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.

 

 

 

 

 

“LOVE MUST BE SINCERE” Romans 12:9

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

It’s easy for me to accept someone who is like me, and thinks the same way as I do. It’s easy for me to accept someone with the same musical taste as me, the same sense of humour and the same style of parenting.

It’s hard to accept someone different to me, and hard to accept that God has called them to be part of his family.

So what can I do? How can I genuinely accept my brothers and sisters? After all, ‘Love must be sincere’. Love must not be fake.

When I first arrived at our London church and began getting to know the very cross-cultural church family, there were a lot of differences. Dress sense. Hair styles (I mean, who sticks their hair in a bun on top of their head?). Hospitality customs. Musical taste. Parenting. Accent (shudder). Although these differences could have made it hard to sincerely love the church family, I tried not to focus on what was hard to accept. Instead I wondered, what has God found acceptable about them?

The answer was simply Jesus.

God accepted them because of their repentance and faith in Jesus. That was all he wanted to find in them, and he found it.

On reflection, what has God found acceptable about me? Exactly the same: Jesus.

Incidentally, it was the only thing he found acceptable about me.

When it comes to sincere love for others, I need to review my standards for accepting other Christians; I can’t set my standards for acceptance higher than God’s standards! What am I looking for to accept others? I am looking to see Jesus shining through them.

As soon as I see Jesus – his love, grace and Holy Spirit at work – I know I have common ground with this believer. It helps me to love them, knowing we both have the same goal, same hope, same Lord. It certainly helped me a lot in our London church when, rather than being frustrated when they weren’t becoming more like me and my preferences, I began to accept that other Christians are becoming more like Jesus.

Together, as a church family, we started displaying the family traits of compassion toward each other, the same ‘eyes’ of faith, prayerfulness, and the same humility that our big brother Jesus showed. When we accept each other on those terms, with the Gospel at the centre, love truly can be sincere, despite our differences.

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“Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you…”

 

lesley-grindrod

Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog post

I don’t know why my mind works this way, but when I’m studying a Bible verse, my attention is often drawn away from the ‘main topic’ (in this case ‘accepting one another’) to a part of the verse I hadn’t considered before. This time what drew my attention was the phrase “just as Christ accepted you.

Usually when we talk about ‘accepting’ in church, we’re talking about how we accepted Christ. Have you ever given your testimony and said, ‘I accepted Jesus as a child,’ or ‘I accepted Christ aged 21’?  By that language we mean that we’ve received Him into our hearts, in the sense that we’ve owned Him as our only hope of salvation.

But in this verse Paul says our conduct as believers should be controlled not so much by our accepting Christ, but by Christ accepting us! In fact, He sees Christ’s accepting us as key for how we get along with one another; of how life should look in the local church. We are to accept one another in light of the fact that Christ has already accepted us.

Paul knew that getting along with one another was going to be tough. It would mean working hard at being gracious, loving, forgiving. Yet still he wrote this great exhortation: ‘Accept one another!’ The Greek word he used is proslambanō which literally means ‘welcome, embrace and receive into your hearts.’ But he knows that acceptance, real acceptance is never easy. So he says, ‘Accept one another, and do it because you remember that Jesus accepted you.

accept-one-another (1)And he goes even further! He says we glorify God by accepting one another, because Christ glorified God by accepting us. That is phenomenal – that you are doing the work of glorifying God when you accept brothers and sisters in the Lord who are different from you!

Paul knew the church was made up of widely different individuals. It was diverse – people with varied ideas about life; from different countries, cultures and social/economic backgrounds. They were not the kind of people that would’ve just naturally drawn together. And it’s just the same today. The church isn’t a collection of people that are like one another naturally, politically or socially, but a complete mish-mash of all sorts of people, many of whom are really different.

Paul says it’s precisely our accepting of one another in spite of our diversity, that brings glory to God. When the world is looking in at the Church and saying, “How in the world do those people get along so well? They’re not like one another. Some are rich and some are poor. Some have tremendous family pedigrees, some don’t. Some have been following this Saviour since childhood, some since only yesterday. They all get along; they have some common bond, but it’s definitely not their background. It’s not that they’re socially or even politically alike!”

And it’s that wonderful acceptance, in the midst of our diversity, that brings great glory to God.

 

 

GRIEVE WITH ONE ANOTHER

VICKY PHOTO

VICKY STEPHENSON, Contributor for today’s blog post

There are many seasons to life as Ecclesiastes says:

“A time to tear down, a time to build

A time to weep and a time to laugh

A time to mourn and a time to dance”3:3-4

Some seasons it can be easy to “one another” in, sharing laughter is fairly straight forward and dancing together can be a time of great joy (or more laughter if you have two left feet).

However one anothering through a time to mourn is much more of a challenge. I seem to be in a place where, although not mourning myself, I have been journeying with a variety of people who are. So I thought I would share some of my reflections on this with you.

First of all, when I talk of grieving and mourning I am reflecting on a whole variety of experiences- not just bereavement. Life can bring us a variety of challenges: loss of a parent, divorce, grieving for children we never had, giving up dreams of lives we will never lead, the sadness of children far from God, the breakdown of relationships and ill health. All of these are things to weep over and mourn.

First thing I would says is that it is okay to be in this season, I think often as Christians we feel we have to be joyful (as in happy) all the time and can seem lost if our Christian brothers and sisters do not display this constantly too. Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus and mourned with Mary and Martha. Of all people, Jesus knew they would be reunited in heaven. Jesus knew that He would bring Lazarus back to life very shortly. But in that moment of shock, horror, and the wrongness of death, He came along side the sisters and wept with them. This should strongly encourage us to grieve and weep with one another. This doesn’t show a lack of trust in the resurrection but is an expression of the pain and loss we feel and the jarring of our fallen world. Deep in our hearts we know it was not meant to be this way.

The pain of separation and the agony of missing someone is not less just because you know you will be reunited one day, and we should draw alongside people as they go through this; not rushing them through it for our own comfort, but pointing them to Jesus as He grieves with them.

People also grieve over situations- be it the state of the world, family breakdowns or people turning from God. Again we can look to Jesus for support of how we can one another each other at these times.

In Luke 19:41 Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and He wept over it. He was grieving. He used words familiar to us all in our own lives “If you had only known…” This shows God himself gets upset over situations and relationship breakdown. In this instance it was the relationship between God and His people which had been destroyed. So we can bring these situations to Him in prayer and weep with one another. But Jesus also shows us that there is always hope: for out of Jerusalem was saved a remnant of people in the city who were lost but repented and were changed. From the darkest day of the cross a new world order was born.

So when you journey with people at these difficult times, weep with them, mourn with them and cry out to God. But remember the hope that is in Jesus and that this season too will pass.

ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER: A STORY BY REBECCA MANLEY PIPPERT

ROMANS 157Rebecca Manley Pippert concludes her book, Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World [IVP, 1979], pp. 177-178) with this story. When she first went to Portland, Oregon, to work with a campus ministry, she met a student named Bill. He was always dishevelled in his REBECCA MANLEY PIPPERTappearance and he never wore shoes. Rain, sleet, or snow, Bill was always barefoot.

“Bill became a Christian, but his appearance didn’t change. Near the campus was a church made up of mostly well-dressed, middle-class people. One Sunday, Bill decided to worship there. He walked into church with his messy hair, blue jeans, tee shirt, and barefoot. People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything. Bill began walking down the aisle, looking for a seat. But the church was quite crowded that day, so he got all the way down front without finding a seat. So he just plopped on the carpet, which was fine for a college Bible study, but a bit unnerving for this rather formal church. You could feel the tension in the air.

Suddenly, an elderly man began walking down the aisle toward Bill. Was he going to scold him about how you’re supposed to look when you come to church? People thought, ‘You can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. His world is far removed from that boy’s world for him to understand.’

As the man kept walking slowly down the aisle, all eyes were on him. You could hear a pin drop. When the man reached Bill, with some difficulty he lowered himself and sat down next to Bill on the carpet. He and Bill worshiped together on the carpet that day. There was not a dry eye in that church.”

That elderly man accepted Bill who appeared to be very different. The elderly man recognized that he needed to accept Bill as Christ accepted them both.

When we do that, God is glorified.

How would you respond? Something to ponder.

 

 

7 ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER BIBLE STUDY READY!

Hi girls!

Our next Bible study is available on this blog and hard copies are at our churches. Please take one and schedule your time with your study buddy. This is a study which carries on well from last month’s study of bear with each other. So find out what was happening in Rome and what the church was learning about accepting one another! May you be richly blessed! 

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HIS LOVE

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

“And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love,” Ephesians 3:17-18

I returned from Tanzania yesterday (Tues) after many hours of travel and traffic. Although my body was weary and tired, my soul was refreshed and renewed! I had the privilege of spending time with 22 lovely women who love Christ more than anything.  Although I was sent to remind them of Christ’s love for THEM, they taught ME the depth, the height, the length, the width, of Christ’s love just by virtue of their sincere presence and authenticity.

I read something that really resonated with me while I was there. I just want to share with you. Maybe it is something you need to be reminded of today. This is part of one anothering!

Remember the Perfect One

Remember, His burden is light.

He is the Lord of Rest, the Bridegroom, longing for His Bride.

He is not a taskmaster, demanding more widgets.

He is a loving Husband, pursuing his favourite girl.

He is a tender Father, splashing in the ocean with His children.

He is a Warrior, protecting His people.

He is a Comforter who really sees.

He knows you are human, and He’s glad about it.

He knows you can’t do it all, and He’s okay with it.

He is jealous for you, longing for your whole heart.

He wants your gaze fixed on Him, not the mirage.

I am praying for you sisters! May you know today how deep the Father’s love for us.

Only ever, all for Him,

Kathy xo

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