JUGS AND GEESE!

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Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today’s post

How do we serve, love and encourage others when we are feeling in need of encouragement ourselves? It is so much easier to serve others from a place of assurance, confidence and contentment, and much harder when feeling broken! I have been struggling with anxiety and health related issues again in the past few weeks and have often felt unable to ‘give’ any more. But God has been reminding me of His truth when we feel this way.

jug-2An image that came to my mind when talking about encouraging and loving one another is that of a jug or vessel, filled to the brim with God’s love that can pour out into other’s lives. God is so gracious and loving towards us; He loves us SO much that He gave us Jesus, not only as the perfect example to live by, but as the perfect sacrifice to take our place and die for our sin (John 3v16). The Bible also tells us that He has given us all we need (Phil 4v11-13); in the face of difficulty we are more than conquerors in Him (Romans 8v37); and we do not need to be afraid because He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Deut 31v8). What powerful truths! They fill us with hope, and Romans says that “hope will not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5v5 HCSB). With that love filling our hearts, we are able, like a jug full to the brim, to pour out God’s love into the lives of those around us. I sometimes feel like ‘my jug’ is cracked, not pretty and certainly not beautiful, shiny and crack-free, as I perceive some of you lovely ladies around me to be! But do you know what? It doesn’t matter! God still fills me to the brim with his love, and no matter how cracked I’m feeling, I can still POUR! My challenge is to remain rooted in His love, like Colossians says: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude”.

As I have been trying to put this into practise, I am finding God’s word to be true where it says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12v9).  When I feel like I don’t have the strength or energy to meet with someone for coffee, or cook a meal for someone, or help lead our life group, it is in those times when God has poured out His strength and enabling power. And I often find He totally blesses me through those things too! (NB. I should also say that sometimes I just need to say no and take a rest, and that is equally ok. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us discern what He wants us to do).A

geeseOne last thought. Last night as I lay in bed I heard a flock of geese pass over the house, calling to one another.  In my imagination, they were flying south and migrating towards warmer weather. I’ve since looked it up and they do tend to fly at this time of year in V formation; their calling to one another in the dark is a way to let the others know they are still there and to encourage onward flight. As I lay there, I thought how much we need each other as a body of believers; we are ‘flying’ to a heavenly destination (Phil 3v13-14), often flying in spiritual darkness and we need to be calling out and encouraging one another to keep going! Let us keep calling to one another and pouring out His love as we take this journey together.

 

 

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ONE ANOTHER STUDY AND FRIENDSHIP IS TONIGHT!

one+anotherHappy Monday Girlfriends,

Tonight’s study is focused on Forgiving One Another. Don’t let this subject scare you away! I believe you will be refreshed and renewed as a result of coming tonight.The Scripture is one of hope and good news!  And who knows, you may make some new friends! Join us! There will be cuppa, cake, and probably a little craziness!

WHERE: Corsham Baptist Church, Church Hall

WHEN: Tonight, 28 November

TIME: 7:30PM

HOW DO I KNOW I’VE FORGIVEN SOMEONE?

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

Sometimes I know I have forgiven someone for sinning against me because we are reconciled – everything is hunky-dory again, hugs and air kisses all round, it’s like it never happened. Pukka.

What about when there is no chance of reconciliation? What if the person who hurt me has moved to another country? What if they’ve died and I’m hoping they’re in hell? Is that forgiveness? What if they offended me indirectly by hurting someone I love? Do I still have to forgive them?

The Bible teaches us to forgive, not because it is easy but because it is godly and good for us. We were God’s sworn enemies when He extended forgiveness to us. This is the costly and painful model of forgiveness – to forgive as the Lord forgave me (Ephesians 4:32).

There is great freedom in forgiveness; the alternative is bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). If we are struggling to know if we have forgiven someone, it might be easier to spot bitterness in our hearts instead.

In the case of my mythical offender who has moved away, I still need to forgive them. This does not mean sending a Christmas card or giving a false compliment and then patting myself on the back for being forgiving. Publicly it looks like forgiveness (“Oh look how brave Sharon is, forgiving when she was so hurt by XYZ!”) but inside I’m looking for a carving knife to stick in her back, or at least a chance to accidentally spill my drink down her dress…

Dear friends, this is not forgiveness. This is bitterness disguised (very poorly) as forgiveness.

Real forgiveness is a choice, often a daily choice, a painful choice, not to go over that person’s sin internally and keep it fresh. Not to rehearse vengeance privately. Not to drag it up at every opportunity. Not to look for ways to remind them of it. Not to hold it against them. Forgiveness is a choice to let God deal with someone and humbly allow God to be God.

Forgiveness is a chance to rely on God’s power at work in me, to ask his Holy Spirit to break down the pride in me that will not let this offence go and pray for his blessings on the offender.

It may be unwise to resume a friendship with someone if that will put me in harm’s way; it may be impossible to reconcile if they have moved away or died. Jesus’ command is still to forgive one another, to make the daily choice to forgive and have a heart attitude that prays God’s blessing for those who wrong us.

How do I know I’ve forgiven someone? When I remember that Jesus died for them as much as he died for me. Jesus died for them; Jesus considered them worthy of forgiveness; who am I to set my standard higher than God?

HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

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Vicky Stephenson, contributor for today’s blog

Do you ever feel like you must get to the “happy ever after” bit soon??

Last month we focused on the one another command to encourage one another. I find it encouraging hearing of others’ struggles and victories; so I thought it might be encouraging to you if I shared some of mine.

I had fairly typically miserable, tough and secular teenage years; pressure, loneliness, feeling lost and not knowing who I was. So off I went to university; but I wasn’t lost to Jesus and after many happy “coincidences,” I found my way to Him.  So I finished university ready to be a doctor – my lifelong passion – married to the man I loved and following my Saviour secure in my salvation and identity as a child of God. All ready for happy ever after!!

But no, it was still a struggle and life was tough with lots of bumps in the way. We joined a church in London where I had fantastic fellowship; I grew as a Christian and learnt about the Holy Spirit and sanctification. I felt so close to God, surely this must be the start of happy ever after?

Alas no. There were good times and bad times and many years of struggling to start a family. However now I have my wonderful twins, still married to the man I love (17 years and counting), a good job and a nice home…. This must be it! Happy ever after!!

Of course for years I have had the head knowledge that the Christian life is not easy but has that really rooted itself in my heart? Maybe if I truly accepted in my heart the words of Jesus “pick up your cross and follow me… this is a life of sacrifice.” I would get less tired, frustrated and irritable always looking for quick fixes and easy ways out to get to happy ever after.

I know happy ever after is waiting for me at the resurrection, and it is a longing of my soul for the peace and joy of the intimacy of relationship with God in eternity and it will never be found in this life. I just need to live that knowledge out.

I pray this encourages you. You are not alone in thinking “If only…” or “When I get here…” then my spiritual life will get easier, I will be full of joy and peace.

In the past, I used to see life as a trudge up a slippery muddy hill pushing a heavy rock. I would do well for a while then something would happen and I would slip and the rock would be back at the beginning and I felt I was starting over again.

woman-helping-handNow God inspires me to see life as a path through a winding valley, sometimes I wander off down a track to see a waterfall, then I am blessed when someone comes along side me and encourages me “Yes, it is a lovely waterfall but there is so much more to see. Keep moving forward”. Other times when I find someone sat on a rock by the road I can sit with them and say “I know you are tired but see how far you have come, lean on me and we can travel this next bit together”.

That is what encouragement feels like to me, how does it feel for you?

What practical ways can we help one another back to the track and keep moving forward?

Vicky

BIBLE STUDY 3 NOW AVAILABLE

Happy Monday girlfriends,

Just to let you know that this month’s Bible study, 3 Forgiving One Another, is available on this blog and on hard copies at the churches.

I encourage you to get with your study buddy in the next few weeks to study this together and catch up over a cuppa! If you don’t have a study buddy, please let me, Kathy Larkman, or Anne Holmes know, and we will assist you!

Remember our night together is 28 November…

Keeping our eyes on Jesus, who is faithful and true,

Kathy xo

GOOD SENSE

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

“Good sense makes a man slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” RSV

This month in our ONE ANOTHER series, we are considering FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER.

This hugely important relational command is crucial to enjoy fruitful relationships with each other and with Christ. However, there can be so many knock on effects and unfruitful outcomes if not dealt with biblically and in love.  My tendency, as I said in the last blog, is to stick my head in the sand; or pretend that big elephant is not in the room and I will just go on my merry way. But hey, that is NOT an option for me as a follower of Jesus Christ, and not honouring to God or the other persons involved in the conflict.

But on the other hand, a question came to me that I want to explore with you today.  Should I confront every offense that comes my way? Or should I overlook it? I can think back on a time in my younger life when I blew something way out of proportion when I should have let it go. Because of my pride and lack of maturity in handling it wisely, the situation was made worse and my witness for Christ was weakened.

Of course there are times of confrontation in the forgiveness process, but there are clearly times when offenses need to be dropped.

 Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 12:16 “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”

Proverbs 20:3 “It is to one’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”

1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

So how do we know when to confront something or to let it go? It is only through soul searching with wisdom and discernment. Pray. Seek wise mature counsel. Allow God to help us see blind spots that we may have in the situation. Avoid gossip. Use good sense.  Let’s ask ourselves, “Am I turning a minor disagreement into a major dispute? Am I insisting on justice when I should overlook the matter? How important is it in God’s economy?

As followers of Christ, we can trust the Lord with our relationships.  Let’s pray for one another to be wise and discerning in this one anothering process. Let’s cling to the scripture for our guidance!colossians_3-12-14-137630

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

This month’s “one another study” is FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER. My gut reaction in one word descriptions?   Yikes. Really?  Tough. How?  Is it really possible?

Okay, that last description was four words. But in reality, I think we have all shared these thoughts and feelings about forgiving one another at one time or another. There is SO MUCH out there on this subject. There are many perspectives, many layers and levels of this complicated and far reaching subject.  Where to begin?

As followers of Christ, I think it is obvious where to begin…and where to end, for that matter. THE BIBLE.  Biblical forgiveness is our guide, our reliable standard, the TRUTH. It is God-breathed and the Holy Spirit will guide us through this daunting practice.

If we do not embrace biblical forgiveness, then the Gospel becomes diluted. A diluted or watered-down Gospel no longer has the same power, effectiveness, and life changing transformation it offers to those who believe.

So why might we not embrace biblical forgiveness? I think there are lots of reasons.  In a nutshell, it is our sinful hearts. We want to do life our own way. We want quick fixes or no fixes. We want to avoid the pain. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable or awkward. We just want to wallow in our self-justifications, self-righteousness and pride. We want to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that big, fat elephant is not in the room. (This is my favourite tendency) And, we are so easily swayed by worldly wisdom that it pushes biblical wisdom to the sidelines.  Do any of these reasons ring in your conscience?

So let’s think again of forgiving one another in one word.  The one word description that is the foundation for biblical forgiveness. He has captured my heart and life in this forgiving thing…….

JESUS.

Whew.  It may seem obvious to some. It may seem a bit platitudinal to others.  However, it is the truth and reality to those of us who profess to be followers of Christ. He is the remedy to all of life; and to forgiving one another. THE BOTTOM LINE. It is indeed a profound mystery, but a wondrous reality! Girls, we CAN love each other, we CAN encourage each other….because Jesus has poured out His love into our hearts and souls. And now, we can forgive one another; REALLY forgive from our hearts- because of Jesus who forgave US!

For our part, we must pray for one another to be teachable, to be willing for the Holy Spirit to change our hearts every day to be more like Christ. This is not easy, but it leads to LIFE.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU THIS MONTH is to begin to think and ponder this HUGE one anothering command-personally, in your family, in your circle of friends, in our church family.  Take some time to write down your thoughts in your quiet time-observations, questions, feelings.  It can be very personal or can be general; no right or wrong-just between you and our Lord.  Talk to God about it out loud.  Lay it at the foot of the cross.

I will do the same. Let’s see what God does this month. He is a God of surprises and desires the BEST for us.  I am praying for you and for me this week that we won’t water down the Gospel, but that we will embrace the Gospel in biblical forgiveness for one another.  Do I hear an amen?

Love, Kathy x

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