ALL SAINTS DAY!

 

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

Tonight is the Light Party at Corsham Baptist church on Priory street! It is from 5-7 with games and activities! No need to book!
I love to be a part of a gospel alternative on this day where children love dressing up and getting candy!!! So everyone welcome!
It also brings me to ponder…….The following is a prayer from Scotty Smith about All Saints Day (31 Oct) which is on the ancient church calendar. I found it very helpful in understanding and appreciating the Gospel a little bit more. So I want to share with you. It is well worth a read!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
everyday prayers scotty smith“Lord Jesus, on the ancient church calendar, this is the day we celebrate All Saints’ Day – a time for remembering our faithful brothers and sisters who have gone on before us into heaven, leaving us examples of commendable spirituality. It’s also Halloween- a celebration of hideous attire, doorbell ringing, and tooth decay. I never really thought about how much these two seemingly antithetical dates have in common until now.
For a good part of my life I thought the “cloud of witnesses” referred to in this passage was to be understood as a huge crowd of spiritual giants peering down from heaven onto the earthly playing field of Christianity, cheering me on in the righteousness race, pulling for me to make it across the finish line. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the apostle Paull….all winners now motivating me to do well, persevere, and finish strong.
Jesus, all that led to was pride in my performance or despairing of my failures, depending on the day. I got the “treat” if I performed well. I got the “trick” if I performed poorly. I now understand that there’s no more ghoulish or ghastly costume to wear than my own efforts to appease and please you. The one thing Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul all had in common was their abject brokenness and consuming need of your grace- which you freely gave them.
So today, Jesus, I purpose yet again to fix my gaze on you, the author and finisher of my faith. I’m only a saint because the Father has hidden my life in yours. My only “dress” is your righteousness, plus nothing. I will run and finish the race because in you, Jesus, I live, move, and have my being. I will make it to heaven not because of my efforts but because of yours. I’ll not busy myself with tricks or treats, because everything that is yours is now mine, Lord Jesus. What wondrous love and eternal inheritance is this, indeed!
And I will remember, with great joy, the gospel heroes you have given me: the men and women who have turned away from unrighteousness and self-righteousness to Christ-righteousness, those dear saints who make me hunger and thirst for more gospel astonishment and gospel righteousness. I pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.”

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LIVING BY GRACE, THROUGH GRACE – SO THAT WE CAN KNOW GOD BY OUR ACTIONS

 

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Catherine Donovan, contributor for today’s blog post 

Confessing God and faith can sometimes be the easy part if you have been a Christian for some years. When faced with life’s challenges, curve balls and the daily grind of life, I find it hard not to deny God by my actions. This is the challenge presented to us by Paul in Titus 1:16 that we should not deny God by our actions.
I was recently put to the test by an unexpected house move. A tenant of our property failed to pay the rent, did not give notice and left the country abandoning her belongings and the property in a terrible state. As we sifted through the mess to try and discern what items were clearly rubbish and what to keep in storage until an appropriate time, I found two items that moved me. One was a Bible that had been given to her early in life, and it stood out in sharp contrast to the clear evidence that she was into New Age. I wondered how often the pages of the Bible had been read and why she had turned to New Age. The other item was a book that had been given to her as a present for her to write about her children. This book had one sentence written in it: “Only one thing to say: “I am a horrible mother!” In that moment I realized the need to pray for the tenant as a mother in crisis and pray a blessing upon her and her children. I also became very aware that the only thing that separated me from that mother was God’s saving grace for which I am so grateful.
TITUS 1 16As we progressed with the house move and presented with an endless task list, I found myself reflecting on the burden placed on the children of Israel as slaves in Egypt. I know that sounds dramatic and on the face of it I cannot compare to people working under such duress with a whip on the back for no personal gain. However the task and pressure appeared insurmountable, that whilst I was at all times aware of God’s hand and the prayers of our Church family, there was a constant reminder of our human limitations as we needed to dig deeper. At my worst moments of utter panic, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, my biggest temptation was to throw a big fat pity party and wallow in self-pity. However, the deadlines, financial implications and the need to be strong as a mother did not seem to give me any such room. And then… my progress report to my husband turned into a narrative that ran along the lines of: “I did this, and I did that and I ….”!! I felt myself grow brittle, cold and less acknowledging of other people’s achievements. I had a serious sense of self-righteousness and was less tolerant of others who seemed to be ambling through life. I was no different from King Nebuchadnezzar, who in his great moment of pride stated: “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” following which he was stripped of power and lived like a wild animal until he acknowledged the most High God (Daniel 4). Isn’t God gracious! Paul challenges us in Titus to be God’s own, devoted to doing good, sound in faith, love and endurance. How else can we achieve that except by learning to surrender to God’s grace, die to self and let God reign in our thinking, talking and actions?
May God help us to remember that choosing to be a servant of God means we can:
Reach out to the hurting and lost in grace;
Climb mountains and get to the top in the knowledge that God helped us scale the mountain when we could have been overcome;
Have a bad night and make it through the day because God’s grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in weakness;
Move forward in faith in the areas where we lack every confidence because we are made in the image of God and therefore made for greatness; and
Count on Him who gives wisdom to all graciously, in our moments of greatest foolishness.
In this state of servanthood, we are at peace, live by grace, through grace, doing what is good and live a good life. God bless you.

THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST

 

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VICKY STEPHENSON, Contributor for today’s blog post

Do you have a Bible verse that no matter how often you read it, no matter how many sermons you hear on it, no matter how many times you sing it even, you are still like, “Yeah right!”?
For me that verse is the very well known Romans 8:1:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
My head memorises it but my heart struggles. I open the Bible and feel condemned.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Blimey, my life looks nothing like this! I’m grumpy and miserable. Hours go by when I don’t give God a thought. I am horribly ungrateful in the good times, never mind the bad. I talk to Christian friends and feel condemned for my parenting choices, the way I spend my time and the lack of daily quiet times. I look in the mirror and know my sin and feel crushed by it.
The Romans verse which does totally reflect my life is:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
This lack of truly grasping Christ’s promises so completely infiltrates my thinking that I had been listening to a Casting Crowns song for weeks thinking it was saying:
“I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just BEHAVE”
Weeks went by and every time I heard it I felt worse reflecting on all the times I had let God down that day.
BUT… Praise God for his spirit of wisdom and pray that I am ever more open to it.
Guess what happened when I really listened to the song? I realised what it actually said was:
“Just be HELD.”
It is not all about me, it is all about GOD.
This spiritual prod made me go back and reflect deeply on my attitude, you see I was half right. Here’s what I concluded:
-The Bible is a mirror which we look in and it shows us our faults.
-My Christian friends do model ways of living which I should strive towards.
-A frank look in the mirror will always show vast areas which could be improved.
So the initial assessment was right, but I had forgotten the crucial thing. I was forgetting the cross of Christ which changes all of this. As ever, reading one short verse out of context means you miss the bigger picture.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
The lack of condemnation is not because I deserve it, it is BECAUSE of Christ.
All this means that although I am still a disaster doomed always to fail and fall short, I am also a wonky clay pot who is being shaped for God’s purposes. So the next time I hear the voice of condemnation I have to stop and reflect. I need to actively avoid the 2 different traps. Both the downward spiral of guilt and shame which leads to a pity party and the defensive angry bounce back to “At least I’m not as bad as ….” Instead I need to look on it as a poke from God to get me back on track and ready for the good works he has prepared for me.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Even if the task of living a godly life seems overwhelming, just trust that God is with me and will hold me as I keep my eyes focused on the cross and praise God that:
There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

GROW UP!

 

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s blog post

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV

Last week I met my third grandchild! My grand daughter, Sloane, is four months old and such a blessing! Sweet little coos and smiles as well as hungry cries consistently emanate from this little poppet. There is never a doubt when she is ready for her milk! When the bottle comes into her vision, she wails even more loudly until she latches on to the bottle. Her eyes roll back into her head as she murmurs sweetly- and she always…always….has a hunger for more in about three hours!

In the verse for today, Peter tells us to long for “spiritual milk” (biblical truth) so that we may grow up (become mature) in our salvation. Peter is using the “milk” word picture to point out how eagerly we should consume the Word of God; just like my grand daughter Sloane whose singular focus and enthusiasm is evident when it is time for her feeding.

The Word of God in Scripture is where and how we grow in holiness and love others properly; where God reveals who He is-His character and our salvation in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit draws us to His love and grace. As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, God wakes us up to what it is to be His children. It is a way of life-not an add on where we fit God in with our own desires and agendas. No, it changes us! The darkness which covers our understanding is taken away as we follow the Lord. And as we follow the Lord, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ more and more. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

So let’s ask ourselves these questions:
Do we crave the Word of God with a singular focus and enthusiasm like Sloane has for her milk?
Or, are we indifferent, thinking that the study of Scripture doesn’t really contribute to our Christian maturity? Or worse, are we just going through the motions of being a “decent person” and trying to use God for our own ends?

portrait of a beautiful girl hipsterSadly, for many years I stumbled along this indifferent road, and sat miserably on the unhappy and disillusioned fence of living like the culture around me and trying to fit in God and His ways where it suited me. I was deceived into thinking that the lifelong process of reading/studying the Bible wasn’t vital to knowing God and realizing His love and grace for me. But God wouldn’t have it!  I became so miserable, that as I cried out to Him, the Holy Spirit began to open my deceived eyes and heart. I began to understand that God’s grace doesn’t stop at salvation, (Romans 5:2) and that I need to trust and obey God through His Word! I still have a long way to go and will still be learning and growing until the Lord takes me home. But my gift of salvation is bearing fruit in service to God and others, and love for God and others. Some days are still difficult. Of course I struggle. I am a sinner saved by God’s grace.  But the Lord is transforming me one day at a time as I struggle with Gospel hope and joy.

His salvation rescue and eternal life are only the beginning of the Good Life God has for us to live as we are studying in Titus. Growing to maturity is the call of every follower of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray to our Lord and Saviour to increase our hunger for His Word. Let’s encourage each other to take steps to study it eagerly so that we may know and love God more every day, love others, and grow to maturity. (Ephesians 4:16)

WHY THE HOPE OF HEAVEN IS BETTER THAN THE HOPE OF CHOCOLATE CAKE

 

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…”
Titus 1:2c

God never lies. If he made a promise, he will keep it. It is his very nature. He cannot deny himself and act against the person that he is. The truly Good News is that, through Jesus Christ, God has demonstrated his power, authority and ability to do all those things he promised.

God is the one with the power to make all this happen, and God doesn’t lie, so since God is the one who has promised me eternal life, this is a sure and certain hope.

By contrast.

untitledI could hope in myself for chocolate cake. It might happen. But it might not. Because I might not get off my backside and mix the ingredients. (Actually, I might not even have butter in the fridge. I think someone already finished it up.)

I could hope for my children to get fantastic degrees and become impressively intelligent and sorted adults. It might happen. But it might not. Because they are only humans and cannot control the weather tomorrow, let alone their future careers.

I can have confident hope in eternal life, though.

I can hope for an eternity with the one who loved me and gave himself for me. For certain. Because God promised it and God does not lie. He has the power, authority and ability to make it happen.

This is why the hope of heaven is more certain than the hope of chocolate cake. Because God does not lie, and he has said it will happen. He cannot stop being the faithful God he has always been and will always be (Yahweh – I am who I am and I will be who I will be). He does not lie. He cannot go against his character.

Plus! He has the power, authority and ability to make it happen. Sin wiped out – by Jesus’ blood.
God with us always – by the Holy Spirit, which God pours out on us without counting how much we’ve had, because we are abiding in Christ (or to put it simply, because we are joined to Jesus).
God’s house forevermore – by Jesus’ blood.

So today, there may not be chocolate cake. Even though chocolate cake is tangible and within my own power to make –which might make it seem more likely than heaven– I know how unreliable I am. I promise my children cake but then I get distracted and do the hoovering, watch some TV and then it’s too late to start baking. My hope in chocolate cake is misplaced because my own character and ability is so unreliable.

But I can sleep in peace tonight knowing there is definitely a confident hope of eternal life, because it depends on the character and ability of someone utterly reliable and all-powerful, who does not lie. My hope lies with God our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.