PAT FUGGLE, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
At the beginning of a new year we hear a lot about diets, healthy living & decluttering! Living in a retirement village I am surrounded by older people desperately trying to hold on to their health mainly through exercise! As we downsized over three years ago to an apartment with very little storage, we are experts in decluttering & have to assess constantly whether we actually need certain ‘things’. But do we declutter our minds & spirits?
I was reminded of some wise words which I still remember from a pastoral training session I attended in my 30s!! “There is no such thing as an embittered old man or lady! The bitterness starts in our youth & is exacerbated in our old age. So get sorted now!’
Those words motivated me to seek help from an older woman to repent of resentment in my life. That has helped me to recognise when I start thinking in this way when I’ve been hurt or I feel that I have been treated unfairly but also to recognise it in others.
Titus 2 v.3 says ” teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women …’
I learned a lot from a reverent older woman especially through the ups & downs of family life & am now encouraged that younger women feel that they can ask my advice from my experience of God’s faithfulness.
Do you need to declutter your minds & spirits? Do you feel, as I did, that other people have hurt you & let you down & so you’re harbouring resentment? I discovered that holding onto the resentment was doing far more harm to me than to the person who had hurt me.
The good news is we can lay all our hurts and resentment at the foot of the cross & receive the forgiveness that only Jesus can give. God gives us each other to teach and encourage one another to “declutter” our minds and spirits as we mature in Christ. Only the grace of The Lord Jesus Christ changes us.
We are encouraged in Titus 2:11-14:
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God & Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
So as you declutter your home this New Year, ask God to show you how He can help you declutter your mind and spirit!
CHRISTINE COLTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR FOR TODAY’S BLOG POST
11For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
The following are some excerpts taken from Christine Coltman’s notes on our recent bible study on Titus 2:11-14. The entirety of these notes are on this blog under the heading of 2018-2019 Bible Study Questions and Notes. May we all be blessed and changed to more like Jesus!
PART ONE v11, 14 – GOD IS FOR US (He won us)
…The reason why this is so motivational to us as Christians is that God was free not to be gracious to us. He has never, and will never owe us anything. But God did freely chose us, and sent his Son to die for us so that we could freely choose him….
Paul knew that there will be times when you need to tell people what the good life looks like, but if you want people to actually live a good life it’s great that we don’t have to focus on the good we must do for God, but can meditate on the good God has done for us.
PART TWO v12 – AND HIS GRACE WILL TRAIN US
…….I’m so grateful that Jesus is not the launching event for our faith who then clocks off and tells us to try our best. He is with us every step of the way, willing us on and strengthening us.
I’m also grateful that our acceptance with God is never on the basis of our performance – it is all his grace. When we say no to things that displease him, God is rooting for us through his enabling grace.
It says in tonight’s passage that he wants us to live for our best, ‘in this present age’ – that means right now. And that in itself is a challenge as we live in a fallen world, an ‘evil world’, as Paul says, where Satan often seems to reign. But as Douglas Milne says: ‘The best news of the gospel is that what it demands it gives to those who submit to it. That is the meaning of grace.’ We are never on our own as we undertake the training of grace….
…If we consider tonight’s section of Titus as verses that are (as indeed they are!) written to us right here, right now, we should take encouragement from them that God has promised to stick with us, making us the very best that we can be, through his enabling grace. The grace that saves us is the grace that trains us. Grace does not do one without the other – those he saves, he works hard in, with the aim of making us more like Jesus day by day.
PART THREE v13-14 – SO TRACK TOWARDS CHRIST’S RETURN (He is coming back for us)
…It’s massively encouraging and inspiring, particularly on the hard days when living the good life seems neither worth it nor even possible. This also means that our justification is complete and already finished. Verses 11 and 13 are in a sense the bookends of our lives – Jesus has appeared and he will return for those who love him….
….I know that I am certainly prone to holding on very lightly to his hope, and the result of this is that I replace Jesus with uncertain earthly things. This then means that I then easily fall prey to fear and anxiety. I basically try and carve out my own little heaven on earth that is more easily within my control.
The trouble with doing that is that then, when bad things hit, we fall apart. The only thing in life that cannot be taken from us is our hope in Christ, the security of the cross. When that our focus, the peace that is in us is firm and immovable because that hope is certain and true. That is what grace trains us to do – keep our focus on Jesus.
…I hope we can all be encouraged by these words as we remember what Jesus has done for us, as we live for him, wait for him to return; all not in our own strength, but through his.
God is for us and his grace will train us, so track towards Christ’s return
Come join us for friendship “Grace For The Good Life” as Christine Coltman leads us to study together in Titus 2:11-14
WHERE: Corsham Baptist Church Hall
WHEN: Monday, 28 January
TIME: 7:30-9:00 pm
CATHERINE DONOVAN, CONTRIBUTOR FOR TODAY’S BLOG POST
As I approached the New Year, I caught myself reminiscing about the days when I approached each New Year with a studied analysis of what I had achieved the previous year and properly assessed resolutions. It became apparent that I had somehow lost the ability to make resolutions and plans and surrendered myself to a life of free fall. Whilst my excuse was in fact that I trusted God for every day and what it embraced, the quote by Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” came to mind.
What underpinned the earlier years of very considered yearly resolutions was an absolute trust that God had a wonderful plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); a lot of prayer, as I attended overnight prayer times seeking God about the year ahead; and a commitment to daily prayer and studying the Bible. The words of Henri J.M. Nouwen in his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son” expounded why perhaps I was less likely to make resolutions now for fear of failure:
“The further I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world”.
So this year, I am resolving to guard, purpose and timetable my “me and God time”. Whilst I recognize that I am incapable of achieving this in my own strength, I am thankful for the grace of God which Titus 2:12 says “teaches me to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”. There is great comfort in knowing that God knows whatever is going on in our present lives. He knows it all.
I don’t know what your new year resolutions are or if you have any, but I encourage you to have what Franklin Covey refers to as “winning the daily private victory” by meditating and reading God’s word.
Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today’s post
I’ll be honest, I am not a big fan of this time of the year. The endless grey dreariness gets me down, and I don’t much like going out in the cold. The bright twinkly lights of Christmas feel far in the past, despite January having only just begun! However, it struck me this week, that despite my ‘poor me’ feelings, the message of Christmas is still well and truly here if I would just focus my heart on it.
As I was reading Titus 2, verse 11 stood out to me; “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people” (NLT). My first thought was Christmas! Jesus, our salvation bringer, revealed to us by piercing the darkness of a cold night in Bethlehem. The Christmas message that warms my heart as I ponder on it through December, is STILL there to be found in gloomy January!
We are reading through the New Testament in a year with our life group this year; one chapter a day. Yesterday whilst reading Matthew 2, verse 10 spoke to my heart. “When they (the Magi) saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (ESV). The Magi, who had travelled SO far and for SO long must have indeed been thrilled by the sight of the star leading them to their final destination. And yet they didn’t even know the full story that we know now… How that baby-King would one day die a cruel death on a cross, bearing the punishment of the sins of all people in order to bring them back into a right relationship with the Father God. How that baby-King would triumph over death, making the hope of eternity with him a possibility for those who would believe and trust in him. And how that baby-King will one day come again, not as a baby but as majestic Ruler of All, bringing justice and ushering in his kingdom. But WE KNOW! As Paul said to Titus, the grace of God has been REVEALED! It has been enough to make my heart rejoice all over again. And when I am tempted to (or give in to) despair and gloom, I have made it my arrow-prayer to say “Father I choose to rejoice right now that…” and fill the blank with truths like:
You have revealed Jesus to us
Jesus has brought salvation to messed-up me
I am loved by the Creator of the universe
I am redeemed
I am being sanctified (made holy)
I will one day be with you forever…
Titus is full of truths I am able to use to fight back against the gloom! I pray that you too will be able to rejoice in the amazing truth that Titus 2:11 shows us; the grace of God has been revealed! Choose to fix your eyes on Jesus, our salvation-bringer, today and every day.
This prayer from Billy Graham, written for The Saturday Evening Post in 2008, is just as relevant more than a decade later.
Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.
We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.
In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love.
In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.
In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost.
And in the midst of our daily preoccupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. May our constant prayer be that of the ancient Psalmist: “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end” (Psalm 119:33).
We pray for our nation and its leaders during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to our dangerous and troubled world. We pray especially for Your protection on all those who serve in our armed forces, and we thank You for their commitment to defend our freedoms, even at the cost of their own lives. Be with their families also, and assure them of Your love and concern for them.
Bring our divided nation together, and give us a greater vision of what You would have us to be. Your Word reminds us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).
As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year.
And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come.
© 2008 Saturday Evening Post Society. Reprinted with permission.
C.S.Lewis’ words to me mean: “Emmanuel” (God is with us); Fatherhood; Redemption, an Eternal inheritance, Hope and purposed to do great things in Christ Jesus.
ESTHER KING, CONTRIBUTOR FOR TODAY’S BLOG POST
Ah! My favourite Christmas carol… not because my middle name is ‘Joy’ and not just because I love the stirring musical arrangement. Most importantly the lyrics, rooted in Scripture and written by Isaac Watts, are INCREDIBLE.
Here they are – clear those throats and sing them out with gusto! Or venture onto YouTube and find a recording to listen to (Here’s a modern version which includes the 3rd verse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mnC8zMiwaQ):
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the World, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
Beautiful! Check out John 1.1-18 and Psalm 98 then take a moment to reflect. Are you starting to really feel the joy?
I love the ‘present continuous’ feel of this carol. It celebrates the birth of Jesus – ‘the Lord is come’ – but as well as invoking the nativity story in your mind, it encapsulates the entire significance of what Jesus has done for us.
Why is it we sometimes miss out the third verse when we sing this congregationally? Is it the use of ‘heavy language’ such as ‘sin’, ‘sorrows’, ‘thorns’ and ‘the curse’? Yet look again and here’s the truly amazing news of the Gospel. Because Jesus has defeated sin and death, we’re set free from their power! And there’s no dark, cursed corner where God can’t make his blessings flow!
The Lord reigns and he’s not just our ruler but our saviour! And how does he rule? With ‘truth and grace’ and the way he interacts with us, ‘the nations’, speaks of both his glorious righteousness and wonderful love!
I love the way the carol reminds me that it’s not just us praising the Lord with joyful and thankful hearts but all of creation, everything He has made, the entire universe. Lord open my eyes to see how everything in all creation points to you and your goodness!
Finally, don’t miss key call to action in the carol. To truly experience the joy, the earth first has to receive its king. To truly mean what we sing, we must first prepare room in our hearts, putting Jesus at the centre of our lives and acknowledging him and him alone as our Lord and saviour. Lord, please help us to do this. Amen!
My lovely sisters, please don’t let this most wonderful time of year be your most stressed, getting in debt, losing the plot and getting indigestion time of year! Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle. Don’t let your ‘HO, HO, HO!’ turn into ‘OH, PLEASE NO!’…………
Christmas is absolutely not about frantically buying things we don’t need and often can’t afford. It’s not about stressing morning ‘til night over complicated menus, a perfectly decorated tree, exquisitely wrapped gifts or being the world’s best hostess.
This time of year is an opportunity to fill our eyes with wonder, our homes with love and laughter and our souls with gratitude and praise. Amid all the busy-ness let’s remember what this season is all about. There would be no Christmas celebrations at all, had our loving Father not sent his beloved Son into this sin-sick world to be our Saviour.
So this year, let’s refuse to make it complicated. Take the pressure off yourselves, ladies. Over the years I’ve found it’s been the simplest, least expensive things that have made the most precious memories. Don’t give in to feelings of inadequacy and panic. Don’t stress over long lists of things that don’t matter. Instead think of the little ways in which you can easily express love and enjoy being together. If you do, I guarantee your family, your friends and your own well-being will be very, very blessed!
Christine Coltman, contributor for today’s Christmas thought
We usually all get what we seek at Christmas – presents, family time, indigestion – but if we seek Jesus we get him in abundance for ‘The grace of God has been revealed to all men’ at Christmastime. Thank you God!