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Posts Tagged ‘the Word of God’

Jo 12Drum roll, please … today marks the posting of my 400th personal blog! Thank you so much to those readers who have travelled this whole journey faithfully with me and for your special words of encouragement that have kept me going at times.

I began my blog back in July 2009, although it doesn’t seem so long ago to me. Did I envisage then I would still be going strong in March 2017? I don’t think so. Yet here I am, still producing those little pieces of writing that I hope have encouraged or challenged some of you along the way.

I am often asked how I can think up a new blog each week. Sometimes it is easier than others. Sometimes I struggle to hear clearly what it is God wants me to write about. Sometimes I no doubt get it wrong. But at other times, I seem to hear God whispering to me, almost in an excited voice, ‘Yes, that’s it, Jo! Share those words of mine you just read with others! Put that insight I gave you out there! Let others join in that experience you had with me!’

My WordPress stats tell me that some weeks, more people visit my blog than in other weeks. While whatever blog topic I choose plays a part in this, I have discovered certain natural reasons as well. Any time near Christmas or Easter or even school holidays is not the best, if I am aiming for maximum readership. Weekends are not always good either. Even posting at certain times of the day can change those readership statistics. But I have stuck to Tuesday mornings, not only because it works best for me but also because some of my faithful readers expect that new blog to arrive then, right on cue, whatever time of year. I remember one occasion when I inadvertently scheduled my blog to post on a Monday instead of a Tuesday—which caused a couple of my faithful readers to wonder if they had somehow lost a day out of their week!

What motivates me to spend time blogging, when I could be writing my next novel? Firstly, I enjoy it—well, mostly anyway! Secondly, challenging myself to write something worthwhile each week in only around 550 words has I think helped me become less of a wordy writer. But thirdly and most importantly, I want with all my heart to share those words and insights I believe are from God with you all. And I love reading that feedback, either via Facebook or blog comments, as to how God has spoken to you through them.

I know my words are only a few among so many others, as I launch them into cyberspace each week. I know they will soon be lost to sight. I know that, however hard I try, my words may not always be right or perhaps even wise. But I also know that God’s words are different. They are flawless and will remain true forever—and that is why I choose to include some at least in each of my blogs, including my 400th!

God bless you all!

 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. 2 Samuel 22:31

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

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Do you remember those ‘Choose Your Own’ children’s adventure books from years ago? If you as the reader wanted the story to take a certain twist, then you were instructed to turn to a particular page and follow the thread of your own choosing from there on. If you wanted, you could even go back and follow a different trail to a different outcome. What fun! Multiple possibilities for a satisfactory ending at your fingertips.

But what if a book you were reading had no actual ending? What if you were reading along happily, enjoying the book so much that you couldn’t put it down, only to discover those last few pages holding that crucial final resolution to the story were missing? Imagine how annoying that would be!

This very thing happened to a friend of mine recently. In fact, this friend was reading a copy of my own latest novel, The Inheritance! Worse than that, it was a copy I myself had given her as a thank you gift for her kind hospitality during a recent interstate trip. Picture my dismay, then, when she emailed to tell me what had happened!

I hastily posted a replacement copy to my friend to ease her frustration. But I also thought of all those people who have already bought a copy. What if this wasn’t a one-off fluke? What if there were others who would discover the story ended abruptly in mid-sentence? Yet, so far, no one else has complained of any missing pages to me or my publisher. I also checked through any open boxes of my own supplies of this novel, but, in the end, decided all I could do was try to check each copy I personally sell in future. As for bookstore sales, I hope anyone who does find those last pages missing will speedily return their copy to the store.

But this whole alarming event caused me to think about other ‘ends of stories’ in our lives. We live with so much uncertainty, don’t we? We don’t know exactly how our day will unfold when we get up in the morning. We don’t know what the week or month or year ahead will contain. We may think we do, but things often have a habit of turning out differently from what we expected. Yet we know for sure who does know the end of the story—both our own personal story and that of the whole world. And our God, with great grace, has also given us glimpses in Scripture of how things will unfold. We know, for example, that one day we will see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12). One day, Jesus will return and take us to live with him forever in the place he has prepared for us (Jn 3:16; 14:3) where there will be no more tears (Rev 7:16-17). And one day, having finished the race and kept the faith, we too will be welcomed into God’s presence.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:8

That’s one perfect story ending I’m very much looking forward to. How about you?

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This world is full of such brave, amazing people. This week, I was inspired all over again to keep going as I listened to several—all women and all much older than even I am (!)—share what they have been doing and plan to do. These are no light things either. And soon my own complaints dwindle to nothing.

At the age of around seventy, would you be prepared to undertake yet another of many trips to Bangladesh, involving a punishing schedule of eighteen to twenty hour days, many miles of travel to encourage rural church planters, plus all sorts of speaking engagements? That is exactly what a gracious, female friend of mine will soon be doing. As well, she has been a large part of raising funds to set up and staff sixteen Christian schools and an orphanage there. Here she is, this beautifully groomed and dressed grandmother who could be taking it easy in retirement, instead giving her all to build God’s kingdom in Bangladesh.

I listen too as another friend, now in her mid-seventies, shares about her recent trip to India to witness the opening of a six-storey building that houses a Christian school for around six hundred children and to support the Christian teachers there. My friend has laboured long and hard with this project and has watched this school grow to where it is today. She too could sit back and enjoy retirement, but no—she keeps on. Soon she will release yet another book, encouraging women to share their stories, because she is passionate about women coming to know the love and grace of God and being fed from the Word of God.

I watch as another even older friend chats with two younger women present and arranges to meet with them to encourage them in their ministry roles. Yes, she will drive some distance across Sydney to see them, I hear her say—and their gratitude is evident. Then she tells us all, with great joy, how she recently preached again in her church and how fulfilling this experience was. I know too that in the past, this dear lady has led men and women to the Lord who now hold prominent positions at all sorts of levels in our society. Yet there she is, speaking so humbly and with such godliness, wit and wisdom.

I come home and hear about another dear friend who, in her early seventies, is sacrificing her own personal space to take into her home family members who have nowhere else to go at this point and supporting them financially in the process, even when she herself has little to spare. I am in awe of her, as I realise this would indeed be something I would personally find very difficult.

I look ahead at my own busy speaking and writing schedule over the next few weeks and realise the cost involved for me is nothing, compared with that of my friends. I honour them. I am inspired by them. But, most importantly, I believe God honours them too and watches over them with a fierce and jealous love.

Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

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I wonder if you’ve ever had some nice plan or scheme all worked out, only to have someone come along and mess the whole thing up! Perhaps this person might ask a simple question or give a suggestion for a better way forward. Yet you don’t want to hear. After all, you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this particular project. Or it might be that you finally think you’ve come to grips with some issue and know what you believe. Then someone comes up with a radically different idea that makes your whole concept—or perhaps even your whole world—seem a little wobbly. Maybe it could even cause it to come crashing down! So, however well intentioned this person might be, how dare he or she throw a spanner in the works like that!

If you have, then perhaps you might relate to those Jews in Jesus’ time who, according to John 8, had apparently believed in him to some extent. But then, Jesus started talking about things like knowing the truth and being set free. What was this all about? Weren’t they Abraham’s descendants? They didn’t need to be set from anything. They were fine, thank you very much. More than that, it was very dangerous teaching. Much better to get rid of him if he’s going to keep talking about such rubbish as pleasing his Father and being ‘from above’.

Yet perhaps we should give them some benefit of the doubt. Maybe they hadn’t heard about the amazing things Jesus had been doing, like changing water into wine, healing people, feeding more than five thousand with a few fish and rolls, not to mention walking on water. Whether they had or not, however, they decided there was no place for this crazy, insulting person in their world and that he was better right out of the picture.

But Jesus saw right through them. He knew they wanted to get rid of him—and he did not beat about the bush. In Jn 8:37 we read:

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.

No room for his word? No room to hear what the Son of God was saying? What a sad, sad statement! These Jews seemed to be too full of pride in their heritage and too concerned about their own wellbeing to have any space in their hearts and lives to take Jesus’ words on board. They knew God in a special way—yet Jesus bluntly tells them that ‘the reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’ (Jn 8:47)

Yet … yet what about us today? In fact, what about me? How often in my busy life do I simply have no room for God’s word? Yes, I might get to read it somewhere along the line, but how often does it not really enter my heart? Or worse still, just like these Jews, how often do I decide I simply don’t like what God has said and choose not to make any space for those changes that need to happen in my life?

You have no room for my word.

I still think that’s one of the saddest statements in Scripture, don’t you?

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P1000421A few years ago, while travelling with a friend in Central Turkey, I saw something that caused me to stop in my tracks. We had just left the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa, an amazing UNESCO World Heritage listed site covered in ruins from around 2000 to 1000 years BC—possibly from before the time of Moses. As we walked back to the village where we were staying, we noticed a farmer in a nearby field doing something that seemed to come straight from the pages of the Bible. He was walking slowly across his ploughed ground, scattering seeds by hand from a large bag he wore across his body, just as his ancestors had no doubt done for centuries.

I thought of that Turkish man as I planted some seeds of my own a few days ago. My seeds came from a friend’s pretty, flowering plants called ‘four o’clocks’ which I was assured will grow anywhere. This sounded good to me. After all, anything would be better than the weeds currently thriving in my garden! So with great hope and optimism, I took my bag of seeds, cleared out those weeds and poked in one seed after another wherever there was a spare spot. I had no idea how deep I should plant them—but in they went anyway. Surely with so many, at least a few will make it?

Alas, I suspect some of my seeds at least will meet a similar fate to the ones Jesus talks about in Luke 8. I suspect in my awkward scrambles around our garden, a few were dropped and trodden on—maybe even to be eaten by the birds that feast on the grevilleas nearby. I also suspect some were planted too near or even on top of the rocks that line the terraces in our backyard, so will never germinate. As for some falling among thorns and weeds that will choke the life out of them—well, that’s the most likely fate of all in my garden. But … but just maybe some will land on good soil and produce a myriad of pretty bright red and yellow flowers in the cooler, late afternoon air around four o’clock each day. Then as their seed forms and drops, even more flowers will spring up and fill my garden. And I will be so delighted!

I wonder how God feels as he watches how the precious seeds of his very own words fare in our lives (Lk 8:11)? I wonder if God grieves when so many fall by the wayside and disappear or bounce off our hard hearts like some of my round seeds did off those rocks in my garden? I wonder if God longs for the weeds and mess in our lives to be cleared out so his words can take root and flourish? And I wonder if God claps his hands in delight when he sees those first small green shoots appear and flourish in our lives, to be followed by beautiful blossoms or sweet fruits that give joy to others and sustain them along the way?

How patient our God the perfect gardener is, always planting those precious seeds in our hearts, faithfully speaking to us, never giving up on us, loving us to the end!

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:7-8

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This Christmas, among the many beautiful gifts I received was a small silver and gold tin from one of our daughters. Judging from the wonderful, gardenia-like perfume I could smell even before I opened the lid, I knew there was something special inside. Yes, to my delight, it turned out to be a precious cake of soap.

I love receiving such gifts, but this particular one seems almost too good to use. At the moment, it lives beside me on my desk so I can open it and enjoy its beautiful perfume from time to time. And that’s how I recently noticed the fine gold lettering on the back of the tin.

Housed in a collectible tin, I read. Yes, it is a pretty cute container. Each precious soapette is made from a rich vegetable base … to create a decadent lather that leaves the skin brilliantly refreshed, it went on. Yes, my skin could definitely do with such refurbishment, I decided!

But it was what I read next that dumbfounded me. There was the word ‘DIRECTIONS’, written in capitals, just as I have here. Yet … wait a minute! What special instructions could one possibly need when it comes to using soap?

I read on with interest. Add water and massage onto body for a creamy lather. Rinse thoroughly with water. Really?! I checked again to make sure there was no hidden gem here I was missing. After all, perhaps I’d being doing it wrong all these years. One never knows. But in the end, I decided that yep, that’s pretty much what it boils down to—adding water, then rinsing!

I laughed out loud. Who could possibly need such simple directions? Doesn’t everyone know that? But then it occurred to me that perhaps cakes of soap were a novelty to some people. Perhaps they always use liquid soap or gel. Perhaps not everyone is old-fashioned like me.

Then I began thinking a little more about it all. Are there other instructions in life I laugh at because they’re so simple or commonplace? What else might I decide not to read because I know all about it already? How often have I jumped in and done something, without bothering to take the time to read the directions or do the necessary preparations?

I’m a bit like that at times when it comes to the Word of God, I decided. I skim over so much, thinking I know all the wisdom contained there. I see and hear the words of Jesus to his disciples and think to myself I’ve heard it all before. Of course I believe it all and try to put such things into practice in my life. Who wouldn’t? But then something—perhaps God’s Spirit—pulls me up short. Are you hearing me, Jo-Anne? Are you really putting into practice the things I am asking you to do here?

Then I remembered the simple story of the sower Jesus told (Luke 8)—and took it to heart. What riches from God have a trampled on in 2012 and simply left for the birds? What wisdom did I not cultivate? What things did I allow to crowd into my life and crowd out God?

In 2013, may we have ears to hear what God says to each of us, however simple and familiar it may seem. And may we have the courage to put it into practice in our lives.

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