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

He Never Had Sex

We live in a society where there is an obsession with sex. Even in the church this can be the case. Of course, in the church the message is that sex is rightly and properly restricted to marriage. However, the message can be that if you are not married and enjoying sex then you are missing out.

However, we need to have a re-appraisal of this emphasis. One fact that should make us to re-assess our emphasis is that the most fulfilled man who has ever lived never had sex. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not a pseudo man; He was a real man. Such a scripture as Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favour of God was upon him, will indicate to us the reality of His humanity. Moreover, we read in Hebrews 4:15b of Him as one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

We celebrate sex in its proper setting as a rich and full gift from God. However, we do a disservice to the married and the unmarried, and to the sexually pure and the sexually messed up if we portray sex as the very elixir of life.

Knowing God and relating to Him through Christ is the very fullest experience that any human can experience. if we look for fulfilment anywhere else, including in sex, then we will always be short-changed.

Knowing God

In Luke 5:33 we see the Pharisees unhappy about how the followers of Jesus are conducting themselves. They say to the Lord “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink” (Luke 5:33). It’s almost as if they are saying your disciples seem to be enjoying themselves whilst we are stuck with the drudgery of prayings and fastings.

The Lord goes on to talk about how having Himself with them means that it is a time for celebration and enjoyment. He likens Himself to a bridegroom to make the point. When it is wedding time and the bridegroom is present: you just do not fast; you celebrate (see v34). He further says that fasting will take place when He is gone because of the passionate desire that His disciples would have to have Him with them (see v35).

This raises the question of how we use spiritual disciplines. We talk about the means of grace, such as prayer, Bible Study, fellowship and congregating as church. But are they really means of grace or are they religious pursuits which lead to us glorying in our performance and not in the Lord? That seems to be the outlook of the Pharisees. They see prayers and fastings as an end in themselves.

We so easily go in this direction. One thing that I wonder about is whether we, particularly in conservative evangelical circles, have substituted the knowledge of scripture for the knowledge of God. The knowledge of the Word is vital for us to truly know God. If we do not know scripture we will never know the true God. however, However, if we conclude that we know God through knowing the Word we are deceived. It is the difference between knowing the facts about my wife and knowing my wife in a living relationship. The facts helps me to engage in knowing my wife, but in and of themselves they fail to deliver an experiential knowledge.

So we absolutely must be studying the Word and hearing it faithfully preached and taught. But to think that in and of itself it achieves the knowing of God is a delusion. Knowing God is through the Christ revealed in scripture. The study of scripture along prayers and fastings must be mingled in to my life as I pursue God and the knowing of Him through Jesus Christ.

Alas, going back to the Pharisees, if prayers and fastings become just religious duties then we default to drudgeries and our spiritual life is defunct and we live in misery when we should be living in joy.

Fullness of joy comes when we are led to the Christ through our Saviour.

What Do You Want?

What do you want? Right now the majority of people would say: “I want the whole coronavirus outbreak to be over so that we can return to our normal way of doing things.” There is much within me that shares that desire. And yet I wonder.

What I am wondering about is whether I am just letting my own natural inclinations drive me. Am I more interested in self-comfort rather than being determined to know what the Lord’s will is at this time? This will all be reflected in my prayers.

So as I think about the present disruption being experienced am I alive to desiring of my Father’s will? Thereby, I remember the cry:

your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matt. 6:10b)

If it is the Lord’s will to work to continue to disrupt our nation through the present coronavirus malaise, so that many cry out for salvation to the Lord, then I should want that. I should long with all my whole heart that people would find the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Jesus Christ. I should be willing to suffer pain and disruption for myself so that this comes to pass.

When we observe what is happening at the present time there are many ways in which we, as believers, should be encouraged. We see people’s lives being shaken and therefore we can see great gospel opportunities like we have not had in a generation. May the Lord lead people to repentance and faith. Oh and may we be alive to the great gospel opportunities of this time.

Let us be prayerful and thoughtful about seizing these opportunities.

And let us ponder upon the question: What do we want at this time?

Everyone Must Know

There is a message that everyone must know. It is a message that matters beyond any other message. It is the message of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes that he was not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16a). Everyone needs salvation and this message is the only message that tells of salvation. The gospel is the message that everyone must know. So what is the gospel?

God. The Gospel begins with God. The Gospel tells us of the God who created us.So God created mankind in his own image, (Gen 1:27a). It is to this God that we owe our life because He created us. And it is in this God that we find life. So we read in John 17:3 of our Saviour praying to His Father this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Life is found in a harmonious relationship with God.

So what is this like? He is holy righteous and just. This is summarized in Habakkuk 1:13a: Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Everything bad and sinful is an abhorrence to Him. Our God is beautiful. This is the God we must be in relationship with to have life.

Us. Alas, we are very much now not like God in our characters. This is because of sin. All have turned away from God’s way. The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Sin puts us under the judgment of God. As we have thought, God cannot tolerate sin in His presence. So we are banished from His favourable and blessed presence. The eternal wrath of God is upon us. And therefore we are facing hell.

So what is your response to this? Do you say that it does not matter!? I can just go my own way without God and it will all be alright. In response to such thoughts, I want to make it very clear to you that it does matter. It matters because we have this binding responsibility towards our creator. We are made to please Him. If we don’t want to please Him, we have to face the consequences of that choice. We may want to ignore God, but He won’t ignore us. There is ultimately a day of judgment when we face our Maker. And if we die in our sins we are set for an eternal hell. And that is too terrible to consider.

Christ. Into this situation, though, God intervened. Because of our sin there is a great gulf between ourselves and God. We are completely unable to draw near to God. The wonder of the Gospel is that God sent His Son into the world to bridge that gap. Sin wrecked us and alienated us from God. At the cross the Lord Jesus was made sin for us. On the cross He took all the eternal wrath of God against sin. He did not have to die because of His own sin, because He had none, but He suffered for our sins. And now He is raised again. He has taken life again beyond the grave to prove that He has conquered death once and for all.

Us. We need to respond to this message. We need to believe in Jesus. The blessing of the Gospel comes to all who place their faith in our Lord Jesus. It is sin which stops us believing in Christ. Sin is the great impenetrable barrier which is placed between us and God. We need to repent of our sins, in all of their vile character, and place our faith in Christ. In like manner as to how we rely upon a chair when we sit down so we need to rely on Christ for our eternal salvation. We need to trust Him. The Bible calls us to turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21b). And all who have faith in our Lord Jesus are promised eternal life.

So this is the Gospel. It starts with God. It moves then to consider our desperate situation before Him because of our sin. Sin is about us turning away from God. The Gospel brings us the “turning to God” message which brings eternal life. We must believe the Gospel. If you have any questions find a reliable Christian who will seek to answer them or go to a reliable site such as http://www.gotquestions.org. To fail to believe is devastating. The contrast between belief and unbelief is stated in John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. Before you dismiss the Gospel message please ponder upon that. And if you are believing then be thankful with such overwhelming thanks for such a great Gospel. But beyond that be thankful for such a great Saviour.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of February 2017)

We are Feltham Evangelical Church. One of the key implications of being “evangelical” is that we are a Bible Church. As a Bible Church, we believe it is scripture which determines our message, arrangements and conduct. We could effectively (and happily) be renamed Feltham Bible Church. It is important to stress that it is the whole of the Bible which we take heed to in our lives and in our church. We are an “all the Bible “church! We are not a church that picks and chooses which parts of the Bible we want to follow.

Do we need to study all the Bible? Paul, when he was recalling his ministry among the Ephesians, said to the elders of that church that I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God (Acts 20:27). Paul was set on declaring all that was in the Word of God and so should we be. He knew that the Ephesians would only be healthily established in the Lord if the whole of the revelation of God in scripture was brought to them. No Scripture should be “out of bounds” for us. Rather, all Scripture should be believed, read, preached and obeyed. In view of this, if you observe anything in Scripture which is not being lived out in and by our church then you should approach the elders and question why we have such an omission.

What is the main message of the Bible? We have established, therefore, that it should be the full revelation of God which drives us. However, we have to study scripture properly. That means that we view each part of Scripture in the context of what is taught in the whole of scripture. Accordingly, it is critical that we understand what the main theme of the Bible is. The key theme of the Bible is how a people messed up by sin have been rescued by the salvation of Jesus Christ so that they might be for His glory. The focus of the Bible is on Jesus Christ.

When we study the Word of God knowing that the focus is on Jesus Christ, we will see that all of the Old Testament looked forward to His coming. This will shape how we view these scriptures. So we will see, for example, that the offerings and sacrifices in the Old Testament all anticipated the one offering and sacrifice of Christ. This means that the passages about the sacrificial system should be treasured and studied as they reveal so much of what our Lord Jesus was set to do.

We have to make it clear then that all Scripture should be rightly understood. Accordingly, every Christian should be like Timothy was urged to be a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15b). Every Christian should be a thinking Christian which means they should be pondering and meditating on scripture. And in doing so they will be making sure they understand where each scripture fits in with God’s revelation.

Does some Scripture become less important over time? The abiding character of all the Word of God is firmly laid before us when our Lord Jesus said that Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Luke 21:33). Further, He said in Matthew 5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

How much of Scripture is relevant for the Christian? To which we reply that all of it is relevant. As Paul’s says to Timothy All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). In view of this, we encourage all to read and study and understand all of scripture. Accordingly two happenings in the church in the New year are pertinent to mention here:

  • The Feltham Journey (see Notes). This gives us opportunity to read through all the Bible.
  • Preaching through Deuteronomy. We plan to start to journey through this part of Scripture in the new year confident that the study of it will yield much that is relevant for our lives.

Is Scripture complete? The coming of Jesus Christ into the world is important here. In Hebrews 1:1-2a we read In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Our Lord Jesus is the full and final revelation of God. That should never be forgotten by the Christian. The New Testament completes this revelation. Thus we can reasonably say that Jesus Christ is anticipated in the Old Testament, described in the Gospels, proclaimed in Acts, analyzed in the epistles and glorified in Revelation. It is then fitting that the Bible finishes with Revelation which is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:2b). Pertinently, as the Bible concludes the warning comes that we should not add or take away from Scripture (see Rev. 22:19-20).

We move on, not just as people who pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to take heed to, but as “all the Bible” people who take heed to all Scripture.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of January 2017)

This was originally written in March 2017, for our church newsletter, upon our dear sister in Christ Pat Earle withdrew from preparing for the Lord’s Supper and doing refreshments at Feltham Evangelical Church

As our sister Pat, draws her faithful service for the church and her Lord on a Sunday to an end (see news) I want to ponder upon how the Lord views what she has done. One passage that can help us with our understanding is Matthew 20:1-16. This is one of the parables which indicates what the kingdom of heaven is like. Its teaching is derived from how a man went out to the market place at different times of the day to recruit workers to come and work in his vineyard. But what is being taught through this parable?

To start to understand what is taught, we need to get the context for the Lord’s teaching here. The latter part of chapter 19 is dealing with the issue of rewards. In the Old Testament, when faith was in its childhood stage of development, God clearly gave tangible rewards for faithful service to Him. There was a clear connection between being devoted to the Lord and getting blessed. With this way of operating in his mind, Peter observes We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’ (Matt. 19:27b). The Lord graciously accommodates Himself to this thinking when He promises rewards in v28. However, He nudges Peter’s thinking forward in two ways:-

  1. They are going to be judging the twelve tribes of Israel, which indicates they are in a position distinct from Israel and superior to Israel. They are moving into another phase (an adult phase).
  2. The rewards are given “for my sake” in v29. This suggests a movement away from rewards as an end in themselves to rewards which result from devotion to Him.

The fact that Matthew 20:1-16 is clearly linked into this passage is seen in how 19:30 and 20:16 are the same. As we look at the parable then, we should discern what is being taught regarding the first being last and the last first.

When we come to the parable itself, we notice initially that only one of the the groups of workers actually entered into a contract with the vineyard owner. This group is the first group who agreed their terms and conditions at the beginning of the day (see v.2). Those who started work at the third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours had no agreements (see vv.5-7). They started to work trusting that the vineyard owner would give appropriate rewards. The third, sixth and ninth hour recruits appear to have had the promise of being paid what was right, but the eleventh hour peoples did not even have this promise. Whatever the arrangement, all except those who started at the beginning of the day enlisted for work trusting that the vineyard owner would reward them appropriately.

When it came time to pay the wages we know only that “the eleventh hour men” and “the early in the morning men” all got a denarius. This made those whom were hired first to start grumbling (see v11). They said that they had worked hard all day and could not understand how those, who had only worked in the cooler evening, had got the same amount. They thought that they should have more and therefore concluded that the outcome was unjust.

Let us ponder upon some things about the contracted labourers:-

  1. What they got was a reasonable wage for the day. They agreed a decent wage for the days work. They seem to have been happy to agree that. This reflects the thinking of the religious person. I serve to get.
  2. Their whole concern was with their own reward and what they were entitled to. The Lord brings his argument to a head by saying to one of those who were hired first “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15). They were not concerned about the rights of the Master.
  3. They were concerned about what they got and what blessing they received. They were not concerned with how others were blessed. They were just self-interested. This is what all worldly religion is about. It is about what i can get, not what God gives. True Christianity is about what our generous God gives.
  4. They had no joy in respect of how generous the owner was to the eleventh hour men. They did not understand grace. They did not understand how the undeserving could be blessed.

What is this teaching us? It is teaching about:

  • those who are working for God as employees of an employer. They think: “I will do this and I will get that.” They operate on the basis of what they perceive they deserve. This attitude looks upon God as a boss who, if you do what you need to do, will give you appropriate wages. It tends towards viewing service in the terms of a hard slog. They have no sense of God being generous.
  • those who serve a generous God because they delight to serve in His vineyard. In the kingdom of heaven, the workers in His service serve with a trust that the Master will give them what is appropriate in line with His generosity. Whatever the service they do for Him; they gladly receive their reward knowing He is is a generous giver. There is a sense that “the eleventh hour workers” could have said that it was reward enough to have just been given opportunity to spend sometime profitably rather than just lolling around the market place. But, like God, the master was generous.

So in the kingdom of heaven, we happily serve in the vineyard and look to the Master to give His reward. We believe Him to be a generous master. And in that way, the first becomes last and the last first. The ones who serve for reward expect to be first because of what they have put in to their labour. The ones who serve because they appreciate the Master and want to serve in His vineyard will be first even though they may be last according to their own, and the worlds’, standards. Which leads me to suggest that Pat’s quiet and faithful service, which the world may consider insignificant, is very likely of great value in the Lord’s eyes.

So what about us? Are we those who serve to get what is our due? Or are we those who serve in order to do our best for the Master and leave the matter of any rewards with Him? If we are the latter we do well.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2017)

This China Caused Crisis?!

So I muse and I speculate and even perhaps flirt with conspiracy theory thinking. But here goes.

So the virus originates in a laboratory. I don’t believe there has ever been definitive confirmation that it is derived from bats and first afflicted humanity through that unspecified wet market in Wuhan.

Allow it to start in winter so that by summer the country could be operational again. Also make it coincidental with Chinese New Year because the country closes down for two weeks then anyway.

The death of a number of their own people was seen as collateral damage. This was deemed acceptable given the potential benefits that could be achieved.

The policy of “lockdown” was adopted because of the damage it could have through being adopted around the world as the way to respond to the pandemic. “After all that is how the Chinese controlled it” the adopters around the world would say as they floundered in their own responses.

So the virus spreads and deaths occurred and the countries around the world panicked. And of course they adopted “lockdown” to control their outbreaks.

As a result so many economies around the world have been wrecked whilst the Chinese got through and got back to normal. So the Chinese economy stabilizes and is re-established whilst in the West, and elsewhere, the governments flail around looking for answers. Lockdown is persisted with as the main policy, economies are paralysed and the governments’ furlough type schemes mean that the rest of the twenty first century will see them seeking to pay off the debt.

And of course this all provides a big distraction for the Western governments. This allows the Chinese government to march full steam ahead with its repressive polices against Hong Kong, The Uighurs and the Mongolians and Christians. Sinification has marched ahead whereby populations have their historic cultures obliterated to be replaced by the imprint of the Communist Party which operates to bring total compliance. President Xi being the god to be worshipped in place of all other gods.

A distracted West is just what you need to move such a process forward. This is because no-one is there to protest. The United Nations won’t hold debates to hold China to account. And if they do no-one will hear of them because New York is paralysed through the virus.

So out of a laboratory originated virus (?) comes a prosperous China ruling the waves, Africa and much everywhere else perhaps.

Oh forgive me for my musings. But I feel although I may be guilty of over-highlighting there is some plausibility in all this.

The nefarious work of the Chinese government goes forward. But, and praise God there is a but, there is a God in heaven who is immortal and who is in control and working out all for His glory. And by faith we can know that the nations are just a drop in the bucket to Him. The schemes of the Communist party in China will come to nought. But Jesus shall reign where’re the sun does its successive journies run.

President Xi, like Chairman Mao and all other tyrants, will come and go. but spare a thought for the people of China and all the pain so many of them are enduring.

But our God really does reign forever and ever. And remember concerning the believers and the church of God in China that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Chairman Mao and his acolytes sought to exterminate Christianity in the 1960’s, but the church prospered. May the Lord yet do the same again as His people now suffer. Let us pray for the church in China.

Circumcision And Baptism

Circumcision and baptism are inherently connected because they are both identifiers of who is part of the people of God. In Colossians 2:11-12 we read. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

If you were challenged about being a Jew in old covenant days you could find proof of your membership of the people of God through the cut of flesh. To reveal that cut of flesh would be unseemly and inappropriate. So how was this to work out. It would be proven everyday, even when you had to urinate that you had the sign of the covenant on your being. This was to be a challenge every day that you would live so as to reflect being a member of God’s covenant community.

In these new covenant days baptism fulfils a similar function. So what are we to do when challenged about our membership of the people of God? Do we tell someone that we will go and root out our baptism certificate to give proof of our identity. No! I suggest rather that every day we should remember our baptism and live accordingly. Our baptism should affect our life every day

Salvation By Vaccine

The gospel was preached by our Prime Minister on Monday November 9th in his press conference of which there is a snippet here. The message is that the vaccine is on its way and when it arrives all will be well.

Covid-19 has stricken many people physically, and many more have been stricken through the damage to the economy and their mental health. The impact has been phenomenal. The plight of our situation is real and well documented.

But now we have the prospect of deliverance from the plague and the prospect of a prosperous way ahead as we return to normal.

Now I do not want to downplay the mercies of our God in supplying a vaccine which may well save many lives. Neither do I want to get involved in the conspiracy speculation about what might be in the vaccine. What I do want to highlight though is what this all reveals about our society.

We are a nation that operates without reference to God or the soul. Saving the body and enjoying the here and now is what matters. What I can experience in the sentient part of my being determines everything. It’s all about what we can see and hear and how much enjoyment I can get therefrom. In such a situation Boris Johnson is the gospel preacher when he declares the coming vaccine.

Alas it is all ultimately a sham and a delusion. We are creatures with an eternal soul. We are made in the image of God and we function healthily when we are in fellowship for God. A healthy society focusses on God and our relationship with Him. A fear of God needs to prevail rather than a fear of plague and disease. We need to remember that  it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement (Heb. 9:27). And furthermore we need to note that the call which leads to true life is found in these words of our Saviour: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4-5)

What is the worst thing that could happen as an outcome of this destructive virus ? It is for us to believe the vaccine gospel, act in faith and receive the vaccine and get on with out lives.

God has spoken through Covid-19 to shake us (see my piece here on this) and we have ignored it and said we know a better way than His. I fear much for a people that would take the route of embracing the salvation by vaccine, but ignore, even reject, the true salvation of our Lord Jesus. After all He, and he alone is the deliverer from the wrath to come and that is the biggest peril we face.

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for November 2020. It includes an article on taking vows.

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