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Dunmow Baptist Church

The blog for Dunmow Baptist Church.

What are you building in life?

What are you doing in life? What are you building? ...and how do you know that what you're doing is what you should be doing? 

The answer is in another question: are you building what the Lord is building? Is he doing it with you?

The Bible says that if he isn't, you might as well give up now!

"Unless the Lord builds the house they labour in vain who build it." Psalm 127:1

 

"Unless you build this house I am building it in vain,

Unless the work is yours there is nothing to be gained.

I want something that will stand when your holy fire comes,

Something that will last and to hear you say, 'Well done',

Giving glory to you Lord."

(Lou Fellingham, Nathan Fellingham and Busbee)

 

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Just a thought

Have you ever noticed that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" comes just 2 verses after "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content"?

Strength for contentment in Jesus, however bad things get.

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A wise old owl sat on an oak...

A wise old owl sat on an oak;
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard;
Why aren't we like that wise old bird? Charles M Schulz

Wisdom is better than jewels and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. Proverbs 8:11

I've been reading the book of Proverbs and am really enjoying the first nine chapters which are all about wisdom. Proverbs was written by the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. He says we should seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures. (2:4)

Here are some of the benefits of having wisdom:

  • peace 3:2
  • favour and success in the sight of God and man 4:4
  • life and blessing 3:18
  • long life, riches and honour 3:16
  • security 3:23
  • no fear and good sleep 3:24
  • exaltation 4:8
  • guidance 6:21-23
  • an inheritance 8:21

How do we become wise?

1 Start with being in awe of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 9:10

2 Get to know Jesus. The Bible says that he is the wisdom of God:

Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God 1 Cor 1:24

Also, in Proverbs 8 it becomes clear that wisdom is Jesus:

When he (God) established the heavens, I (wisdom) was there... I was beside him, like a master workman and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always. 8:30

Whoever finds me (wisdom) finds life. 8:35

3 Follow the wisdom in Proverbs

These are some of my favourite proverbs; I love the wisdom in them. 

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 15:1

The prudent ignores an insult. 12:16

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. 16:32

It is an honour for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling. 20:3

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. 18:2

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 12:18

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. 17:14

See that Charles Schultz's owl is in agreement with Solomon: speak less, listen more!

 

 

 

 

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Church is open!

We are delighted to say that, as from tomorrow, Sunday 16th August, we will be meeting again.  The service will be at 11am and will be in the chapel in Angel Lane as our usual venue hasn't yet reopened.

We are excited to meet together again and everyone is welcome to join us. Please let us know on phThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you intend to come.

We will be following the Government guidelines on social distancing and wearing masks.

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord". Psalm 122:1

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How to enjoy God

If you lay gold in the dust… the Almighty will be your gold… and then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. Job 22:24-26

Eliphaz was the sort of friend Job could have done without; he was adamant that someone couldn’t possibly suffer as much as Job suffered for nothing – Job must have done something wrong. Eliphaz was completely wrong about Job but none the less his words give us real insight into how to delight in God.

If you lay gold in the dust the Almighty will be your gold and you will delight in him. In other words, Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. Matt 6:21 or, If he is your treasure, he will be your pleasure.

Job was very rich but by chapter 1 verse 21 he has practically nothing. But Job loved God more than riches, so he could say:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

By chapter 2 verse 10 it’s also evident that Job loved God more than his health.

God is Job’s gold.

 

How do we delight in, enjoy, be satisfied in God?

Satisfaction in God is satisfaction in a person. God is a person - a person to be enjoyed.

Rejoice in the Lord. Phil 4:4

Delight yourself in the Lord. Ps 37:4

In your presence is fullness of joy. Ps 16:11

Sinners, to put it bluntly, get incinerated if they get too close to God! Jesus had to die to make it possible for us to get close to God – a person.

Christ also suffered once for sins that he might bring us to God. 1 Pet 3:18

When I think of God; his perfection and holiness, my mind makes him into something less than a person – I doubt he has a sense of humour, I doubt he ever laughs or has fun. Somehow, being perfect seems characterless when, in fact, it is the basis of being the most awesome character there is.

We are made in God’s image; he is everything we are which is good. Imagine the kindest, wisest, most patient, happiest, most intelligent, strongest, most compassionate, most articulate, most generous person you know, with the best sense of humour. Combine them into one and increase to perfection and you have a hint at the person God is.

 

Is enjoying God his ultimate command?

The old catechism says yes: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Is it correct?

I know God’s ultimate command is to enjoy him because he commands me to love him.

The first commandment is to love God. We have a habit of thinking of love as deeds; of thinking that to love someone is to do things for them.

The essence of love is not doing, it is delighting. The Almighty will be your gold is delighting, not doing. We delight in gold – we don’t do something for it.

Jesus says, If you love me, keep my commandments, and the Bible sums up the commandments which we are to keep as, “Love God and love your neighbour” -  love not do.

 

I know God’s ultimate command is to enjoy him because he commands me to love others.

The second command “love your neighbour” is the overflow of our delighting in God. Look at this verse about the people of Macedonia:

In a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. 2 Cor 8:3

Their joy overflowed in generosity.

This is not joy in prosperity: they were in poverty.

This is not joy in comforts or ease: they were suffering affliction.

It is joy in God which overflowed in love to others.

 

I know God’s ultimate command is to love him because my purpose is to glorify him. (Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1Cor 10:31)

I can understand that my husband is glorified in me when I am satisfied in him, delighting in him and enjoying being with him.

Likewise, God is glorified in me when I am satisfied in God, delighting in God and enjoying being with God.

So, lay gold in the dust… the Almighty will be your gold… and then you will delight yourself in the Almighty. Job 22:24-26

 

Thoughts taken from John Piper on ‘What is it like to enjoy God?’

 

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Put on Christ

Our ladies’ group has been looking at the armour of God and the somewhat surprising idea that to put on Jesus is one and the same thing as putting on the armour of God.

How do we back that up?

Firstly, we put both the armour of God and Jesus on in order to fight sin, temptation and the devil – they have the same purpose.

Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Eph 6:11

Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality or sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealously but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Rom 13:12- 13

Secondly, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:10-18 that each piece of the armour of God is, in some way, God himself.

1 The belt of truth

The Bible says that Jesus is the truth:

  • Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

If we put on Jesus we put on the truth. Clothing ourselves with him protects us against lying, deceit and hypocrisy. When we are close to Jesus we are walking in the light and these sins are exposed and dealt with.

2 The breastplate of righteousness

The Bible says that Jesus is our righteousness:

  • ‘The Lord our righteousness’ (Jer 33:16) or, in Hebrew, Jehovah Tsidkenu, is one of the names given to Jesus in the Old Testament.
  • For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:21

To put on Jesus is to put on righteousness. We don’t muster up our own righteousness through good works: we become his righteousness as we put on Christ and confess our unrighteousness.

Our God is whatever we need.

These first two pieces of the armour are both examples of the ‘I ams’ in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, God introduces himself to Moses as I AM. That is his name. It is like a blank, I am…, which he fills in for us depending on our need.

Jehovah Tsidkenu means I am your righteousness

Jehovah Shalom means I am your peace

Jesus Nissi means I am your banner

Jehovah Jireh means I am your provider

Jehovah Raah means I am your shepherd

Jehovah Rophe means I am your healer

In the New Testament, Jesus continues this theme when he says I am… the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection, the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the true vine and the good shepherd.

So, we begin to build up a picture of our God being everything we need, including the armour itself.

3 As shoes, the readiness given by the gospel of peace:

The Bible says that Jesus is the gospel (which means good news) and he is our peace:

  • Mark 1:1 reveals that the gospel is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ’.
  • [Jesus] himself is our peace. Eph 2:14
  • The Lord is peace (Jehovah Shalom) is one of the names given to Jesus in the Old Testament (Jud 6:24).

The more we put Jesus on, the more readiness we will have to speak of the good news of Jesus, our peace.

4 The shield of faith

The Bible says that God is our shield and Jesus is the one we have faith in:

  • God says to Abraham, I am your shield. Gen 15:1
  • Paul talks about ‘faith in Christ Jesus’. Col 1:4

As we put on Christ, we are protected by him through faith in him.

5 The helmet of salvation

The Bible says that Jesus is our salvation:

  • There is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
  • The name Je- sus means Jehovah saves – I am your saviour.

It is only when you put on Jesus that you have salvation. There is no other way to put on the helmet of salvation than by putting on Jesus.

6 The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God

The word of God here means the spoken word of God (Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words by W.E.Vine).

  • Jesus uses the spoken word of God to fight the devil’s temptations: he answers the devil with, It is written… followed by a quote from God’s Word. (Mk 4:1-11)
  • Jesus himself is called The Word of God in John 1.

The sword is the only offensive weapon in the armour. The most effective way to fight sin is to do what Jesus did and use the Word of God to counteract the temptation. To do this we need to be immersed in the Word of God.

Why does it matter that to put on Jesus is to put on the armour of God?

It means we don’t have to strive to conjure up our own truth, righteousness, salvation etc. If we put on Christ we have these things; he provides them for us. It means that being a Christian is not about trying to be good and keeping a list of laws. It is about Jesus who has done everything for us and the great ‘I AM’.

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Dress code

What would you wear to meet the queen? I’ve never had the chance but, if I did, I reckon I’d think quite hard about it. Our God is the King of all kings - and there is a dress code!

Our sins clothe us in dirt:

The people in Sardis who needed to repent had “soiled their garments” (Revelation 3:4).

Even what we call our righteousness is like filthy rags to God. (Isaiah 64:6)

In the Bible, people clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes to show they were sorry for their sin:

“The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, ‘…Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’ When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them.” (Jonah 3:5-9)

God forgives our sin and takes away our filthy clothing but he doesn’t leave us naked! He clothes us…

…in purity

“Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’” (Zechariah 3:3)

…in salvation and righteousness

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

…in white

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments.” (Revelation 3:5)

So, stick to the dress code:

Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven. He says it’s like a wedding feast and everyone is invited. One man turns up to the feast ignoring the dress code, so he is thrown out.

Jesus is saying that you will only get into the kingdom of heaven if you are clothed in the garments of salvation and robe of righteousness that God provides for you.

Who but the King of kings sets the dress code and provides the tux?

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Beloved

I have been looking into names for God's people in the Bible; some are more common than others.

My favourite name is Beloved. 

I discovered that Benjamin is called "the beloved of the Lord" (Deut 33:12) and Daniel is addressed by an angel as "a man greatly beloved" (Dan 10:11).

I found that the Bible says of Solomon, "Among the nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless...women made even him to sin". (Neh 13:26)

Solomon was beloved of God even though he was a sinner. There is hope for me!

Jude confirms this hope when he calls God's people, "beloved in God the Father" (Jude 1:1). It is because we are beloved by God that he sent his own beloved son to die for us. 

I am truly "beloved of the Lord". 

 

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Meeting God again

Does a Christian need to meet God?

As Christians we have met God. We have been forgiven by him and have a friendship with him. In fact, we could assume that meeting God is only necessary for those who are not Christians.

But although, having met God, we may intend never to leave him, in practice we walk away from him every time we sin. We need to meet God again every day.

There is a verse which is often thought to be for those who have never met God, but was originally written to those who had:

 “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into him and eat with him and he with me.” Rev 3:20

God is ready and waiting to meet us.

 “My God in his steadfast love will meet me.” Ps 59:10

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Living out God's surprises

During Lockdown I've been spring cleaning and I came across a book which I had forgotten I had. It is called The Valley of Vision (a reference to Isaiah 22). I found the first page extremely thought provoking. I have written it out here adding Bible verses (in italics).

 

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

He who humbles himself will be exalted. Lk 14:11

that to be low is to be high,

The last shall be first. Mt 20:16

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Ps 147:3

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

Restore to me the joy of your salvation…a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Ps 51:12,17

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

Repent therefore and turn back that that your sins may be blotted out that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19-20

that to have nothing is to possess all,

Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mt 10:39

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

To die is gain. Phil 1:21

that to give is to receive,

The generous soul will be made rich. Proverbs 11:25

that the valley is the place of vision.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:1-2

 

Let me find your light in my darkness,

The Lord my God lightens my darkness. Ps 18:28

your joy in my sorrow,

I will turn their mourning into joy…and give them gladness for sorrow. Jer 31:1

your grace in my sin,

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Rom 5:20

your riches in my poverty,

For your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Cor 8:9

your glory in my valley.

God…has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed…so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies. 2 Cor 4:6-10

The  Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett

 

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Meeting God

Look at the strikingly different responses people had to meeting Jesus. Just three times the Bible uses the word ‘meet’ in relation to meeting Jesus (English Standard Version):

1 “They took palm branches of trees and went out to meet him crying, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” John 12:13

2 “The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.” John 12:18

3 “All the city came out to meet Jesus…and begged him to leave”. Matthew 8:34

If you met Jesus, which reaction would you have? Would you be delighted and honour him; would you be interested to see the spectacle; or would you beg him to leave because you have no place for God in your life or aren’t ready to meet him?

Jesus tells a story about not being ready. It is about 10 bridesmaids who were waiting for the groom. It was dark and they all had their oil lamps lit, ready to welcome him. Traditionally the bride is late but in this story it was the groom and the bridesmaids fell asleep while they were waiting. When they were told he was coming the lamps had gone out and 5 of them hadn’t brought any spare oil, so they couldn’t go out to meet him – they weren’t prepared.

Jesus is using this illustration to say we need be ready to meet him when he comes. One day everyone will meet Jesus (Rev 1:7) and for those who are right with him it will be a delight. If you have fallen out with a friend meeting them is painful, awkward and embarrassing. But if you have made up, meeting them is a delight.

 “Prepare to meet your God” Amos 4:12

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Want a Lamborghini?

There is an exciting promise in the Bible which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

What are the desires of your heart? What do you most want?

Is it a Lamborghini, the latest technology, or an extravagant holiday? Do you want the ability to be a famous footballer, a great musician, or is it promotion in your job that you’re after? Or are you looking for a wife or a true friend? Is it peace you really want, or to experience love or real happiness? Or perhaps you desire the ability to control your temper, stop smoking or be patient with your children.

When we delight ourselves in the Lord, he promises to give us our heart’s desires. When we delight in the Lord, we want the Lord. We want to know him, to spend time with him, to talk with him, to enjoy him. We wouldn’t delight in him if we didn’t want him.

So, he gives us himself.

And he gives himself extravagantly.

The extravagance which he lavishes upon us is demonstrated in the illustration above. It which includes a whole host of things he becomes to us when he gives us himself – and these are only the ones in Psalms! He is my exceeding joy, hope, strength, salvation, rock of refuge, deliver, shepherd, father…

Are you seriously still interested in the Lamborghini?

The Lord says, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). So, if it’s still the desire of your heart when you’re delighting in the Lord and he sees that it’s good for you, then you will get it.

But how much more satisfying to have a deep friendship with the King of Kings, the source of all joy, peace and love, who has our best interests at heart and who loves us enough to die for us. Getting to know the mastermind behind the universe is an awe-inspiring possibility.

And it’ll last longer than a Lamborghini!

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Be careful how you walk!

Look carefully how you walk. Ephesians 5:15

 

Walk like Jesus

Walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6

 

Walk in Jesus

As you have received Christ Jesus, so walk in him. Colossians 2:6

 

Walk with Jesus

…like Enoch (Genesis 5:22) and Noah (Genesis 6:9) walked with God.

 

Walk in a manner worthy of Jesus (Colossians 1:10) and one day you will walk with him in white (Revelation 3:4).

 

Follow Jesus

You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world. Ephesians 2:1-2

Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21

Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. John 8:12

 

Walk in the light…

…so you don’t fall

If anyone walks in the day he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. John 11:9

…and so when you fall you can be picked up again

If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

and one day you will walk by the light of the Lamb in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23-24).

 

What would this look like? It would look like you were 

walking in newness of life (Romans 6:4),

walking in truth (2 John 1:4),

walking in love (Ephesians 5:2),

walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7),

walking by the Spirit Galatians 5:16),

walking in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31),

walking according to the commandments (2 John 1:6),

walking in good works (Ephesians 2:10).

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Feeling down

n the day of my trouble I seek the Lord…
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints...
I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Psalm 77:1-4

 

1 When you’re down, God knows

 You discern my thoughts from afar. Psalm 139:2

 

2 When you’re down, God is with you

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. 

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19

When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:18-19

You are my lamp, O Lord,
and my God lightens my darkness. 2 Samuel 22:29

 

When you don’t know what to pray:

We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

 

Prayers to pray:

Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:7-8

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I. Psalm 61:1-3
 

3 When you’re down, pray

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

 

4 When you are down think about positive things

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil 4:8 & 13

 

5 When you are down, peace and rest are available

 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-29

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Is 26:3

 

6 A positive side to being down

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6

 

7 You will not always be down

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. Psalm 43:5

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

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How to live life to the full

Jesus said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

So, how can you experience this abundant life? The life Jesus gives us is eternal life; John 3:16 tells us how to receive eternal life. But having received it, how can you live life to the full?

Jesus said, I am the…life (John 14:6) so, it would be reasonable to deduce that, if you want life abundantly, you need Jesus abundantly.

 

There are 3 ways in which the Bible tells us we can ‘have Jesus abundantly’.

1 To have Jesus abundantly, abide in him.

Abide in him as closely as the branch of a vine sticks to the trunk and you will produce fruit. Plenty of grapes is the sign of a healthy vine, full of life and plenty of fruit is the sign of a person with abundant life.

What are the fruits of an abundant life? Love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control (Gal 5:22).

2 To have Jesus abundantly, die.

Galatians 2:20 says, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Die to yourself. Confess your pride, admit you can’t be good enough by your own efforts and depend on Jesus. If it’s no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you, you have an abundance of Jesus Christ in your life.

3 To have Jesus abundantly, live by the Word of God.

Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), so the more of that Word we take in as we read the Bible, the more we devour it hungrily, the more of Jesus we have.

 

The Bible talks about being filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:14). Someone who is filled with God’s fullness has abundant life. Again, the secret is in having an abundance of Jesus, as in him the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells (Col 2:9).

So, abide in Jesus, die to yourself and read the Bible hungrily and you will live life to the full.

Let’s enjoy Jesus abundantly: he will show you the path of life, in his presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11)

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Growing good roots

How do we make sure our roots are good?

For parts 1 and 2 see previous blogs.

Thirdly, Ephesians 3:14-19 tells me that I need to be rooted and grounded in love.  Then I will be like the healthy tree of Jeremiah 17 and Psalm 1.

Jesus tells us that all the commandments are summed up in 'love'; loving another is vital. A warning is given is regard to this:

"See to it... that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled". (Heb 12:15)

When I secretly allow a root of bitterness to grow, the diseased root affects the parts of the tree that show. My leaves and fruit become diseased as my private thoughts affect my words and actions. When I allow a root of bitterness to grow, I have stopped growing good roots.

I have found the best cure for a root of bitterness is:

1 Constant confession which cuts off the root of bitterness.

2 Applying Philippians 4:8 which keeps it from growing back:

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil 4:8)

Ephesians 3 says that being rooted and grounded in love leads to being filled with all the fullness of God. That sounds like an awesome tree!

To conclude, we grow our roots by delighting in the Word, trusting the Lord and loving one another. In this way we become, "oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified" (Is 61:3).

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Growing good roots Part 2

How do we make sure our roots are good?

For part 1 see the previous blog.

Secondly, Jeremiah 17 tells me that when I trust in the Lord I am like a healthy tree. It's about relying on the Lord.

Having healthy roots isn't about being superwoman - the perfect Christian woman who's got it all together. It's not about dusting our leaves and buffing up our fruit.

It's quite the opposite, as is so often with God. It's about the messy, unsightly bit - roots are not pretty! It's about admitting our need and being dependent, it's about confession and forgiveness. It's about the text, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:8).

Roots are where we exchange our weakness, weariness, worry, failures, pain and burdens for Christ's strength, peace, comfort and hope.

Yesterday, my husband was called to go out to help someone at dinner time. Instead of trusting the Lord that, "all things work together for good for those who love God" (Rom 8:28) I moaned at Philip and complained that the food would get cold. It wasn't even as if it was his idea - he'd have much rather been eating his dinner! I wasn't trusting the Lord; I had lost my peace and I wasn't growing my roots.

So when we trust the Lord in everything, trust that he know best and has our best interests at heart, we are growing good roots and becoming beautiful trees.

Look out for Growing Good Roots Part 3.

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Growing good roots

Our ladies' group have been exploring what it means to grow good roots.

Christians are like trees, as Jeremiah 17 explains:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.

What is a tree with good roots like?

Proverbs 12 says that the root of the righteous will never be moved. A tree with good roots is unshakeable. Even in times of severe heat or drought. If we are flourishing trees, times of trouble won't shake us.

The parable of the sower warns us that if we are like the plant with little root, as soon as troubles come we will wilt beneath them.

So, how do make sure we have good roots?

Psalm 1 tells me that when I delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night I am like a healthy tree. 

Colossians 2 reiterates this. 

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

The word 'therefore' sends us back to chapter one where we repeatedly see that the Colossians were rooted in the Word of God. To be rooted in Jesus is to be rooted in the Word.

Our roots are the part of our lives that doesn't show, our private life with God. Just as with a tree, the quality of the part that shows is dependent on the quality of the part that's not. The devil knows this, which is why we all tend to struggle with having a regular, meaningful time with the Lord.

There are four ways I know to fight back:

1 Ask God to increase your desire to spend time with him. Last autumn I was inspired by a film called War Room to spend more time with the Lord. I even converted a wardrobe into a prayer room and stuck prayers and texts on the wall and thoroughly enjoyed time with God. Recently I realised that I had drifted away and had to ask to Lord to renew my desire to spend time with him.

2 Remember that something is better than nothing and do something!

3 Make it a habit - in time and place.

4 Make an effort - bother to take notes, write out texts, make a prayer list.

As I did these things I found God answering my prayer to renew my desire for him. As I drew near to God he drew near to me. (James 4:8)

So we can make sure our roots are good by spending time reading the Bible. This will make sure we are rooted in Jesus.

Look out for two more ways to grow good roots over the next two days. 

 

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Loneliness in Lockdown

In my life there are more people around than usual at present, as my two youngest daughters have had to come home from university. They are good company and I’m enjoying having them around.

But many people have got less contact with people than usual and loneliness hits hard. Even the contact that’s permitted tends to be brief and rather formal. Certainly no hugs!

The cry of Psalm 25:16 is spot on: “Turn to me and be gracious to me for I am lonely and afflicted.”

God speaks to the lonely:

Fear not for I am with you. Is 41:10

It is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deut 31:6

Paul says, No one came to stand by me but all deserted me…but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me. 2 Tim 4:16-17

When he died, Jesus was making it possible for us to have friendship with him. On the cross, he was forsaken by everyone, including God his Father. He suffered this out of love. Afterwards, just as he was about to go back to heaven, he promised his followers, “I am with you always” (Mt28:20). He had achieved what he had set out to do; that ongoing friendship is secure.

So, in your loneliness, pour out your heart to Jesus (Ps 62:8) - he is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Pr 18:24).

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God's Surprises

God delights to surprise us - again and again in the Bible we find God doing the opposite of what we would expect. 

This illustration brings together some of God's surprises - the first half of each is in the tree and the second half is in the reflection.

Verses from Ephesians 2, Matthew 10, Matthew 20, Philippians 1, 1 Corinthians 1, Luke 5, Matthew 18, 2 Corinthians 12, Matthew 23, 2 Corinthians 6, Philippians 2.

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