“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” Proverbs 15:31-32
“Lord, Jesus, scanning through the book of Proverbs recently, I noticed how many verses are about staying teachable, receiving correction, and loving discipline I’ve underlined over the course of the years. I wish the sheer number of highlighted verses was an indication of how humble and nondefensive a man I am. But that’s simply not the case. I still shift blame, make excuses, and sew fig leaves with the best of of them.
So here’s my prayer: I want to own, grieve, and repent of my defensiveness, Jesus. I’m not sure why, but I’ve become a little more touchy of late, a little more likely to bristle when confronted. I’m sure it’s my pride, insecurities, and self-righteousness, but I’m equally sure you’ve got grace for that.
Jesus, help me to anticipate and welcome feedback from my spouse about my attitude, choices, and excesses. Help me to hear your voice in things my children may want to or need to share with me about the past and the present. Help me to cultivate friendships in which growing in grace is just as important as the fun stuff we choose to do. Don’t let me ignore concerns and corrections from mentors, ‘underlings,’ neighbours, even angels you send.
Help me not just to read the Bible but to have the Bible constantly reading me – exposing my sin and brokenness and revealing more and more and more the riches of the gospel. There’s no way I’ll make ‘my home among the wise’ without having my heart at home in your mercy, grace, and peace.
Jesus, it’s because you made yourself of no reputation, becoming sin for me on the cross, that I don’t have to live for my own reputation. Because I’m not long guilty or condemned for my sin. I can live in the freedom of convictability, teachability, and humility. Help me Jesus, help me. I pray in your gracious name. Amen.”
“As the Father has loved me, so have I (Jesus) loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:9-10
“Jesus, there are times when just the right Scripture comes into view at just the right time. Today is such a day. These words, your words, cut through my confusion and cut to the chase. Because you love me, I’m to obey you.
In my zeal to guard the gospel of grace – the good news that all our efforts, works and obedience could never gain or maintain a relationship with you – I’ve been less clear about the place of obedience in the life of your children. But it’s really not complicated at all.
The hardest part is to actually believe you love us as much as the Father loves you. How can you possibly love us with the same passion and delight you’ve enjoyed from the Father throughout eternity? Every time I ask you that question, you direct my gaze to the cross. Because you were obedient to death upon the cross, I can be certain of God’s love for me.
Here’s where my obedience comes in. I’m to remain in your love through my obedience in the same way you remained in the Father’s love by your obedience. Obviously this doesn’t mean you earned His love, any more than I can earn your love. I can see how your obedience to the Father’s commands was a primary way of communing with Him – of enjoying your relationship with Him and bringing Him great glory. You spoke of His will being your bread, and bread is a life-sustaining gift.
May the same be true in my life, Jesus. Deepen my awareness of your love for me, even as you draw forth a more consuming and consistent obedience to your commands. Because the gospel is true, your commands are not burdensome to me. They are beautiful. They are bread. They are life. I have been saved by your obedience; be glorified by mine. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“The godless in heart harbour resentment.” Job 36:13 NIV
“Dear heavenly Father, whether it’s the annoying fly interrupting my needed nap, the thoughtless words spoken by a trusted friend, the new ding in my twelve-year old car, or the old hurt that generates fresh pain, resentment never helps; it only hurts.
To harbour resentment is nothing short of harbouring a criminal, for resentment is bent on criminal activity; stealing peace, vandalizing sleep, robbing relationship, killing kindness, murdering hope, infecting the innocent with deadly toxins, to name a few of resentments crimes. Indeed, as much energy is being wasted as oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s no greater waste of energy than resentment.
But worst of all Father, resentment is a contradiction, a blatant misrepresentation of who you are and how you relate to us in Jesus. For if anyone has a right to hold a grudge, to keep a record of wrongs done, to rehearse and remember our sins against us, it is you.
Yet you do not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is your love for those who fear you; as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far you’ve removed our transgressions from us. You’re the Father who has compassion on us as your children (Ps. 103:10-13). You show us neither vexation of spirit nor exasperation of heart, so great is your love for us in Jesus.
So Father, by the love that sent Jesus to the cross and by the power that raised him from the dead, continue to heal and change me. I don’t want to be godless in heart but want to be grace-full in heart. I want to be free even from resenting other people’s resentment. I pray in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. Amen.”
We are already enjoying summer activities since the English weather has been cooperating so far; BBQ’s, picnics in the park…. Yay! Also, we will soon be finished with school associated activities. Before we know it, school will be out for the summer! Even if you don’t have school aged children in your home, the atmosphere and rhythm changes a bit, doesn’t it?
It is the same with Grace Place. So as we have completed our Living Out God’s Grace series, we will focus our thoughts to prayer during the summer. As we have heard it said, “we are too busy not to pray.”
I will be using EVERYDAY PRAYERS, written by Scotty Smith and published by Baker Books, 2011. (You can buy this online on any of the major websites.)
From it I will share scripture and prayers from this book to assist us in this channel of grace in our ordinary, every day living this summer.
Today’s Prayer: A Prayer for Fresh Endurance and Encouragement
‘May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.’ Romans 15:5-7
“Heavenly Father, I’m like a hungry little bird with my mouth wide open this morning. I’m glad you’re the God who gives endurance and encouragement, for I’m starving for both. Bring an abundance of both, Father- ‘good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over!’ Luke 6:38.
I praise you for these twin sisters of grace. One without the other would simply not be enough. Endurance without encouragement can atrophy into heartless stoicism. Encouragement without endurance can wither into short-lived enthusiasm. Give us both, bunches of both.
Father, I’m not just praying for me but for the whole family of believers with whom I’m so privileged to walk. Along with endurance and encouragement, I ask you to give us a fresh supersized order of unity. How else will we be able to glorify you with one heart and one mouth? How else will we even want your glory above our own preferences and priorities?
Our church family is so much like the churches Paul was addressing in Rome. We come from many different backgrounds. We’ve been rescued from nonreligion and gospelless religion. We have different perspectives and varying passions. We are at different stages in knowing how to follow Jesus and knowing what following Jesus actually means. All in all, we are prime candidates for a fresh visitation of the Holy Spirit, for he is the true Spirit of Unity.
Father whether or not we actually get to experience a full-bore revival, help us to accept one another just as Jesus has already accepted each of us. This brings you great praise. The gospel we already have is all the gospel we actually need. Our city and the nations of the world are desperate to see Christ-followers who know how to love one another when it’s easy and when it’s not. Le us be just such a people. We pray expectantly, in Jesus’ mighty and merciful name.
“And have you forgotten the word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines He loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?’” Hebrews 12:5-7 (to understand the terminology of “sons” listen to Ed’s sermon 17 June, 2018 on Corsham Baptist Church website)
The writer of Hebrews is encouraging us by explaining the purpose of our hardships and trials. It isn’t that God is being harsh or unloving. It is the opposite! He is our Father who loves and cares for us, not one who is unhappy with us.
To make light of the Lord’s discipline is to see it as something to be endured and gotten through quickly or to find relief. We don’t see God’s hand and purpose in these hardships. Also, to lose heart is to see God as an angry task master instead of our Father who loves us.
This is difficult to put into practice in real life, isn’t it? There was a time in my life when I just wanted to find relief through drink or food. At the same time I accused God of not being there for me. I doubted His goodness and love. I realize now that God was correcting and rebuking me in my disobedience. Life wasn’t working. My misery was His blessing and grace to me. Through God’s grace I grew in Christ. As I continue to mature in Christ, I am beginning to really understand this Hebrews passage. These last fifteen years I have seen it differently as I meet with hardship and live with my thorns. I’m learning to cling more and more in faith to the testimony of Scriptures. I look to sisters in Christ to stand in the gap with me through prayer, accountability, and wise counsel. My church family are a source of Jesus’ hands and feet to help me keep my eyes on Christ, ever drawing me back to seeing not only my hardships, but all of life through God’s perspective and Gospel lens. Sadly, my “easier” times have produced more fruit of self-sufficiency, pride and selfishness and less of Christ likeness. My world didn’t get bigger, it got smaller because it was all about me!
There will always be the tension of this in our lives…..that is why we need the clarity to know the grace of God-the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, even though we don’t deserve it. God gives us this grace… through our thorns, our weakness, our hardships. It is through the grace of hardship that God conforms us into the likeness of Christ.
So be encouraged my friend. God is working His purposes through this discipline of hardship. Romans 8:28 says this: “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Believe it. Pray it. Let it fill your heart today and give you God’s peace; the only peace that works. The only peace that lasts.
As we reach our last bible study in this school year’s bible study, Living Out God’s Grace, I hope and pray that it will bear fruit in all of our lives to be transformed into Christ’s likeness more every day.
This last study about suffering as a channel of God’s grace to grow and mature us will be difficult and challenging in many ways. But it will also be a comfort as we study Paul and his “un-plucked thorn.” (The bible study is on this website under the heading of 2017-2018 Living Out God’s Grace Bible Study and Notes. It can also be picked up in hard copy at CBC and COTG Churches.)
We should not be surprised at our suffering and thorns, for it is the pattern set by our Lord Jesus Christ. Pastor Eddie Larkman says it like this:
“Being weak and feeling weak is not in itself fun. But it’s how God makes gospel followers look like the gospel message of the cross – because the truth revealed at the cross is not that we’re mighty but that we’re needy; not that we’re strong and self-sufficient, but that we need rescuing. And God’s rescue comes through the weakness of the cross. So Paul’s weakness, and God’s power working through his weakness, perfectly displays the cross.”
The Apostle Paul also encourages us in Romans 5:3-5 “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,(HOPE AND RELIANCE ON GOD) and hope does not put us to shame(WILL NOT FADE), because God’s LOVE, has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Be encouraged sisters. Our suffering is never wasted. Our God is an awesome Father who can be trusted to fulfil His purpose in and through His daughters…through HIS LOVE for us and for His glory.
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
How can my good deeds bring glory to God?
This is a question that puzzles me, because lots of people do good deeds – Christian and Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist and atheists… everyone can do good deeds. Good people do good deeds. So how can I give glory to God through my good deeds; won’t they just make me look like a good person?
Here’s something God has been teaching me about good deeds these past six months.
I play an online game, and I suck. I really do.
It’s a team game where everyone has a job to do in the team and you work together to defeat the big nasty boss and as a reward you get shiny armour and weapons. You play as a team; you win as a team; you lose as a team.
I used to hit about as hard as a slug with a broken foot. It was pretty lame, but occasionally I did some damage to the boss. I did some good deeds. Just as anyone in the world can do some good deeds, just so I did some good playing from time to time.
Part of the reason I played so badly was because of the hardware. My potato laptop did not have a graphics card to cope with the rapid action of the game; it could not process my wild attacks as I headbutted the keyboard to make my little character desperately do some good work. I was utterly lost and needed saving from my rubbish hardware. Just as, in real life, I was utterly lost and stuck in sin and needed saving from my rubbish flesh.
Now, I couldn’t afford a nice computer. I could never dream of asking for one. But someone, as an act of sheer grace, knew I needed better hardware if I were ever to be useful to the team and so they gifted me one for Christmas.
I certainly didn’t earn that computer; my game-playing was shockingly bad. I didn’t deserve it. Moreover I couldn’t pay my friend back. Ever. Nor did they expect repayment. It was pure grace. An act of phenomenal and unexpected grace, just like how Jesus Christ died for me while I was still a sinner.
The only way to show my huge gratitude was to get the computer plugged in and start playing. And, hey presto! Considerable improvement in my game playing! I began to hit as hard as a slug with attitude. Sometimes even a slug with teeth.
So God taught me something about how undeserved his grace is – just like I totally didn’t deserve a computer as a reward for terrible game-playing, I didn’t deserve the love and grace He showed me in Jesus. But I’m thankful He did.
But that’s not the end of the story. Here’s where the good deeds begin.
Before Christmas, I occasionally hit the big nasty boss and did some good deeds. But after Christmas, I pressed the buttons and empowered by GRACE, my good deeds were plentiful, more enjoyable and a whole lot easier to come by. I can now do good deeds in a new and effective way, free from suckiness… and none of them bring any glory to me.
Every time I do some serious damage to the boss, it’s not because I am suddenly an awesome player. (Sadly, my reaction times and distracted approach to gaming haven’t changed. Yet.)
Grace enables me to do good deeds. Grace is the circuit and the processing power and the graphics that mean I can press the button at the right moment and do some good deeds. I could do good deeds before, but grace has revolutionised my ability, capability and motivation to do good deeds.
Whenever anyone congratulates me, I know it’s not me; it’s grace at work that allows these good deeds to happen. So I try to always say, “Thanks, but really the credit all goes to my friend. It was their grace that gave me some hardware that enables me to do good deeds. On my own, I really sucked. But now I’m running with this computer… look what grace can do!”
None of the glory goes to me. I don’t deserve any praise for my sucky efforts. Any good deeds I do in the game (and in real life!) are the result of grace. If I ever start to think I’m an awesome player, I look at the little blinking blue lights and am thankful for grace.
Grace has revolutionised my ability, capability and motivation to do good deeds. Without grace, I really suck.
Remember to take time to come to CBC Church Hall for our 7th in a series of Living Out God’s Grace, where we will be studying one of God’s means of grace in our lives- Belonging to His Body: Church Community.