Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s post
“Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. He died for everyone so that those receive His new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 2 Cor 5:14-15 NLT
When I read the above passage of scripture, I realize how counter-cultural Paul’s motivation in life comes from. And as followers of Christ, this is the Christian DNA we need to encourage as we grow as His children. Sometimes I find it difficult to be motivated to clean the house, or love difficult people, or serve at the church. That’s because I can’t in my own strength. The gospel of Jesus’ love changes that.
Paul’s words above tells the Corinthian church and US why he behaves the way he does. Paul explains to them that he is working by God’s economy; Christ’s pattern and not the world’s. But what is Paul’s bottom line? His motivation? It is not because of a theory, not because of fear of judgement, not because of duty, but because of Christ’s love. That’s why Paul no longer lives for himself but for Christ. His perspective is totally changed. Paul can’t do this within himself. How does he do it? “He says, I am compelled, I am constrained,(held together and held in and held completely) I am controlled, I am made to press on by Christ’s love!” This is a love which outweighs all other loves known to the human race. It is a love that changes everything. It is a love which gives people the power and grace to face things and do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Let me ask some questions for us to ponder in our hearts:
On those battle weary days, do you find yourself living by your feelings as your final authority instead of what you know to be true about God’s love through Christ? Has the gospel lost its power and meaning in your life? Do the world, your flesh and Satan pull you down at times so that you lose sight or doubt God’s love in Christ…. which then dominoes into questioning why you are a follower of Christ in the first place?
You know, I could easily say yes to all of these questions at different points in my life. And I would guess that most of you have as well. We may feel this but we must not stop there. Our Lord wants to draw us from that place. And if you are in this place of struggle right now, Our Lord wants to gently lead you back into the safety of HIS COMPELLING LOVE of the Gospel.
Let’s pray for one another and ask the God from scripture to “pour out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” And He will. More and more, Christ will be the motivation behind why you get up in the morning, why you clean your house, why you serve in the church, why you love difficult people. The list goes on. We can’t do this apart from God’s gospel grace and love for us.
But if we are motivated more and more by Christ’s love for us, our joy will expand while we live for Christ counter culturally and in God’s economy! Yay!
VICKY STEPHENSON, Contributor for today’s blog post
Welcome back, it was amazing to see so many of us gathered on Monday, new faces and old friends. It is great to be working together looking at God’s word and encouraging one another in grace.
Huge thank you to Anne and Kathy for putting together such a wonderful evening to catch up and be inspired with all that God has for us this year.
I was really challenged by the teaching on Monday and here are some brief reflections that I had.
God’s gospel grace is something I find so easy at a head level and so hard at a heart level. I can totally get the grace of forgiveness of sins at conversion;
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
It can’t really be put any clearer than the way John Newton wrote all those years go. I understand this and accept it giving thanks and praise to God.
BUT fresh gospel grace each day after so many years of being a Christian? Believe me, I totally know I need it! However the issue lies with whether I fully trust God will give it to me.
You see the issue that really hit home on Monday that I am half Amy and half Imogen and very rarely Cindy (if you have no idea what I am talking about see Kathy’s notes from the talk on Monday on this website). I spend half my life striving to try and please God and the other half feeling guilty I have failed. So fresh grace every day seems very distant.
I think about how annoying it is when I have to ask the kids for the 10th time not to leave their shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor; or how irritating it is to find that yet again all the mugs at work are dirty. Do you find it frustrating when your husband, sister, mother does that thing which really grates on you? So how must it be for God, when everyday, for the last twenty years, He has had to remind me to see people how he sees them…to curb my impatience, tame my tongue and so much more beside. Doesn’t He just get fed up of me and say “she has had her chance and she has blown it?”
No He doesn’t!! How amazing is that.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
He loves us and forgives us day after day, we don’t ever deserve it, it is all from His great love. He forgives us continuously without end, just He as expects us to forgive others.
Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
SO the challenge for me this month is to preach God’s gospel grace to myself each morning, to trust in His forgiveness and to rest in His joy. By doing this, I pray His spirit will work in me to slowly transform me into the woman He wants me to be able to do all the good works he has prepared for me.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
SAVE THE DATE!
BIBLE STUDY 1: LIVING OUT GOD’S GRACE
CORSHAM BAPTIST CHURCH HALL
MONDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER, 7:30PM
REFRESHMENTS AND FRIENDSHIP PROVIDED!
It is a wonder and joy when we come to faith in Jesus through the gift of God’s amazing grace. Becoming Christ’s follower, though, is only the beginning! It is also about growing and becoming more like Jesus. It is hard work, and that’s where we can turn from His grace to works and get off track.
In this year’s women’s bible study, we will explore the grace of the gospel which brings us to faith in Christ and is the same grace which motivates us to live out our salvation; how to grow to maturity and holiness in Christ. To help us, we will consider Jesus’ life as he lived out the cycle of God’s grace while on earth.
If you’ve struggled with the Christian disciplines, and have found yourself weary, confused, or burnt out, this study will comfort and challenge you as you learn to rest in God’s grace in your journey to become more like Christ.
Our first study is MONDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER at 7:30pm in the church hall. The hand outs are available in hard copy at the churches and on this website where you click on 2017-2018 LIVING OUT GOD’S GRACE BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS. If you need a study buddy or don’t know what one is in this context, please see ANNE HOLMES. The guidelines are also on this website.
We hope to see you there!
VICKY STEPHENSON, Contributor for today’s blog post
We are about to begin a new study series. But I have been reflecting on our study last year in “One Anothering.” What an amazing year we had! It has been a real privilege to grow together as sisters in Christ; one anothering each other and being held together in love. Friendships have deepened and new ones have been made. There has been tears and laughter; food shared and journeys taken together.
BUT what now! How do we continue to take it forward? Holding each other accountable and taking hard honest looks at our relationships with our girl friends is a great start. But is there even more?
What would it look like if we took all we had learnt about one anothering and applied it to our families!! Seriously having deep supportive honest relationships with our sisters in Christ is tough but how about living out the one anothering aspect with our whole family, accepting one another! bearing with one another!
How would this fit with the goals Kathy set out for us?
1. PERSONAL: as God matures our character into Christ’s likeness more every day;
2.CHURCH: building each other up in the body of Christ;
3.WITNESS: as the world around us sees the light of Christ in our lives together.
Well I would say having children has definitely been the most character building thing that has happened in my life. The joy, the stress, the constant pressures, the never ending washing and the rewards of hugs! I have shouted, cried, and laughed since we were blessed by children in levels not seen since hormonal teenage years. So how much more could God grow me if I took seriously the command to encourage one another. If instead of nagging and shouting about room tidying and not fighting with one another; I looked at ways to encourage them; to build them up to be the amazing people God has made.
Would the body of Christ be strengthened if I worked on praying for one another with in my family? Would my husband be built up and supported to enable him to do the work in the church God has for him if I committed to faithfully praying for him and the work he is doing? Some of you are privileged to worship along side members of your wider family; fathers, mother, sisters, cousins- through bearing with one another and committing to biblically grow those relationships, the whole fellowship would be built up.
This I think is the area where committing to one anothering in our wider family would have most impact. Every day I see the effect that broken family relationships can have on peoples physical, mental and spiritual health. By modelling accepting our children even when they make different choices to us, we send a powerful message to the world- that it is all held by God’s love. Carrying one another’s burdens. Giving time or money to family members shows how we can be generous because God provides all we need. Forgiving one another, the people who are closest to us often hurt us the most so this can be really tough. I think the first step is letting go of the anger, it may still hurt but by releasing the anger you are on the right path. In today’s rights and retribution demanding society this is radially counter cultural and will shine God’s light into the world.
So I think that taking one anothering out into our wider families would definitely fit with the goals Kathy had for the year and beyond so lets give it a try
Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog post
Years ago while Neal and I attended Bible College in California, one of our worship leaders wrote a song called “Joy for the Battle.” It became the ‘theme song’ for our class throughout the two year course, and just before we graduated we even made a CD with this as the title song!
The song’s very simple chorus lodged itself deep in our hearts, and still bubbles up whenever the journey gets tough, when life’s battles seem overwhelming:
“He gives me joy for the battle, joy for the journey,
Joy for the battle, joy for the journey…..”
The Bible is packed with references about the power of joy. The text we’re considering in Hebrews 12: 1-3 talks about the joy that was set before Jesus enabling him to run his race, to endure even the horror of the cross! And it urges us to ‘consider Him’ to imitate Him, to follow His example as we run our race.
In the book of Psalms one of the most repeated phrases is “Shout for joy!” Nehemiah told the Israelites that the joy of the Lord was their strength! In Philippians 4:4 the apostle Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It’s a command.
Finding joy has been a challenge for me. I’m not naturally an upbeat person; I’m more of a melancholy, so when I talk about joy, I’m not doing so from the perspective of someone who never has a bad day!
My problem was my definition of joy. I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible – even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic! I found this definition from Kay Warren very helpful:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
There’s nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because happiness is fleeting and temporary.
In reality, life is much more like train tracks than hills and valleys. Every day, wonderful, good things happen that bring us pleasure, contentment and beauty. At the exact same time, painful things happen that disappoint, hurt, and fill us with sorrow. These tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of our lives.
That’s why, when you’re in the midst of an amazing experience, you have a nagging realization that it’s not perfect. And while you’re experiencing something painful, there’s the glorious realization that there’s still beauty and loveliness to be found. They’re inseparable.
If you look down train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense.
Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today’s post
During this summer break I’ve learned more about practical perseverance than I feel I’ve ever known before. Why? Well, in short, as soon my son turned two and half, it seems he found the ‘terrible twos’ button and pressed it hard! My oh my. I’d read about this stage in books; the tantrums, yelling, irrational behaviours etc, but had thought we’d already kinda covered that and I *thought* I had it nailed (ha!). Oh boy was I wrong. I can tell you I’ve cried in quiet corners more than I care to admit recently and have been driven to my knees telling God ‘I just don’t think I can do this anymore!’. The intense screaming and general craziness have made parenting with grace and consistent love a daily test in perseverance. I want to share some of what God has been teaching me.
We’ve already looked at a key passage in understanding godly perseverance; Hebrews 12 v 1-3 compares life to a race that must be run with endurance, with our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. I quickly realised my eyes had been looking in the wrong direction; at me and my problem…not feeling capable of parenting my boy successfully. Yet I struggled to change the direction of my eyes, despite praying for help. And then I read a timely blog post a friend had put on Facebook (http://www.jenniferphillipsblog.com/2017/07/when-your-kids-wont-bow-to-your-idols.html) and was immediately convicted. I had made an idol of being the perfectly in-control mother of an obedient child. My heart squeezed as I realised I was struggling to persevere with godly parenting because my son would not bow to my idol. I could suddenly see how I was also taking the credit for his good behaviour rather than giving God the glory, and indulging in pride when falling into the comparison trap.
How often idolatry and pride cause us to stumble as we ‘run the race’! But what should we do about it once the Holy Spirit has convicted us? The author of the blog neatly gives three steps in her follow-up post; repent, believe and fight. Not just as a one off but as a moment-by-moment call to perseverance in godly living. We need to repent of loving something more than we love God, believe Him when He says we are forgiven and eternally loved by Him, and then ‘fight like crazy to walk in obedience to the calling he has given’. Peter writes in his letter to the early church that perseverance is one of the qualities we should be developing to supplement our faith (2 Peter 1 v 5-8). It IS a fight to persevere. Perseverance does not come automatically; it requires hard work. It is not optional; it should be a continual part of our Christian life.
The words of Paul are echoing in my mind as I close, in Philippians 3 v 12-14 ‘not that I have already reached the goal…’ I certainly have not reached there yet, but I’m so thankful to my Father for allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt me in this area so that I can ‘work towards the day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be’ (v12 NLT).
I am now praying that the Holy Spirit will enable me to see other ‘unseen’ things in my life that need ‘throwing off’ in order to run this race without hindrance and with perseverance. Can you relate? Is there some idol you need to throw off? Let’s continue to pray and encourage each other as we run the race God has marked out for us to THROW OFF THOSE IDOLS!
Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog
“… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (NIV)
I love this description of Jesus. It reminds me that, like pioneers going off to America or Australia, he has gone ahead of me and blazed a trail. The future is not a terrifying landscape, uncharted and unknown. Jesus, my pioneer, went there first. And even better, he finishes every job he starts, because he is the ‘perfecter’, too, adding all the final touches to present me as perfect in Him.
Jesus is the pioneer because he is the only one who has died and been raised into new life. He is the pioneer who gives us the Holy Spirit. He is the pioneer who is even now in heaven with the Father.
If I fix my eyes on him, I can follow his pioneering trail. Whatever I face in my life, I know that he was there first:
Rejected by those you love? Jesus was rejected first.
Physically suffering? Jesus suffered first.
Abandoned by friends? Jesus was totally deserted first.
People tell lies about you? Jesus was wrongly accused first.
Feeling the pain of giving things up? Jesus gave up everything.
But the path Jesus has set for us to follow is also pioneering in other areas:
Want to please God? Jesus shows us how.
How to get to heaven? Jesus himself is the way.
Staring at Jesus all the time gives me the best example. Whenever I’m unsure, I can look to him for the way forward.
But sometimes it’s an overwhelming example because I can’t live up to it. This is why the second half of the verse is so amazing. Not just an example, Jesus is the “pioneer… of our faith”. He went ahead of us, making a way for us to have faith.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is the pioneering treatment for our heart disease, so that we can confidently say, ‘Yes Father God, I believe your promises, that in Jesus Christ you will save me, keep me, transform me, glorify me, just as you promised, because you keep your promises; you sent Jesus and he died and rose again just like you promised.”
Jesus is also the ‘perfecter’. He doesn’t just start off the work of faith and abandon us to become holy by our own efforts. He stays with us and sees the job through. He perfects us. He doesn’t leave us half-finished but sticks with us right to the end – just as he promised, “I will never leave you, nor abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
So fix your eyes on Jesus. He goes ahead of us and he sticks with us to the end. You won’t have to look far to find him. He is always speaking to us in the Bible, through Christian songs and friends, and his Holy Spirit lives in us. He leads us through whatever joys and sorrows come our way. We can be confident that our faith is not misplaced – God keeps his promises – because Jesus the pioneer went there first and Jesus the perfecter sticks with us to the end.
One of my contemporary heroes of the faith is Joni Eareckson Tada. She has exemplified to the world through the years the amazing grace and godly perseverance that our Lord has given her.
This last Sunday (30 July), marks the 5oth anniversary of her diving accident which left her a quadriplegic at the age of 17.
She has written a reflection of this milestone. As Grace Place contributors are reflecting on running the race God has marked out for us with godly perseverance, I thought it fitting to share it. Just click on the link below and take the time to read and ponder. May you find comfort, hope, and a deep peace from our Lord through this precious sister.
Love, Kathy xo
JONI EARKECKSON TADA-REFLECTIONS 50 YEARS ON
The well-known car bumper sticker “Be patient with me – God hasn’t finished with me yet!” crossed my mind as I sat down to write this morning. But no sooner had my fingers touched the keyboard than I felt the Holy Spirit unexpectedly nudge me with these words: “Be patient with yourself, I haven’t finished with you yet!”
Oh man! How I struggle to be patient with myself! A constant, condescending, impatient ‘inner voice’ that shouts “That’s good, but it’s not really good enough. Why haven’t you done this yet? Why are you still doing that?” When is this going to happen?”
“Be patient with yourself….” If you’re anything like me you’re a bit of a mess! We don’t want anyone else to know it and we do our best to put on a great face so no-one will ever know it …. but we know! We know every flaw, every mistake, every failure, every sin. And with every new mistake we beat ourselves up … ‘Why bother? I’m never going to make it!’
1 Corinthians 13 tells me that love is patient. God is love, and He is eternally patient with me. If I’m to imitate Him I must be patient with myself! I must believe God’s working in my life even when I don’t feel like He is.
Spiritual growth is often tedious work – one small step at a time. Ecclesiastes 1:3 says “Everything in earth has its own time and season.” There are seasons in our spiritual life too. Sometimes we’ll experience short, intense bursts of growth (Spring) but also periods of stability, testing and even barrenness (Autumn & Winter).
So what about those habits and hurts you would like instantly removed from your life? Its fine to pray for a miracle, but don’t be disappointed if the answer comes from a gradual change. Be patient. Over time, a slow steady flow of water will erode the hardest rock and turn giant boulders into pebbles. Winter will eventually become Spring.
Try keeping a notebook or journal. Not a diary of events but a record of what you’re learning. Write down the insights and life-lessons God teaches you about yourself, life, relationships and everything else. Recording gives you opportunity to review, to look back and praise God for every lesson learned, every victory He’s achieved in you!
One of life’s frustrations is that God’s timetable is rarely the same as ours. I often feel frustrated, impatient with the seemingly slow progress I’m making in life. Remember God is never in a hurry, but He’s always ‘bang on time.’ He’s using our entire lifetime to prepare us for our role in eternity!
Dear friends, I don’t know what’s been happening in your life – what struggles you’re facing, what failures you’ve made. All I know is, if you love God, He is working on you. Be patient with Him. Be patient with yourself. Love is patient. Cut yourself some slack today. You’ll make it. God has promised you will!
Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog