring love and wanted me to remember that. I know this was the case for two reasons. Firstly, by that time, I had calmed down enough to recognise the Spirit’s gentle voice within, whispering this truth to me. But secondly, only that morning, I had received a beautiful email from a friend who told me she was praying for God’s encouragement and love to surround me and wanted to share with me some words from Ephesians 1 in The Message version of the Bible:

“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.”

I had a clear choice at that point. I could continue to grumble and stew and feel sorry for myself, ignoring what God might be saying to me through these words and through the situations in my life, as well as my responses to them. Or I could change my focus, step back a little and begin to allow God to widen my perspective and show me the way forward. A ‘no-brainer’, wouldn’t you agree?

For a little while at least, it had kind of slipped my mind that, because God’s Spirit lives in me, as I know from experience and as Jesus talks about in John 14:17, then God is an integral part of everything that is happening in my life. Nothing takes God by surprise—and God is quite able to use every situation to teach us something and draw us closer. So my best response is to rest back in that amazing love of God, receive the grace and mercy that is always there for me and choose to listen once again to the Shepherd’s voice.

God is always up to something in our lives—and I am so thankful for that.

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