A PRAYER ABOUT THE PARADOX OF WEAKNESS

everyday prayers scotty smith“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, than I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Heavenly Father, as I meditate on these words of Paul, I vacillate between feelings of anger and relief, for as a young follower of Jesus, I wasn’t taught to delight in weakness but rather to despise weakness, to deny weakness, to demonize weakness, to dethrone weakness. That’s why I totally understand Martin Luther’s statement that ‘bad theology is the worst taskmaster of all.’ For I’ve suffered much under the merciless whip of several gospel distortions.

It was all about the ‘victorious Christian life’: overcoming and not underachieving, kind of like having a type A personality on spiritual steroids. I didn’t think in terms of sufficient grace, I wanted replacement grace- getting rid of anything unpleasant in my life.

Thank you Father, for rescuing me from this and other misrepresentations of life in Christ. Thank you for the godly men and women you’ve brought into my life in Christ over the years, the humble and courageous servants of Jesus who’ve helped me understand the true riches of the gospel and the way of the cross. Increase their tribe, Lord: increase their tribe.

Father, I know I’m not be be defined by my weakness and brokenness, but I realize more than ever, that’s where Jesus meets me. I have no ability to change my heart. I very much want your power to rest on me. I very much need your power to rest on me. I am desperate for all the sufficient grace you will give me.

As you continue to humble and gentle my heart, greatly increase my compassion toward others in their weakness and brokenness. Forgive my irritation, impatience, and avoidance of people whose need is much greater than my supply.

What a wonderful, merciful Saviour you are, Jesus. Indeed, it was because you embraced the weakness of the cross that I can gladly boast in the weaknesses of my life and the more-than-sufficient supply of your grace. What a most profound, liberating, and hope-filled paradox. I pray in your holy and loving name. Amen.”

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A PRAYER OF DESIRE FOR FRESH GRACE

everyday prayers scotty smith“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spoke this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” Mark 8:31-33

“Jesus, one of the many things I cherish about the Bible is the way it robs me of my penchant for hero worship. Who but God would write a book documenting the foibles and failures of so many of his sons and daughters? Who but God would chronicle the ways his chosen leaders limp along and prove themselves to be in constant need of mercy and grace?

This gives me great encouragement and hope. It also gives me freedom to acknowledge that I need the gospel today just as much as the first day I believed it. This will be just as true tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Keep me convinced, Jesus, because I am like Peter.

It’s one thing for me to stress and stew about the ways this generation is distancing itself from your cross. But it’s quite another to see the subtle ways I try to keep you from the cross. Deal with me as you dealt with Peter.

When I mute my heart to the insult of grace, I deny your cross. When I think, even for one moment, that my obedience merits anything, I deny your cross. When I put others under the microscope and measure of performance-based living, I deny your cross. When I wallow in self-contempt and shame, I deny your cross. When I’d rather do penance than repent, I deny your cross.

By the gospel, help me to mind the things of God more than the things of men. May your cross get bigger, and may my boast in it grow louder. Jesus, you’re the only hero in the Bible, and I’m fine with that. I pray in your patient and persistent name. Amen.”

A PRAYER FOR DAYS WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE PRAYING

everyday prayers scotty smith“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 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.” Romans 8:26-27 NIV

“Dear Father, this is one of those days when I could create a long prayer list and methodically go through it, but I’m not sure I would really be praying. I could go through the motions, but to be quite honest, it would be more ritual than reality- more about me than the people and situations I’d bring before you. I’m feeling a bit distracted this morning, scattered and not very focused.

It’s one of those days I’m glad the gospel is much more about your grasp of me than my grip on you. I’m grateful your delight in me is not contingent upon my delight in you. I’m thankful for the prayer ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious Father, I have no problem or reluctance in acknowledging my weakness this morning. In fact, it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak but helps us in our weakness, faithfully praying in us with ‘wordless groans’. Though I don’t understand everything that means, I do get that you search our hearts and you know the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me great comfort today.

No one knows our hearts better than you, Father. And you search our hearts to save us, not to shame us; to deliver us, not to demean us; to change us, not to chide us. You know my dignity and my depravity, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in Christ.

And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me, perfectly tuned in to my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I surrender right now, Father. I will gladly groan to your glory. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including this season. You have called me to life in Christ, and you will complete your purpose in me, in each of your children, and in the entire cosmos. I do love you; I would love you more. I pray with thankfulness, in Jesus’ merciful and faithful name. Amen.”

BY GOD’S GRACE- THE TESTIMONY OF CATHERINE DONOVAN

Cathy Photo

CATHERINE DONOVAN, contributor for today’s blog post 

We have been studying about God’s grace and our thorns and these series have come to an end. There are many thorns in my life, but even more evident is God’s grace. For me, one of those constant thorns or pain in my flesh and soul has been the sense of loneliness through my life. By God’s grace, I have learnt to dress up in the mantle of God’s fatherhood each day.
I was born in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, in East Africa. Tragically my mum was shot when I was 6 and I found her body. My dad was murdered when I was 10. Left a total orphan in a country that UNICEF estimates to have 2.5 million orphans, it is a miracle that I have never lacked clothes, slept on the streets or gone a day without food. God has been my Father. Psalm 68:5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 11 when a call was made to come forward in Church after a sermon. I knew I had no one and God would be my refuge. At the time when my Dad died, I was left with one of my stepmothers who took out her frustrations on me to the point that I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking she was shouting my name. I worked hard to go to the best secondary school in the country, a boarding school that banned corporal punishment. I found out more about what it meant to be a Christian in that school and joined the Christian Committee.
My faith was quickly tested when at the age of 15, I was purportedly rescued from my step mother by a maternal uncle. When he came to collect me from school his financial circumstances had changed and he gave me over to his very rich best friend, who had a daughter in the same school. Unfortunately this rich man wanted me for a wife. I spent my time hiding from him and locking my bedroom door with a belt through the door handle and keyhole. God protected and delivered me from that situation. However, my faith faltered as I could not understand how God could take me from one state of suffering to the next. I stepped down from serving on the Christian Committee because the rich man’s daughter had spread the word in the school that her dad was my sugar daddy. I left their home but did not know where I was going to live or find school fees. I was filled with hatred, had a hit list and asked a local security man to teach me how to use a gun so that I could enact vengeance on those who had wronged me. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”(Leviticus 19:18).
Overwhelmed by life, I took to blanking my mind using transcendental meditation through a book I read. This situation was turned around when staff members introduced me to a Pastor and his wife who opened their home to me and the staff members sorted out sponsorship for me. Their commitment took me through my secondary education and I passed highly enough to get a scholarship for my University education and qualify as a lawyer.
I am grateful that: the Lord rescued me from the rich man as many young girls died of AIDS because of him; because of my stepmother’s ways I ended up in that specific secondary school; God has been a Father to me and has brought healing, deliverance and bestowed the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair- Over and over in my life (Isaiah 61:1-3). Truly, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose“ (Romans 8:28).

A PRAYER ABOUT TEACHABILITY

everyday prayers scotty smith“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.”

A PRAYER ABOUT THE OBEDIENCE OF LOVE

everyday prayers scotty smith“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.”

A PRAYER FOR FREEDOM FROM RESENTMENT

everyday prayers scotty smith“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.”

SUMMER FOCUS

 

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

 

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.

everyday prayers scotty smithToday’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.
Amen.”

LAST BIBLE STUDY TONIGHT!

1cc19207f9a7be506aef9a6dac205b3bHi Girls,

You won’t want to miss our last bible study for the school year series, Living Out God’s Grace: God’s Grace And Our Thorns.

WHEN: Tonight, 25 June, 2018 @ 7:30pm

WHERE: Corsham Baptist Church Hall 

We will have time together in His Word and time together in friendship!
See you there!

 

GROWING IN GOD’S GRACE THROUGH HARDSHIP

 

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s blog post

 

“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.