To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

The Preacher As Chef.

When we come to the preaching event a critical aspect of what the preacher should be longing for is that the people are fed. This feeding of the people comes through the Word of God being brought to them. Peter when he was commissioned by the Lord was told to Feed my sheep (John 21:17c).

This therefore conjures up the analogy of a preacher being a chef. So what do we think of when we think of how a preacher is analogous to a chef:

  • You need the right ingredients. You will never produce any meals that are nourishing and enjoyable without having the right ingredients. Every true preacher will be getting his ingredients from the Word of God.
  • You need to mix the appropriate ingredients. To put tomato sauce on ice cream may tickle someone’s fancy, but generally people will be revolted. To show joy when you are preaching about judgement is revolting.
  • The right food for the right occasion. Providing a fish and chip supper at a posh dinner is likely not to be well received. Similarly a message on obeying the authorities at a funeral is not best chosen.
  • The right order of courses. Offering people jelly and ice cream as a starter is not well thought through. So in preaching we have to be thoughtful about the best introduction, main course and conclusion to our message.
  • The surrounding circumstances are important. You may produce the best meal, but dirty cutlery and a smelly restaurant will put people off. We need to be careful about our manner and dress so that we do not hinder people from consuming the Word.
  • Everything needs to be cooked properly. The Word needs to have been cooked in our hearts so we can bring it appropriately to the people. It should not be too raw or overcooked.
  • The right atmosphere. There is often something “je ne said quois” about having a great meal. It is prayer that creates the “je ne sais quois” of preaching. If there is no prayer then there is likely to be something missing.
  • Don’t fill people up with the starter. The starter is meant to be leading people into enjoying the meal. If you fill them with stodge in the starter you will put them off the rest. And so an over stodgy start to the sermon is likely to put people off.
  • Spices and condiments need to be used well. And so with preaching, illustrations need to be used well so as to enhance the message. A dish which is overloaded with pepper will be spoiled.
  • The meal should be memorable. We need to work at this in preaching so that the benefit of the meal lasts.
  • Don’t poison your guests. The worst thing a chef can do is to give food poisoning to his customers. And so for us similarly we should avoid this. Dependence on bringing the Word will mitigate against this.
  • Digestible. The food should be presented so as to make sure that it is digestible. If the Word cannot be digested then it will not benefit the people.
  • Digestion. If the meal is rushed then people are likely to get indigestion. We need to make sure that we do not rush too quickly. This particularly applies with allowing people’s emotions to catch up with the logical presentation of the message.
  • Time between courses. This leads on to the thought of giving people time between courses to digest what has been said to them.
  • Leaving stuff out. If you are cooking a meal you might to start to think about all the wonderful things you could put in your meal, but to actually produce a good meal you need to put in only the necessary ingredients. And so it is with preaching we must put in all that is necessary.
  • Hoping for good reviews. A chef no doubt is pleased when people on TripAdvisor give high-rated reviews of his cuisine. For us preachers we do not look for the reviews of this day we look for the review of the ultimate day. Oh to hear from our Lord “well done good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21a). And if that is heard then all will have been worth it.

Oh that we might see people being well fed and strengthened in the Word.

The first few weeks of lockdown, which started in the UK on March 23rd, were weeks of cancellations. Conferences and activities which require a physical gathering of people together, had their plans scuppered.

In May and June though there has been a plethora of conferences online that could be attended by anyone. A vast array of good churches and organisation have been providing things for us to attend and benefit from.

Initially i thought that this was great. Conferences which just require me to get behind my laptop at home and enjoy. It seemed as though gold was at hand free of change and easy to access.

And yet I have to say that I have found the experiences very underwhelming and ended up attending very little. Three things I would mention:

  • There is little sense of being there. When you actually attend a conference you are a part of something. You are temporarily part of a community, there to enjoy a communal experience. There is so little of this online. Zoom does provide some contact and engagement, but it does not create the event.
  • It s too easy to get way. One of the joys of being at a conference is the restriction placed on you. That may sound as though it is a perplexing phrase and so let me explain. When you are at a conference you are there to listen and engage. When you are sat in large room of people you know you can’t just walk away.  But when you are online a quick click of “leave” and you are gone. So you are always thinking is this worth bothering with. Is there a better offer for my life at the moment. As a result so easily you walk away from things.
  • You don’t meet people. One of the great things about a proper conference is actually meeting people. The actual engagement with people can often be the best part of being there at the gathering. Their is little of this in the online format.

So the online conferences promised so much, but delivered not so much. I would add that they have provided a much needed resource during this time. However, it is not the real thing. So roll on the time, in the Lord’s will, when we can have some of the real thing again.

……..for over 23 years and I still feel somewhat out-of-my-depth. I wrote here previously about my thoughts on marriage before I married.

The call of course is very high; we are to love our wives as this Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:25-27)

Immediately we are faced with somethings that is beyond us. The model for our ministry as a husband is Christ and His love for the Church. This is total self-sacrificing love. Yet I find within me a selfish tendency. I find myself wanting to please myself and defend myself, instead of considering my wife’s interests as paramount.

One attitude that so very often causes problems is that of presumption. What I mean is that there is a presumption that all will go well. I fail to remember that I need God all the time. It is not just in the big things of life that I need that life-transforming work of the Holy Spirit; it is in all things I life. So many times i have approached an issue without praying and it has gone bad.

Moreover I need to be continually studying my wife so as to love her better. The more i know her, the more I will be able to cherish her an appreciate her. As the Lord says in 1 Peter 3:7 husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

This points to the fact that the prospering of our marriage will happen when we are praying together and if I am not understanding my wife in all of her charachter then our relationship will be fractious. If I am spiritual I will be studying her. 

In all this we need to be aware that we have an enemy who wants to destroy marriages. Marriage is the first institution created by God. It is the primary institution for the establishing of stable communities, families and churches.

So we need God. I need God. We have no get out clause in our marriage covenant. We are in it till death us do a part or the Lord shall come. We therefore should not be complacent when all is joyous and we should not be defeated when all is hard. We need God in all things. Which reminds me of some words I included in my wedding speech, at May Lin’s prompting:

 

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

 

Rejoicing is Normal

In 1 Peter 1:3-6a Peter writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice.

From this scripture we conclude that rejoicing is to be:

  • Exuberant: The word agalliasthe means to be overjoyed. It shows that there is  to be a delighted passion in the life of the believer.
  • Demonstrable: We are all of different characters, but the word agalliasthe  infers that there should be outward display of joy. Some of us are more naturally more exuberant than others. But regardless of character all should show some display enthusiastic rejoicing.
  • Has A Cause: The cause is the whole salvation that is recorded in vv3-5. We have been born again to a living hope; we have an inheritance and we are being guarded for that inheritance. This all should bring forth rejoicing. We should be exuberantly.
  • Real: If we are not showing any enthusiastic rejoicing to any degree at all then there must be a question about whether we know the salvation of God. If we are showing exuberant rejoicing we need to check whether it is because we have a natural tendency to exuberance and are just exuberant because things are going well in our lives and not because of our appreciation of the salvation of God.
  • Is Ongoing: The word rejoice is in the present tense. We should be continually rejoicing
  • Intelligent. Our rejoicing flows from awareness. It is not a hyped up temporary phenomenon. it flows from our ongoing mediating upon what God has done for us. The more we stop and consider this salvation of the Lord that we possess then the more we will be rejoicing.
  • Expected. Peter is not giving an exhortation here; he is rather making an observation. People who appreciate their salvation do not need to be exhorted to rejoice they just do it. When Stuart Attwell blew the whistle at approximately 10.00.pm. on June 25th 2020 to conclude the football match between Chelsea and Manchester City the Liverpool supporters did not need to be commanded to rejoice. Why not? well they were now premier League champion for the first time and rejoicing was just the natural and normal thing to do. As  a result of their connection with Liverpool FC they could not be stopped from rejoicing. And so should it be for us as Christians as we continually remember what Christ has done for us.
  • Not the Only emotion of life. Peter tells his readers that not only is rejoicing to be a normal part of their lives, but so is grief. He continue in v6 though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (v. 6b). Griefs are also part of life. But in the midst of griefs we can know joy. The two are not contradictory. We can know joy in the Lord amidst grief in our circumstances.

Here are some jottings on the parable of the minas from Luke 19:11-27.

  • The nobleman departing to receive a kingdom and return parallels our Lord having gone to heaven and promising to return (v12)
  • Each of the servants receives the same amount, one mina. This speaks of each one having the same opportunity to use what they had received. Each of us has the same amount of time in the day. Circumstances may vary, but we all have opportunity to service (v13)
  • The environment in which the servants served was hostile. The citizens of the nobleman hated him. The servants were serving an absent Lord who was hated by their fellow nationals. That is our situation now, We are serving the Master in a hostile environment (v14)
  • The first servant to appear for the assize by the master has laboured to earn ten further minas. It is interesting that he is first to meet the master it is as if he wanted to be there first. Here was a man who knew that his master was a good and gracious master. He had obviously laboured zealously. Dare we say he had taken risks in order to maximise the gain from trading. This reminds me of David’s mighty men and how they risked much for their master (see 2 Samuel 23:8-39). Those who know that their master is good and generous will risk much for His cause. Am and are you doing that for our Master in heaven?
  • The first servant who earned ten minas got a “well done” from the master. The second who earned five minas did not get a well done; he did get a reward though. His love for His master, whilst in evidence, did not spur him to the same extent as the first (v20).
  • The man who considered his master to be severe was not incentivized to work for the master. He rather just protected what He had. He fundamentally did not understand the master. He mistook the masters’ actions in legitimately controlling the kingdom as actions of a domineering tyrant (v21). The master said he should at least have taken the most minimal of risk and invested his money.
  • Such a man has the mina taken from him and given to another; the man with ten (v24).
  • In the teaching of vv24-26 we see how the Lord trusts those who labour zealously for Him as a generous Lord. They can be trusted to use it well. The one who did not use what he has has that taken away. The principle is that the trustworthy who love the Master get more. The ones who do not serve the Master will not be a given further opportunity to serve him.
  • The final declaration is of those consigned to destruction by the Master because they were not true servants.
  • A final question what happened to the other seven servants? I do not know.
  • The main lesson is that the Lord wants us to consider Him to be a good and generous Master. The more we appreciate that then the more we will take risks for Him and faithfully serve Him.

Whose Likeness

Back in February someone was hesitating about whether to call me Clarence or not. Such a hesitation was half in jest, but was to indicate how much of a likeness they thought I now had to my father. And I was very happy to have such a likeness.

Which just allows me to muse upon whose character do I demonstrate that I have a likeness of. Do my character attributes give a likeness to Christ or not. We are called to be renewed into the likeness of His image. In Romans 8:29 we read For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. How much of that image is demonstrable in my life?

Which pushes me back to a necessary preceding question: how will I know if I am in the image of Christ. That would surely be when I am exhibiting something of His character. This reminds me to ponder upon how He came into this world full of grace and truth And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Moreover if we are like Christ then the Spirit of the Lord will be moving freely upon and through our lives. We read in John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. So certainly when the Spirit is moving freely in a Christlike way through us the fruit of the Spirit will be seen. So we go to Galatians 5: 22-23 and see the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

In Ephesians 4:24 we read: and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. This all emphasises the need for a character which is like our God.

So if people come across me do they hesitate and think about the fact that my character has a resemblance to another. How much do I resemble my Father in heaven who has been revealed among us in and through His Son.

God, Authority And Us

We live in what might generally be called an anti-authoritarian age. Respect for authority in our culture is diminishing. This is indicative of a culture that has stopped respecting God. It alarms me that this attitude seems to have crept into the church.

Let me give you two Scriptures to ponder upon:

  • Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1).
  • Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph 5:22).

So in two realms that of marriage and society God is involved in our attitude to those in authority. So I immediately l ask the question: How can you say that you have deep respect for God when you fail to honour and respect those who are in authority?

I want to notice further that the Word in the quoted Scriptures does not say that acting honourably towards and subjecting to authorities is only to be to good governing authorities or husbands. No! our default attitude is to respect all in authority.

I also notice that there is no get-out clause in these scripture. What I am referring to is any clause that says: if they ask you to do something wrong then you should not submit to them. No! These Scriptures have a universal claim.

The basis reason for this is that all of our life is framed on the basis of authority.  If there is no authority structure in place then there is anarchy and nothing is able to function.

Moreover, God is the ultimate authority figure. We show that we respect God by respecting authority. To say “we fear God” and refuse to subject ourselves to authority is hypocritical.

As you are reading this you are possibly crying out what about Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. My concern is that Christians are racing to this Scripture with undue haste as our anti -authoritarianism urges us to want to escape any claim the authorities have over us.

Please be aware that I believe that this scripture does matter and does place a boundary on the authority people have over us.

This all brings me to our present situation and how Christians have responded to the authorities during this time of the coronavirus outbreak. All the agitation and murmurings and promotion of disobedience smacks to me of a decidedly ungodly spirit which does not recommend the gospel of Christ. Christian people deny their Lord if they have an authority rejecting spirit.

And finally don’t forget our Lord. Yes our Lord subjected himself to his parents; And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart (Luke 2:52).

 

White Lives Matter

Some people of Burnley connection were wanting to make it known in Manchester on the evening of June 22 2020 that “White Lives Matter.” You can read something about it here. I wrote recently here concerning Black Lives Matter. But what of the sentiment revealed by the “White Lives Matter Burnley” banner?

The first thing to say, viewing the banner’s message baldly, is to say that white lives do matter because all lives matter. That may be a banal point, but is is worth making. And they matter whether that be in Burnley or anywhere. We value every human being and consider none to be in the “not mattering” category.

I would also want to make it clear though that we must eschew any sympathy with white supremacist and far-right groups who might hijack the “White Lives Matter” slogan for their nefarious activities.

We do need to be aware though that many feel unheard amidst the promoting of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon at the present time. It seems that the media and intelligentsia in general seem unable to grasp this point. However, it has been documented that voters for Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump in the US were significantly the white working class people affiliating themselves with a cause whereby they could be heard.

In the UK their sense of disenfranchisement has been exacerbated by cases such as the Rotherham Sex Abuse scandal whereby some of Asian origin were seen as being untouchable. They were untouchable because the authorities feared that if they got involved they would be seen as being racist. Alas so many suffered because of this reluctance.

The present highly charged atmosphere as regards to racism I fear might have two consequences:

  • The growth of far-right white supremacist groups who will become more and more militant as they use propaganda to attract many to their ranks. Many can easily have their minds and hearts swayed because of the feeling of not being heard.
  • More groups being allowed to participate in criminal activity because the authorities fear being labelled “racist”.

Here are some final thoughts then.

  • The whole basis for all this is a search for identity. People want to find themselves as someone of consequence. Race is an easy way of getting that identity. I define myself by my colour and culture. When this happens it can then be taken and used and abused by certain people. Exploitative influencers step in and direct the group to malevolent ends. Oh the wonder of being “in Christ”. We find our life by finding identity in Him. And we find it with all others who are found by His grace.
  • We should wonder at the great grace that is in the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Go read Ephesians 2:11-22 and see how wonderful is the grace of our Lord to bring diverse communities together. This is only in Christ.
  • The present race-based factionalism is normative in a world where we tend to find meaning for ourselves in our groups and sub-cultures. The gospel transcends and transforms all this. Now people are found in Christ as they come to believe in Him as Lord and Saviour
  • And hence the church should shine as a light in a dark place at this time. There should be absolutely no racism therein. That is because we are all one in Christ Jesus (see Gal. 3:28).

Black Lives Matter

The return of the English Premier League has also seen the placarding of Black Lives Matter. Whether it be through the “Taking the knee” ritual or the declarations on the players shirts we are very much confronted by the Black Lives Matter phenomenon.

What are we to make of this? I would want to be aware that there is a difference between a principle and an organisation here.

The principle of black lives mattering is a given for anyone who understands the flow of biblical revelation. We are all created in the image of God. Whatever our colour, creed, religion, mental acumen, physical presentation we are all created in the image of God. Black lives do matter as do all lives. That may have become a cliched statement in our present febrile atmosphere, but it is still true There is no favouritism with God and all Christians should reject any partiality.

However, when looking at the Black Lives Matter organisation then things are somewhat different. If you look here at the beliefs of the Black Lives Matter organisation you get statements of a somewhat pernicious flavour. So I will give two quotes there from:

“We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.”\

“We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”

Here are policies which would cause me great concern and make me unable to support the Black Lives Matter Organisation. The concern to be a part of the vanguard of advancing transgenderism which is destructive to human flourishing, and the embracing of “Queer Theory” raise big concerns. These policies promote a world-view, that is opposed to God and His Word and that is also harmful to our neighbours. We do not “love our neighbour” by joining to support Black Lives Matter as an organisation.

So would I “Take The Knee”? It probably would depend on what is meant by it. If it is seen as supporting a binding with all black people as fellows human beings made in the image of God then I would do so. if it is to support “Black Lives Matter” as an organisation I would not do so.

Friendship / Fellowship

Here is an article exploring what friendship and fellowship are. It also shows how they relate to one another.

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