GOD’S GRACE AND OUR THORNS

 

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s blog post

 

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.

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ON GRACE AND GOOD DEEDS

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

“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.

WE ARE FAMILY

 

LESLEY NEW PHOTO

LESLEY GRINDROD, Contributor for today’s blog post

Following Christ means belonging, not just believing!
This may come as a shock to some of us, but ‘church’ was not designed by God to be just a gathering we can attend, but a family to which we can belong! Yes, of course my relationship with Christ is personal, but my loving heavenly Father never intended it to be private. In God’s family we are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity.
Hey sisters, isn’t this wonderful news? We’re not alone anymore! We were created for community, fashioned for fellowship, formed for a family – and none of us can fulfil God’s purposes by ourselves. Nowhere does the Bible ask us to be solitary saints or spiritual hermits, isolated from other believers and deprived of fellowship. But many times it talks of us being put together, joined together, built together, members together, heirs together, fitted together, held together, and one day being caught up together (1 Cor 12:12; Eph 2:21-22, 3:6, 4:16; Col 2:19 and 1 Thess 4:17).
The church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization. Jesus is building us into a family that exists in connection with him and with each other. And because of him we can enjoy relationships of genuine love, forgiveness, and peace with each other. Belong hereWithout Him, our community would simply be a gathering of friends.
In fact, it’s only when regularly interacting with the church community that we can live our life with God in Christ Jesus to the fullest. It’s within the church that God tangibly shows us his grace and teaches us to follow him together. Close connection with each other allows us to bear one another’s burdens, to love one another well, and to experience Jesus reproducing his life in our midst.
Belonging to our church community establishes a base from which we can reliably care for others. True love is not only manifest in affection and action, but also allegiance. Love doesn’t say, “I love these people but don’t need to covenant with them.” Rather, it says, “I love these people enough to covenant with them.” Living the Christian life in community is more than just loose associations when life is fun, but committing to be there for each other when life is hard, in sickness and in sorrow.
belonging4a-1-1024x575Our recent Ladies’ Retreat was a wonderful example of this covenant community in action. Over the weekend, we laughed and cried together, we studied, prayed and played together, and together we learned more about Jesus. We formed new friendships, strengthened old ones, risked being vulnerable with each other, allowing God to speak to and through us to encourage and support one another. What a joy to be part of this beautiful display of God’s grace within our sisterhood family!
So, if eternity is a real thing (which it is), and we are going to be together forever (which we are), then why not starting acting like it today? Make no mistake – for all of us who love Jesus, we will be together as His Church for all of eternity. That may sound scary, but here’s the deal – we can serve and love one another, call each other out, and be there for each other in ways that this world will never understand. And we can (and should) do all of that because we are family. We are family, for eternity!

 

“LET’S SHARE THE GRACE WITH ONE ANOTHER”

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Many weeks our services at Church on the Green end with those words. I always make a point of smiling and nodding at the people around me, sharing the grace with them. The words are so familiar. I say it so often and it just rolls off the tongue. It’s nice to feel together, to be a little club with a secret sign off. But what on earth are we saying?

The words of “the grace” come straight from Scripture. They are Paul’s closing words to the church in Corinth. You can read it for yourself in 2 Corinthians 13:14. It is a prayer Paul prays for this bunch of Christians who he has been telling off. They are in a right state! They are arguing and fighting with each other, sleeping with each other, really battling to hang on to the truth, struggling with issues of purity and kindness. In his letter, Paul has been pretty stroppy with them!

Paul has spoken strongly with the church in Corinth but his final words are a prayer of blessing. Not a prayer that God would show them that he (Paul) is right, or that God would punish them for being so argumentative.

Paul asks God to bless them with:
1) Jesus’ grace. May God show them undeserved kindness because of Jesus. The church in Corinth definitely didn’t deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. Neither do I. Neither do we. But Paul longs for them to enjoy that grace and prays that they would.

2) the Father’s love. The unending, patient, kind, not-giving-up, pursuing love of God. The kind of love God shows us and the kind of love Paul commands us to have for each other in his other letter to the Corinthians. Love for each other in church is patient, love for each other in church is kind… (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

3) The together-ness that comes from the Spirit. Despite arguments and sinning against one another. Only God’s Spirit can bring the church together, whether it’s the people local church, or uniting a local church with other Christians far away. Paul prays that God’s Spirit will bring the church in Corinth together as one, and also that they would be joined to himself and other churches through that same Spirit.
Paul’s prayer gives us a look into his heart, looking to bless and love God’s people all the time.
So as you look round the church this Sunday, and smile, nod and wave. But don’t just say the grace; _pray_ the grace for each other.
Pray:
May God bless you by showing you kindness in Jesus, even though you don’t deserve it.
May God pour out his love on you and show you this week that you can trust him, his love will catch you.
May God bring us together by his Spirit, even though at times we disagree or selfishly sin against each other.
May all the persons of the Trinity bless you, now and forever. Amen.

POINT EACH OTHER TO JESUS

Imperfect DiscipleSalt of the earth. Light of the world.

We are only these together. No Christian alone is the salt of the earth. No Christian is individually the light of the world. The church is the salt of the earth. the church is the light of the world.

I know the church can be very difficult to get into. And yet, as difficult and complex as messy discipleship is, it’s incredibly easy to reproduce. ‘Crummy’ discipleship is imminently replicable! Wherever people have to hear each other, see each other, and deal with each other in the context of God’s glorious gospel, things will get messy. The good news is that messy is easy to replicate. So none of us is far from real discipleship. We don’t have to be experts, just pointing each other to Jesus.”

Jared Wilson, The Imperfect Disciple. 

ATTENTION AND REMINDER!

Hi sisters!
We have been asked if there is a women’s bible study this coming Monday, 30 April. The answer is that we are not meeting this Monday due to having our retreat last week end and the women’s breakfast earlier in the month.
The bible study questions for our next study will be out next Sunday at the churches for your study buddy time. It is scheduled for 21 May, at 7:30 in the Church Hall. We will be looking at BELONGING TO THE BODY: CHURCH COMMUNITY.
Have a blessed week!

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ATTENTION AND REMINDER!

Hi sisters!

We have been asked if there is a women’s bible study this coming Monday, 30 April.  The answer is that we are not meeting this Monday due to having our retreat last week end and the women’s breakfast earlier in the month.

The bible study questions for our next study will be out next Sunday at the churches for your study buddy time. It is scheduled for 21 May, at 7:30 in the Church Hall. We will be looking at BELONGING TO THE BODY: CHURCH COMMUNITY. 

Have a blessed week!

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COMMUNITY IN CHRIST

 

This last weekend, 34 of our women from our Corsham Baptist Church families came together for a week end retreat about an hour from here at Lox Lane near Shaftsbury. It was a great time away as we feasted on Psalm 23.

It was an emotionally joyful time for me personally as I was able to witness the fruit of God’s amazing grace in these women’s lives. This is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and love for us, and a timely example as I prepare for our next Living Out God’s Grace bible study! On 21 May, we will consider the grace habit of belonging to His body in fellowship within our church community, and why it’s important to our growth IN CHRIST.
God gave this amazing gift of grace to us to be able to physically remove ourselves from life’s distractions, the call of chores and responsibilities, and the demands of people- in order to make space for God and each other. We were given the bandwidth and atmosphere to learn together about our precious God and Saviour through His Word, led by Sharon Durant on Psalm 23. We were able to share our insights, learn from our varied background and ages, and experiences to help us grasp more of Its truth.
Our singing praise and worship songs together to God was a precious time. It softened our hearts and cleared our minds of ‘fog’. By the end of the week-end, I could feel the unity and oneness of spirit we shared during this time.
We prayed together. It was an awesome sight to see God working through the beauty of both laughter and tears, meeting us at the point of our needs, and to slowly help us step out of our comforts zones to embrace this gift of communication with God. Together we bore each others’ burdens, encouraged, comforted, and strengthened one another.

kathy lamb photoWe also played together! The team put together a great evening of fun and games. It gave us a chance to relax and enjoy each other in a bit of a different context. We dressed in fancy dress. I was a lamb! (that explains the photo!)

Through all these areas, God truly made us stronger, closer. It built trust, acceptance. It gave us that sense of community IN CHRIST that we are not alone! Many of us learned it is not so scary after all, to show our underbelly of vulnerabilities. Many experienced that God’s love does indeed cast out fear; that the light of Christ dispels the darkness in our hearts! It reminded us that we need each other to walk this journey IN CHRIST! We need each other to spur each other on to love and good deeds as we grow to be changed to be more like Christ every day.
Thank you to Anne Holmes, Sharon Durant, and the team, who made this weekend happen through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
Community in Christ- an essential gift of God’s grace given to us for our growth in Christ.