KNOWING GOD

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I AM THE LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I DELIGHT in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken.'” Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLT

Knowing God-  Just. Righteous. Unfailing love. Not only is this blatantly countercultural, but is a direct word from God. He delights in our knowing and understanding Him;  Our Father God, Our Redeemer and merciful Saviour Jesus Christ, and our Counselor and Comforter, the Holy Spirit!

And, the more we understand and know God, then we will know and understand ourselves. Why? Because we are His image bearers; He is our identity.

He is our foundation for us to accept what God does even when we don’t understand it. When we’re confused, we can fall back on what we know about God from his Word.

Each aspect of His character is a window into His beauty, another chance to trust Him, and another reason to love Him.

 

 

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IT’S HERE!

….Well almost! THE GATHERING TAKES PLACE BEGINNING FRIDAY through SUNDAY at CORSHAM SCHOOL off of Tynings Road.

If you haven’t already planned on coming to all or part, it isn’t too late. There will be much to share in together: the Word of God, worshipping in song, laughter, friendship over food, prayer, biblical insight, one-anothering, and much more!

I am reminded of the letter of Hebrews where the writer exhorts us:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT

church familyTHE GATHERING is a good place to do just that!

For details email us at office@corshambaptists.org or contact us by phone at 01249.701078.

See you there!

 

WOMEN OF THE WORD

God has brought across my path Jen Wilken, author and Bible study teacher. She is passionate about Bible literacy. God is using her to help women over the world to take hold of the importance of becoming a woman of the Word.

The following are some quotes from Jen Wilken which I found helpful to begin seeing the truth of knowing God through the Bible, and how it will help us grow in awe of God which will change us more every day! Look online for books she has written.

Jen Wilken

Jen Wilkin

“For years I viewed my interaction with the Bible as a debit account: I had a need, so I went to the Bible to withdraw an answer. But we do much better to view our interaction with the Bible as a savings account: I stretch my understanding daily, I deposit what I glean, and I patiently wait for it to accumulate in value, knowing that one day I will need to draw on it.”

“When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environment we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible.”

“If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see him more clearly for who he is. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God.”

“Sanctification is the process of learning increasing dependence, not autonomy.”

“The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

“The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand.”

“The second thing I got backwards in my approach to the Bible was the belief that my heart should guide my study. The heart, as it is spoken of in Scripture, is the seat of the will and emotions. It is our “feeler” and our “decision-maker.” Letting my heart guide my study meant that I looked for the Bible to make me feel a certain way when I read it. I wanted it to give me peace, comfort, or hope. I wanted it to make me feel closer to God.”

HIS GRACE IS TRAINING US

CHRISTINE COLTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR FOR TODAY’S BLOG POST

They say that when you become a parent, everything changes. That is definitely true. Your own wants and desires are put behind those of the child you bring into this world. The one thing that I have found most unexpected upon having children is how they are absolutely and completely their own person. In some ways this is wonderful; in others, terrifying. Particularly when you realise that they are totally in control of their relationship with God.

For the first few years I was calm about this (they were, after all, tiny, sweet and mostly well-behaved). Then their speech and bad behaviour kicked in. Well-meaning Christian friends told me that I should use every example of bad behaviour as a teaching opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Try doing that as your three year old throws a truck at your head. I felt panicked, worried and upset by the ‘monsters’ I could see rising up in my children’s eyes as the bad behaviour kicked in.
I realised then that nothing terrifies me as much as the thought of my children choosing not to love Jesus. Yet God does not want us to be terrified of anything and gives us tools for these situations – prayer, and his Word. Bible verses are, and always have been, my peace in these moments. Nathan’s youth pastor and his wife wrote this verse on Arya’s dedication tree, and it has given me both comfort and direction:
‘Those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish in the courts of our God.’ Psalm 92 v 13

God has not promised that my children will become Christians. That decision belongs to them alone. But he has given us an abundance of promises – to be with me as I try to teach them about Jesus, that he will give me the words to say through his Holy Spirit, and most importantly that their Redeemer is strong, and that he will ‘thoroughly plead their case’ (Jeremiah 50).

God has given me the children I have for a reason. He has revealed himself to me for his glory. So I take heart that my Redeemer, who has overcome the world, will use the feeble efforts I make on his behalf to increase his kingdom, however that may be. I hope these verses below will encourage you in whatever field you are working, or for whoever you are praying desperately for. Our God is with us, his grace is training us, so let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
‘My sheep hear my voice,’ John 10 27
‘Men ought always to pray and not to lose heart.’ Luke 18 v 1
‘You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.’ Psalm 61 v 5

NONE LIKE HIM

Kathy Larkman

I have recently read(and re-reading) a book called None Like Him by Jen Wilken. I came across Jen on The Gospel Coalition and have found a great gospel resource in learning how to know God better! I highly recommend this book. The following is Jen’s own words as to the reason she wrote this book. Take time. You will be blessed. Lots of love, Kathy

“I wrote this book because of two convictions I hold regarding the importance of knowing what the Bible says about God’s character. 
Meditating on God’s character enriches our understanding of Scripture.
When I write my Bible studies, I ask my students to look first for what the text says is true about God. I have found this can be a hard question for them to answer. I know it was for me for many years. The more I learned of God’s character, the clearer it became that the Bible was first and foremost a book about who God was before it had anything to say about who I was. Once I began reading to discover God’s character I was able to see my own in relation to His, rather than independent of His. 
We don’t often take time to meditate on God’s attributes beyond just a passing acknowledgment, but when we do, our time in the Word is enriched.
My prayer is that None Like Him would help us become more fluent in our vocabulary of those truths, and that we would see God and ourselves more clearly as a result.
Meditating on God’s character is intensely practical.
Our daily lives would look very different if we took God’s character into consideration. God’s incommunicable attributes, in particular, should elicit a worshipful awe from us that causes us to see and embrace our limitedness in light of His limitlessness. Without that reference point, we can become convinced of our own awesomeness and work tirelessly to sustain it. We begin striving to take on the attributes that are not ours to possess, thus committing the idolatry the serpent offered Eve: “you will become like Him.” Once we recognize our desire for limitlessness as destructive, we are better able to submit willingly and joyfully to the God-ordained limits we have been given. And we are better able to worship Him.
If you’re looking for a book to use for a small group discussion time, or just for personal reflection or growth, I’ve structured the book with that in mind. Each of the ten short chapters explores one attribute, and then concludes with verses for meditation, four application questions, and a prayer. I hope you’ll keep a journal as you read, copying out the verses and writing your reflections and personal prayers in response to the questions. But however you use the book, I hope you’ll see God’s character emerge from the scriptures with greater clarity, and that you’ll be drawn to worship Him anew as you meditate on His perfections.
Happy reading!” -Jen Wilken 

GOD IS WORKING ALL FOR OUR ULTIMATE GOOD

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s blog post

I consider myself to be a late bloomer in my journey with the Lord. I floundered for many difficult, disobedient years. I didn’t really get the gospel and I became numb and swept away by false teaching and the ways of our society. Thankfully, over the years, the Lord has been sifting, purifying and healing my heart and mind. I have had to unlearn some unhelpful unbiblical theology and unhelpful thought patterns; to replace them with God’s word and Godly resources and people in my life. I am growing to love God’s Word. I have realized that when I am applying God’s word to my life,  I am walking in full obedience. Over time, I am seeing that my obedience to God is bringing me freedom and joy! There is a greater pleasure in full surrender to Christ.
A scripture that has come to mean a lot to me and has given me comfort and hope in my messiness is Romans 8:28:
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”NLT

It is a promise I have clung to through the good, the bad, and the ugly; much of it brought on by my own disobedience, confusion, my rebellion.

But there are certainly still some days that I am wobbly. So every day I have the opportunity to test this anchor of my soul, especially when I think about the unknown of the future, my family, my church family, when difficult circumstances come my way.

Notice that Paul says “all things work together for good. “Not, all things are good. Because I am a follower of Christ doesn’t make me immune from awful things happening or experiencing painful heartache. It does mean that in God’s economy nothing is wasted; that I can’t escape his perfect purposes for me as his redeemed child. Of course we have seen the ultimate example of working all for good, in the death of our Lord Jesus.

God is teaching me that He is always good! The past few months have had some painful wobbles. May I ask you? Have you had some challenging times too? I want to encourage us that this is God’s word to us about this past year. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” And it will be true in 2019- and 2020-and 2021! Every day and in every way, God is working things out for our ultimate good. And God in his mercy doesn’t have us stop at verse 28. Verse 29 supports and gives the reason for verse 28: “For God knew his people in advance and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. “Rom 8:29 NLT

transformedThis is the good to which all things in our lives as his children are working; that we become like Jesus! Our hearts will slowly realize God’s thinking, ways, and purposes are so far above and beyond our natural understanding. OUR view of what good is, is so far from God’s.

You see, these verses teach us that God knows what is ultimately best for us than we do; to trust God, His heart and character IN His word. I of course have my L plates on all the way to heaven. But I am thankful to God He will not let me go! If you are His child, Christ will not let you go either! I encourage you to take hold of this as well. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Rom 8:28-29

They are God’s word to us. God’s will for us is not to be necessarily healthy, wealthy, and wise; but God is working all things so that we will become more and more like His Son. There is nothing better. Let’s encourage one another to hold on to these promises, to cooperate with the Spirit as we grow to become more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

WHAT IS GOD’S GRACE?

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman

We had a wonderful time of study and friendship last Monday as Jill Homersley led us in our final study in Titus: THE GOOD LIFE.

What a blessing it has been! Her summary was very helpful. She encouraged us to read and study the notes over the summer to help get its truths ingrained in us so much that we are living it out in our daily lives more and more! (You can find these on GRACE PLACE at cbcgraceplace.wordpress.com)

At the end of the reflective time, Jill shared openly and honestly her struggle at times with not being able to wrap her mind around the concept of what God’s grace actually is, which is a recurring theme in this book. (Titus 2:11) Jill is not alone, because there was a hum of conversation about this afterwards, and I have received comments from others since. I have certainly experienced this as well, and will again I am sure.

This struggle is part of the enemy’s scheme. (1 Peter 5:8) We have to expect that there is and always will be a spiritual battle going on as we grow in Christ. The enemy is set to confuse and discourage us and get us off course. (Ephesians 6:12) But God is greater and we must hold each other up in prayer and encourage one another to stand firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:9)and remind each other that Christ is in us and interceding for us.(Hebrews 7:25) We look to Christ for strength and perseverance as we wait for our complete redemption when He returns.

A simple definition of God’s grace I have come to appreciate is from John Piper: “God’s grace is the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it.”

This is something which would be good to memorize, so that when we encounter those “fuzzy, confused moments,” we can say it to ourselves to help to clear the cobwebs away.

God’s grace expresses itself in our personal lives when we accept and believe that God saved us through Jesus-the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it. God’s grace continues to save us everyday in our daily lives-the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it- to conform and transform us into Christ’s image. What does this look like on the ground? Here are just a few! Love our enemies, be kind to difficult people, to bear with mundane parts of everyday living, to learn patience and trust that our God is working all the good, the bad, and the ugly-for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), to know true comfort and hope in this broken world with its injustice, cruelty, greed, selfishness, and rebellion; to know there will be an end to it all when Christ returns. God’s grace is the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it– to enable us to trust God with our relationships, to cope with heartache and pain in family, church family and friendship dynamics. The thing is, we CAN’T DO ANY OF THIS IN OURSELVES. That is why we need a Saviour and HIS GRACE, the free and sovereign work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves even though we don’t deserve it in being able to trust God more and more every day, in every way as we walk with Christ who is IN US.

Do you believe this? My prayer is that we will grasp WHO GOD IS more each day through His word….his heartbeat is in every sentence. His GRACE is part of His character which he pours over us every single moment.

GRACE BE WITH YOU ALL

 

Esther King, Bible study leader for this month’s study

Titus 3:12-15
12As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.
15Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.
Grace be with you all.

This is Paul’s last instruction to Titus. Here, Paul turns the focus of Titus and the Cretan church over to the positive and practical things they must do.

We’re reminded that Titus isn’t from Crete and his work there isn’t his forever-job! Paul wants Titus to ‘put in order what was left unfinished’ – establishing leadership in the Cretan church – but he’s also sending reinforcements. Artemas and/or Tychicus. Not only that but he wants Titus to join him in Nicopolis if possible. I love this hint of the importance of fellowship and it stacks up with what Paul’s been saying in his letter. It reminds me of the kind of relationships Titus is supposed to teach as described in Titus 2. We’re to build each other up and encourage each other in the faith.

On a similar note, Paul gives another specific instruction. Zenas the lawyer and Apollos were most likely traveling Christian missionaries – reliant on the generosity of local believers to meet their needs so they could focus on furthering the work of the gospel. The Cretan believers are to do everything they can to help them and see that they have everything they need. What better way for the Cretans to serve and help to further the faith of the elect, than to support Zenas and Apollos who are devoted to doing just that themselves?

I love the way the word everything is repeated. Paul is telling them to be wholehearted in their support and I sense Paul emphasising this wholeheartedness in verse 14 where he says, ‘Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.’ You can’t really be devoted to something if you’re not wholehearted about it, can you?

With this verse we’ve come full circle back to the ‘big idea’ we started with and I want to pick out a few key points:
1. We need to learn to be devoted to doing good. As our video clip at the start showed, and as we’ll know in our own hearts, doing good doesn’t come naturally! But this is a skill we must learn if we’re going to be productive in our knowledge of Jesus.
2. Living a productive life in our knowledge of Jesus means being changed by the knowledge of what God has done for us. God’s grace transforms us, changing EVERYTHING – our perspective, heart, behaviour and actions.
3. When we’re wholeheartedly devoted to doing good it makes the gospel attractive! It blesses people and causes them to look to God and praise him. And that’s what it’s all about!

WE are reading this letter, praying that it will change and equip us to further the work of the gospel today. We’re part of this cycle and we need to be actively involved so it will continue in perpetuity until Christ comes again! Amen!

It’s important to remember that the key to all this is in Paul’s sign off at the end of his letter. After he’s sent his greetings he writes, ‘Grace be with you all.’ This is a great reminder to us all! We can’t live productive lives without first being saved and receiving God’s grace. And once we’re saved, we can’t go on that journey of learning to be devoted to doing good without God’s grace. Grace will train us to have the right motivations and purposes. And we’ll certainly be made aware of God’s grace time and again as we make mistakes and get back on track. So, it’s really important! ‘God’s grace be with us all!’

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to us through this passage. Thank you for the way it exhorts Christians to avoid or deal with anything that threatens to prevent us from glorifying you and therefore pointing others to you. Thank you for the way it prompts and instructs us to actively participate in your work in the world. Lord, if it weren’t for your gift of grace, it would be impossible for us to be made righteous in your sight or glorify you at all. And we can’t live a life that glorifies you without your Holy Spirit working in and through us. Please help us to live for you and because you first loved us, to truly love you with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our strength. AMEN

PRODUCTIVE & POWERED BY GRACE WITH OTHERS

 

Esther King, Bible study leader for March’s Titus study

Esther King beautifully taught and led us in the last verses of Titus; 3:9-15 in our March Titus Bible study evening. She recapped from the previous studies how our motivation for what we do is different to the world’s and we have a different purpose in doing it; we should go into things looking for an outcome that glorifies God.

Today Esther encourages us in these next verses to imagine Titus and the Cretans are chomping at the bit to get started, motivation fully grasped and goal firmly in mind. Paul is so keen for them not to fall at the first hurdle! This is so relevant to us today in Corsham!
Titus 3:9-11
9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

1. AVOID….

What is it that sucks us into controversies? What captures our interest? Why do we get so invested in them and het up about them? Does anything useful or ‘profitable for everyone’ come out of them? Or do they damage our relationships with others and take our focus off the things that really matter?

Is there anything to be gained in God’s eyes from a prestigious family line or from anything that gives us status in society? Is a sense of entitlement of this kind useful or profitable in any way? No! It is not because we’re entitled but because of God’s grace!

What is it we’re seeking when we argue and quarrel? If we’re being honest, it’s usually one of two things – firstly, to ‘beat’ the opposition; to be right and to prove the other person or view wrong. OR secondly, to justify something we want to have or do, even though deep down we know it is wrong. Is this useful or profitable? Now I’m NOT saying we should never enter into theological debate! If someone is confused or misled, we should speak up. BUT it comes back to motivation, purpose and desired outcome. When all I care about is winning the argument, I’m not likely to win the other person’s heart! But if I sincerely desire for them to know the truth that will set them free, I’m much more likely to get somewhere.

Will engaging with this issue be useful and profitable for everyone, including those looking on? And by this he means, will it help to further the faith of the elect and their knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness? If it won’t – avoid it!

2. DEAL WITH….

Paul acknowledges that Titus will encounter some difficult or ‘divisive’ people in his ministry. If we link back to the verse before, there are probably many because who are the divisive people? Most likely those involved in the controversies and quarrels! Suddenly the task of dealing with divisive people looks much bigger!
If Titus doesn’t take action, and show the leaders he’s establishing in Crete how to take action as well, the divisive person will undermine, poison and thwart what they’re trying to do in the name of God. Leaving them be is not an option because more people will be sucked into the situation and the damage will spread further. Perhaps you’ve seen something like this or experienced it in some way. Painful.
So, what should we do? Paul instructs Titus to warn the divisive person once and then a second time and after that to have nothing to do with them.
The first warning is about helping them to realise what is happening and how undesirable the impact is. If they refuse to heed the warning – perhaps they feel offended at being challenged or maybe they’re in denial or stubbornly holding onto the issue – they receive a second warning. This would need to be more authoritative and urgent, emphasising why they must stop what they’re doing! After all, let’s remember that Paul is saying the things highlighted in these verses are serious threats to Christians living useful and productive lives.
Again, it comes back to motivation, purpose and desired outcome. The goal isn’t to punish, shame and expose the divisive person! From a place of love and care, not only for the divisive person but those they might influence, the goal is to get them back on track, re-aligned with God and his purposes! This makes all the difference doesn’t it?!

Next week we will see the last of Paul’s instruction to Titus and us the Church in this amazing letter.

TITUS: THE GOOD LIFE!

 

Esther King, Bible study leader for this month’s study

Esther King beautifully taught and led us in the last verses of Titus; 3:9-15 this last Monday evening. She recapped from the previous studies how our motivation for what we do is different to the world’s and we have a different purpose in doing it; we should go into things looking for an outcome that glorifies God.

Bearing this in mind throughout this powerful letter, Esther asked us some reflective and important questions. Bring out your Bible and ponder:

Titus 1:1 As servants of God and followers of Jesus Christ ourselves, what are we doing to further the faith of God’s elect (those God has chosen) and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness?

Titus 2:3-5, 10b As sisters in Christ here in Corsham, are we building each other up, modelling reverent lives to each other, teaching what is good, urging each other to love our family members?
Can it be said of us that ‘in every way [we] make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’?

Titus 2:11-14 Are we allowing, inviting, desiring God’s grace to teach us and train us in righteousness?
What are we doing whilst we ‘wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’? Are we even particularly conscious on a day to day basis that we are waiting for Christ’s return?
Is it evident to others that we are part of ‘a people that are [God’s] very own, eager to do what is good’?

Titus 3:1-2 In light of this, what do our public lives look like? Are we ready to do whatever is good? What is our attitude towards others? Is it consistent across everyone we interact with?

Titus 3:3-8 Is our response to God’s incredible, undeserved, outrageous love, mercy and grace pouring out of us in praise, gratitude and an unquenchable desire to do good? Or have we become desensitised to the incredibleness of it? Do we need a Paul or Titus figure in our lives – a Vicky Kelly – to be stressing these things and helping us to grasp the enormity of our salvation yet again, ‘so that those who have trusted in God [that’s us] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good’?
Could the way we live our lives be described as ‘excellent and profitable for everyone’?

Next week, we will finish with Esther’s teaching on the final verses of Titus;
We will imagine Titus and the Cretans are chomping at the bit to get started, motivation fully grasped and goal firmly in mind.

Paul is so keen for them not to fall at the first hurdle, Esther shares with us as to what his final instructions are and why it is relevant to us today in Corsham!