DON’T GIVE UP

lesley-grindrod

Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog post

Sisters, like it or not, if we’re alive and breathing right now, we’re all part of a huge marathon race – a race that will not be over until we take our final breath. The course is full of twists and turns, mountains and valleys. There are many hidden obstacles, challenges and even giants on the way, many opportunities to fail; trip up; fall over; be hurt, humiliated or discouraged.
Hebrews 12:1 says we should “… run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.” (The Passion Translation)
I’ve often asked the Lord why my life’s marathon seems to have been so full of obstacles and challenges. I’m not alone – I’m sure we’ve all had times when our race has felt particularly tough and we’ve pitifully cried “Why me, Lord?”
I remember on one of these occasions He led me to the Old Testament stories of how the Children of Israel took possession of the Promised Land. He showed me that to get into my ‘promised land’ I’d have to navigate my way through some wildernesses and fight some pretty ferocious battles. And that my attitude and responses to those obstacles would have a direct bearing on how long they lasted and what fruit they produced!
keep running the raceSo sisters, I have a question for you. In running your race, do you see your daily challenges as obstacles or opportunities? I believe the Lord wants us to see obstacles as a call to strengthen, not to quit! Between you and anything significant there will be giants in your path. No one is immune to problems. Even the lion has to fight off flies! Louisa May Alcott famously said “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
James 1:2-3 says “…. When it seems as though you’re facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience all the joy that you can. For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”
Let’s refuse to become discouraged by temporary setbacks. If you’re encountering some hard bumps, don’t worry – at least you’re out of a rut! Circumstances are not your master – Jesus is! As we run our race, we may encounter puddles on our path, but those puddles can actually be telling us where to step. Remember our Saviour has promised to be our constant companion and guide, even through the darkest of valleys.
The Apostle Paul wrote “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”
So keep on running sisters – the entire hosts of heaven are cheering for you!

 

JONI EARECKSON TADA- REFLECTIONS 50 YEARS ON

Joni E Tada character quoteOne 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THAT HINDERS…FEAR OF BEING DIFFERENT

As we continue to consider areas where we may be hindered in the race God has marked out for us, can you relate to the hindrance of the FEAR OF BEING DIFFERENT AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST? I have personally struggled with this big time in my earlier years and it even rears its ugly head every now and again now.

I have always wanted people to like me. I want people to approve of me-think I am cool, “with it”, on the cutting edge of …..well, anything. In other words, I don’t want people to think I am this weird Jesus fanatic like we read about in the news. I don’t want to be associated with “Christians” who either live depressed, legalistic “can’t do anything fun” lives, or be the one no one wants to be around because I give the smelly fragrance of self righteousness and judgement. I have said, “I don’t like others to be uncomfortable and I don’t want to put people off.” What is wrong with this picture? Excuses. Self-justification. It reeks of “all about me,” also known as pride.

As followers of Christ, we want to be discerning and use wisdom with the world. But many times, I fall into the trap of Satan’s deception. The fear. The pride. I stay quiet. I don’t share the hope I have through Christ. I try to blend in. I don’t stand up for Christ and HIS values and ideals when given the opportunity; or when I see His honour and majesty of who He is being tarnished or blasphemed.

This is the deal: Christ calls us to be different! And, it isn’t about us. It is about Christ. All. The. Time. Being a follower of Christ is not an add on in our lives. Christ teaches us a set of values and ideals which is distinctive from the way of the world. He calls us to be different; to be counter-cultural. We are not to get our cue from those around us, but from Him, and so prove to be genuine children of our heavenly Father. All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus carries this theme to be different. He gives the Christian value-system which is as relevant today as it was then.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ lays the trajectory for all of life’s choices. It can be very difficult at times. I have failed miserably many times. I was sidetracked for many years. My heart deceived me!(Jeremiah 17:9) and the serpent deceived my mind. (2 Corinthians 11:3) Sisters, If our minds tend to negotiate, to compromise the gospel, to justify our disobedience, we must be aware of this deception.

Our Lord is gracious and compassionate, and has rescued us through Jesus Christ our Lord! He helps us in our struggles. He will help us to throw off the hindrance of pride and fear of being different than the world around us! He helps us to be salt, light, and hope to a broken world. We must encourage one another to CHOOSE to give to Him our all in humility and a teachable spirit every day. Let’s encourage each other to dig deep into the word of God which will equip us through the Holy Spirit.

Let’s run together, the race God has marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith! Let’s embrace being different!

Love, Kathy x

fear of man

 

ALL THAT HINDERS

woman w rucksack

…Let us throw off anything that hinders…” Hebrews 12:1b

Ed and I enjoy hiking. In our 9 years of marriage, we have walked parts of Brecon Beacons, Derbyshire, Cornwall, and of course, around our patch in the Cotswolds.
I remember one particular walk we did which circles around Castle Combe. We were on the last stretch walking uphill. It was about ¼ mile from our car. I came SO close to giving up; to ask Ed to go and get the car and pick me up! But I persevered uphill that last little bit. To reduce the weight off my back, Ed relieved me of the burden of my rucksack and carried it for me. This “hindrance” being taken away, I was able to persevere to the “finish line” to the car!

This visual picture reminds me of those things which might hinder us; those things we need to “throw off” in our race God has marked off for us. There may not be specific “sin”, but there may be lots of “stuff” in our lives which may be eclipsing or impeding our running the race. What might that look like? I would say it is anything that slowly pushes God to the periphery of our hearts and off His path. What instantly comes to my mind are: BUSYNESS. DISORDERED PRIORITIES.

I know that I have struggled with these at times throughout my race with the Lord. They took me off course. They got my heart and mind off of what really mattered. I began to major on the minors of life. My busyness came from disordered priorities which stemmed from self absorption and selfish interests. I was allowing my activities and my children’s activities to crowd out sitting at the feet of Jesus. My gospel foundation was being compromised and starting to deteriorate. My choices were becoming more like the world and less like a follower of Christ. My lips were saying Jesus is Lord, but my children saw the reality: that Kathy was Lord. And as the children grew older, my children began to follow my example. I didn’t understand why they were not interested in the things of the Lord until I looked in the mirror of my own busy, disordered life. Yikes.

I am NOT saying that activities, interests, and hobbies are wrong! Far from it! They are wonderful and God’s gift to us in bringing healthy outlet, enrichment and growth. It is when they become a hindrance to our race in Christ that He has marked out for us; when they push godly pursuits to the margins of our lives where God becomes a accessory or an afterthought of our week.  That is what I did in my earlier years. Please don’t do what I did.

Throwing off hindrances to our race is crucial, not only to maintaining our spiritual foundation, but in building it. Let’s take off those rucksacks that hinder us on the race God has marked out for us. Are you taking consistent time to sit at the feet of Jesus? Do your priorities reflect what you say you value the most as a follower of Christ? Can you discern God’s priorities in your life? If any of the answers to these questions is “no,” then it is time to address the hindrances of busyness and disordered priorities.

I will pray for you and please pray for me blog sister. May our Lord Jesus guard our hearts and minds of anything which might compromise our spiritual foundation; which might hinder us from running the race with godly perseverance!

Love, Kathy xo

 

 

 

 

 

Godly Perseverance: A Heart Issue

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Last week on Grace Place, we began the first of our summer reflections on godly perseverance from Hebrews 12:1-3. So true to my Father’s relentless love for me, I learned a lesson this week which is the very foundation of running the race with perseverance:  Godly perseverance can only be sustained with a pure heart.

Let me explain: Last week my scheduled activities were heavy, temperatures warm, and there were also many opportunities to “one another”- listen, share, comfort, encourage and sometimes challenge. I found myself wilting; not only with the heat, but with my heart.

My attitude began to suffer. All my sinful “selfs” began to rear their ugly heads– self-pity, self-righteousness, self- justification, pride. I began to complain to the Lord; maybe not vocally, but in my heart. I was persevering in ministry for the Lord wasn’t I? But does all of it really make a difference? I don’t see much fruit.  I just want to be home with my feet up! Besides, I don’t have much energy and I don’t like THAT one bit! Yikes! Not a pretty picture. On the inside, my heart was whining and rebelling like a spoilt child.

I was later reminded that my attitude was not unlike the older son in the parable of the prodigal son. The older son felt hard done to. He felt he had persevered for his father in his work and loyalty and received nothing in return. But as the father in the parable reminded the older son, (Luke 15:11-31), my heavenly Father reminded me of His great love, patience and faithfulness.

As I read of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, I was greatly convicted. They followed the invisible God, clinging to his promises, knowing God could be trusted to keep them. Today, we have been given so much more this side of the cross! All of God’s promises are yes in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 1:20)

Through my tears, I repented of my sinful heart. Peace and rest flooded my soul. I realized, AGAIN, that there is the bigger picture of God’s promises going on beyond what I can see in my little world. You know, sisters, our perseverance may be spot on, but if our hearts and motives are not in line with God’s heart, we will suffer, become disillusioned and weary. We must persevere, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because of Jesus-for His purposes. His glory. Our good. Although we may never see the fruit as we read in Hebrews 11, we can have full assurance that God’s promises and purposes will come to pass in and through us because of Jesus, the author and perfectereyes on jesus of our faith.

Will you help me to keep my eyes on Jesus as I persevere in HIS name; not in MY name?

So where is your heart with what God has given to you to persevere with this week?

I am praying for us all reader, that we will fix our eyes on Jesus as we persevere for Him.

Love, Kathy xo

Run With Perseverance The Race Marked Out For Us

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

“..Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2a

Ed and I had the opportunity to attend Wimbledon a couple of days ago to watch Andy Murray play Alexander Bublik. It is so amazing to witness such a high level of competitive tennis! I can only imagine the sacrifices he has made in the name of the game-the preparation and training, both physically and mentally; to consistently persevere day after day. And this is BEFORE he even walks on the court to play his matches! Andy has persevered over the years. He has pressed on. He has dug deep on those days when he didn’t feel like it; when he lost a match; when he was injured. We are drawn to and inspired by people like Andy who persevere. How do I know that he has persevered? The proof is in the fruit. Andy is ranked number one in the tennis world.
running the raceA definition that I think describes well what perseverance is: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties or discouragement. Determination, tenacity and patience also are closely related qualities.
So, it is interesting that the Hebrew writer speaks of the analogy of “running the race.” Paul also uses this analogy in Philippians, Galatians, 1Corinthians, and 2 Timothy. He was from a culture where the hearers could relate to what he was trying to convey about the Christian journey because sporting events were as important then as they are today. If we are inspired by those achievers in sports and feats of courage, how much more as followers of Christ should we heed those who have persevered in the faith in living out their lives for the glory of God and sharing the hope of the Gospel! This is the highest calling; a grind of day in and day out selling out to God as we persevere and press on.
Through the summer months, we will consider godly perseverance: What does scripture teach us about perseverance? What is the fruit of godly perseverance? How does God enable us to grow in it in our everyday lives? Like Andy in his world of tennis, let’s run the race that God has marked out for us in such a way as to take the prize!
My prayer for us this summer is that we will learn to persevere more and more,  and that we will keep our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the meantime, stay cool and drinks lots of water in these warmer temperatures!

Love, Kathy x

 

WE ARE COMPELLED BY CHRIST’S LOVE

2 CORINTHIANS 5:14 NLT “Christ’s love controls (compels) us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 

PONDER THIS:

God calls us to live lives compelled by Christ’s love; but what He calls us to do in our weakness, He then enables us to do by His grace through the Holy Spirit. What does this look like? This side of heaven, we don’t know the mechanics of it. But it happens.
But God has given us His promise:
Romans 5:5b “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Romans 8:26 “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 with groans that words cannot express.”

Paul wrote these words out of long and deep experience. It would be easy to imagine he was made of different stuff than us; that he found relationships easier than us because he was an apostle. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. He gives us abundant evidence that relationships could be difficult, painful, even tearful for him. But He learned that God’s grace really is sufficient, and God’s Spirit really does enable us to minister Christ’s love for one another. And He tells us again and again that God’s grace and God’s Spirit are for us too. He wants us to know that in Corsham, as in Corinth, what Christ’s love compels us to do, His grace then enables us to do.
So, we can hold together in love in ONE ANOTHERING.

GOD’S GRACE ENABLES US TO HOLD TOGETHER IN LOVE

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s blog post

We have spent this school year studying “One Anothering: God’s Gift of Grace For Our Growth In Christ.” I hope and pray it will be fruitful in all of our lives as we allow the Holy Spirit to teach and transform us.

In this last study we are coming full circle where we consider how all of biblical One Anothering commands hold together in love. It is very clear in scripture where Paul urges the Corinthian believers:  Christ’s love controls (compels) us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NLT

I am reminded of this pattern of Christ’s amazing love for me. The only way to One Another is to be compelled by and through His love to love others in the same way. I am held together by Christ’s love. His love holds me fast.

But to be completely honest, One Anothering can sometimes get messy and just plain difficult! But it is in this messy struggling that calls out biblical love! Jon Bloom says it like this: “Those extraordinarily difficult and painful things that can drive us crazy — that provide the very opportunities for the humanly impossible love of Christ to be exercised, giving visibility to the existence of the invisible God!”

Wow. But even with this wonderful and amazing knowledge that I truly believe, I still have those times when I wonder: Can I really live after Christ’s pattern in the messiness of my life and in the life of my church family?  I have cried out to the Lord many times, “I can’t do this! I am too weak; too sinful and selfish to exercise this humanly impossible love of Christ!”

And of course, Jesus answers my cry.  Every. Single. Time.  “My grace is sufficient dear daughter. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” So as we One Another dear sisters, it is God’s gift of GRACE in our lives.

You see, Paul says that God calls us to live lives compelled by Christ’s love; but what He calls us to do in our weakness, He then enables us to do by His grace.

GRACEGod’s grace not only pardons our sins, but His grace is also given to us by the free and compassionate influence of His Holy Spirit who is sovereignly operating in our undeserving lives. He gives us strength. He gives us power through the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is sufficient.  God’s grace is enough so that we may not become paralyzed in our circumstances and daily life, but that we may love one another as Christ loves us; that we  may press on in obedience to Him, our loving Father.

We CAN One Another with Christ’s love. It holds everything together…. through his amazing grace.

We will be exploring this more thoroughly in our time together on Monday, 26 June. 7:30 PM. Church Hall. Please put it in your diary! It will be full of friendship, filling our tummies with cake, and filling our hearts and souls with His Word!

Kathy xo

ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER … NOT ON FACEBOOK BUT ‘FACE-TO-FACE’!

lesley-grindrodI heard a simple but very profound story recently. A little girl came home from school beaming. Her Mum asked “Did you get a part in the school play?” “Yes” she said, “I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer!” Some genius teacher, obviously anointed with the gift of encouragement, had helped a child discover the joy of encouraging others early in her young life.

We’ve all experienced times when we’ve felt unappreciated. When it seems like you give and give yet nobody notices. What you do seems not to matter to anybody. But then God sends someone along with an encouraging word and it’s like water to a parched throat in the desert.

Have you ever noticed how people’s faces light up when you look them in the eye and cheer them on? Have you ever pondered what it costs to encourage someone? Nothing! Yet in an age when we’re more ‘connected’ than ever through social media, many are feeling lonelier, more isolated, unloved and unappreciated. Is it possible that using social media is causing our real-life relationships to suffer?

A while ago I had to admit I was guilty of neglecting my closest relationships. I’d fallen into the ‘black hole’ of my laptop and phone.  I’d started to forget the immense value of personal contact.

be an encouragerOh how easy it is to get suckered into thinking that clicking ‘like’ on a friend’s Facebook post or photo is equivalent to giving them personal encouragement! How subtle is this trap of satan to ‘isolate’ us in front of phone or computer screens, gathering our list of on-line ‘friends,’ while real-life friends and even family are relegated further into the ‘background’ of our lives.

Technology is a gift, but it can also be a crutch. It can make us lazy in our relationships and instil a false sense of having more real friends than we do. Just because someone takes two seconds to “like” our latest post doesn’t mean they’d take off an entire afternoon to help us in a crisis. Having a thousand on-line followers doesn’t equal a thousand trustworthy friends.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, Paul reminds us to intentionally gather together: “…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another…”

Life’s best connections happen in person. God created us to live in community, and while digital communities can certainly enrich our lives, they can’t replace the joy of eye contact, laughter, tears and hugs, or the love and encouragement of a live human friend.

So, how about you, dear friend?  Are you developing your skills as an encourager? If the spoken word doesn’t come easily to you, why not start by writing someone a simple old-fashioned note of encouragement?

Dear Lord, I’m so thankful for the relationships you’ve placed in my life. Would you help me discern what encouraging words my sister needs to hear today? I want to show her your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.