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

Church Focus

Listening to this podcast about the Mars Hill / Mark Driscoll story I was most helped in respect of what to prioritize in church life. The part to listen to is from 11 mins and 15 secs.

It prompts me to think about what emphases I am bringing into the church here in Feltham. If the emphases are focussing on Christ, His gospel and His Word then I can be re-assured that all is well.

To develop this further I ask: what narrative are we seeking to cohere our churches around? If it is anything other than Christ, the gospel and His Word then we are storing up disaster for our churches.

Forgiving One Another.

There are so many relationships between people which are fractured. In order for those relationships to be restored there needs to be forgiveness. Here we thought about being forgiven by God; now we want to carry on the theme and consider forgiveness between ourselves.

Fracture: We first of all need to establish whether or not there has been a breakdown in a relationship. Many things happen in life which lead to disagreements or awkwardnesses among people, but these do not necessarily lead to fractured relationships. As Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8b: love covers over a multitude of sins. We may be uncomfortable or annoyed with others for what they have done or said, but many times we can simply let them pass in the general flow of relationships. It is only when something of a significant degree has happened, so that a relationship is fractured, that we need to be thinking about how that relationship can be restored.

Repentance: For a relationship to be restored there needs to be repentance. Forgiveness that leads to the restoration of a relationship can only happen when there is an acknowledgement of wrong. This immediately seems appropriate when we consider that in Colossians 3:13 Paul says Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. How did the Lord forgive us? He forgave us when we repented of our sins. Accordingly, if X has done something to offend Y, so that the relationship is fractured, then for the relationship to be restored X must repent and ask Y for forgiveness. Forgiveness among us must operate on the same basis that it operates with God.

Release: Upon repentance the offended party is bound to accept that repentance. In Luke 17:3 we read If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Upon repentance we are duty bound to forgive that person who has repented. Through repentance and forgiveness the sin is removed. The principle of forgiveness on the basis of repentance is driven home fully in Luke 17:4 where the Word says Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’

Sometimes we may not feel like forgiving someone, but such is a wrong attitude. In Matthew 18:21-35 we find the motivation for forgiving someone is in how much we have been forgiven by God ourselves. In that passage there is a man who has been forgiven ten thousand bags of gold, but who will not forgive another man who owes him a hundred silver coins. Such a man is a contradiction. We, as Christians should realise how much we have been forgiven and therein is the motivation to always forgive others.

But what of the situation where there are those who have wronged us, but will not repent. Should we forgive them? There are two key issues here:

  1. We must forgive in our hearts. In Mark 11:25 we read when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” We need to release the matter in our hearts. If we do not then bitterness can start to spread in our hearts and that will be disastrous for our spiritual welfare.
  2. We are not able to distribute this forgiveness from our hearts until the other person repents. There cannot be a full restoration of the relationship until there is repentance.

Restoration Once there is repentance and the release of the sin, then there is restoration of relationship. This is so beautiful. There are three things to note here though:

  1. The matter should never be brought up again. After all, God in forgiving us has as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). Similarly we should make sure that released sin is not brought up again.
  2. As part of the restoration process though, restitution may be appropriate as a proof of repentance. Zacchaeus displayed this transformation in his life by saying Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’ (Luke 19:8).
  3. Although there is restoration it does not prevent us from being wise in the future. If someone has stolen from us and the relationships fully restored, we are wise to be wary in our financial dealings with that person in the future.

This post was taken from the March 2018 Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter.

Forgiveness by God

Forgiveness of sins is a glorious reality which the Christian experiences when they come to faith in Jesus Christ. David knew something of the wonder of forgiveness when he said Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered (Ps. 32:1). There are four key ingredients in the workings out of forgiveness and we want to look at them in the light of our forgiveness by God.

Fracture: Forgiveness is about opening up the way to the restoration of fractured relationships. We must start then with our fractured relationship with God. How we might long that it was not like this. However, reality bites and we are fools if we deny the truth that in the Garden of Eden our first parents led us into rebellion and we have all followed on thereafter. Adam falls from his beautiful state of perfect communion with and enjoyment of God and we all, in him, have fallen too. Our relationship with God is fractured. In Isaiah 59:2 we read But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. This is stated about the relationship of the nation of Israel to their God, but it is true of us all.

Repentance: In order to come into a restored relationship with God there has to be repentance. David, the forgiven man of Psalm 32 knew this and he tells of his repentance in Psalm 51. True repentance feels the terribleness of our fractured relationship with God and pleads guilty to causing it. “I am the problem” is the cry of the repentant sinner. “My sin has separated me from God. I need to repent.” So the continual message of the New Testament is that repentance must be preached. Our Lord Jesus did it,‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’(Mark.1:15b), Peter did it on the day of Pentecost Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38a) and Paul followed suit as he preached to the Athenians but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30b).

Release: Forgiveness is about the removal of the barrier which has led to fractured relationships. At the heart of the Bible’s message about forgiveness is that it comes only through the shedding of blood; without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb.9:22b). If there is no shedding of blood then there is no way our fractured relationship with God can be restored. But the blood has been shed that brings restoration. So it is all different now because the blood of Jesus Christ has been shed. Paul sums up the beauty of forgiveness in Ephesians 1:7 when he says that in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding.

In the Old Testament The Day of Atonement had been key to the life of the nation of Israel. Through the elaborate ritual of that day, which is shown in Leviticus 16, there was an annual renewal of the relationship between Israel and their God. However, the offering connected with that day and the whole religious system of Israel could never takes away sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins is the summary statement of Hebrews 10:3-4. But now Jesus has come the one who John the Baptist declared to be the taker away of sins of the world (see John 1:29), salvation has come; there is forgiveness. When we come as repentant individuals, trusting in Jesus Christ, then we can know forgiveness.

Restoration: There can be a tendency among Christians to leave the issue of our situation before God at forgiveness, but forgiveness is not the endpoint of Gods’ purposes. The end-point of God’s purposes is a restored relationship with Himself. I Peter 3:18 states Gods glorious purpose For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. God forgives ours sins and thereby removes the barrier that fractures our relationship with Himself, in order to bring us to Himself. Yes we should glory in forgiveness, but we should never forget that it is the means to the great end of knowing God and enjoying being with Him. Praise Him!

This post was taken from the February 2018 Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter.

The Priority of Worship

King Hezekiah was king of Judah around 2,720 years ago. King Hezekiah was a good man; he lived well for the glory of his God. If we are sensible, that is exactly what we should desire for ourselves. Hezekiah set a good example that we should want to follow. It is striking to note in respect of Hezekiah, that he set himself to go in the right way right from the start of his kingship. And as we set ourselves to be for God in 2018, we can glean much help from Hezekiah to guide us into the right way. In particular, we can learn what is the main priority of a man who desires to live a good life to the glory of God.

We read these words concerning Hezekiah He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them (2 Chron. 29:2-3). This establishes a significant principle for us. It is that worship must have, not just ‘a’ priority in our lives, but ‘the’ priority in our lives. When we lose this focus, then our lives are always impoverished. Worship should be at the centre of our lives. Hezekiah teaches us that here. He could have done a multitude of things as he sought to move the ways of God forward after the indecisive leadership of his father, Ahaz. But he was wise and put worship at the centre; he made the worship of God a priority.

Hezekiah realised the temple must be operating appropriately if ever the people of God are to be functioning properly. The temple at that time was the main place for worship among the people of God. To have the temple working well, meant that the worship of the people was going well, which in turn meant that the people themselves were doing well. What a lesson this is? It must apply:-

  • Personally. Each of us must get worship flourishing in my life. We should be going to the Word to find material to bring praise to our great God and His Son.
  • Collectively.When we prioritise any other thing or person (or whatever) over worship in our churches then we are always likely to go adrift. As we venture into 2018 let us get worship flourishing in our lives. If Feltham Evangelical church is to flourish in 2018, then worship must be flourishing.

As we think about these implications, both personally and collectively we need to realise that our worship should be genuine. The church at Sardis, it appears, had very impressive worship, but the Lord’s view is different. He says. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead (Rev 3:1). As regards to genuine worship our Saviour Himself said a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks (John 4:23). Our worship should be according to the truth as it is found in scripture and not what others determine or we construct ourselves. It should also be through the Spirit working in our hearts. It cannot be just for show.

Moreover, as we think about us getting our worship in place we need to think about what action we are to take to make sure this is happening. Hezekiah did not just have a good idea, he also set about making sure it happened. So if we return to 2 Chronicles 29, we will see that he took action. He opened the doors of the temple (v3), he recruited the priests and Levites to get rid of all the rubbish that had accumulated in the temple area (vv4-5). Then he moves on to removing all the spiritual damage done to Judah by their fathers as he enters into a prayer of repentance (vv6-11).

This all reminds us that to be worshipping aright in 2018 we will need to take action; we will not just drift into getting our worship sorted out. Practically and spiritually, we will need to get things sorted. On a personal level that will simply involve setting sometime aside everyday to adore the Lord; get good books to help you in this. Talk to others and seek to get help. Then there is the continuous need for confession of sin and repentance.

And as we think of ourselves as a church we should be wanting our worship to be enhanced in 2018. So please speak to the elders if you have any thoughts and ideas on this. We do not want to be complacent because this is such a vital aspect of church life.

Taken from the January 2018 Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter.

Two Peoples

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the pivotal passage in the book of Isaiah. In it we see the Servant of the Lord, our Lord Jesus, doing everything to provide salvation. He dies so that others will receive eternal blessing. After all the foregoing revalations in Isaiah 40:1-52:12 of the failure of the servant of the Lord, Israel, we find One, the Servant of the Lord, who totally succeeds.

With the achievement of a perfect salvation by the self-giving love of the Servant we might expect that all would run smoothly on into blessing upon blessing thereafter. However, with the wretchedness of humanity as the back-drop, the rest of Isaiah is certainly not “happy-ever-after”. The rest of the book will tell us that salvation is not the default position of humanity, rather sin is. It is only when transforming grace reaches our lives and makes good the achievements of the Servant of the Lord that blessing comes.

So as we come towards the end of Isaiah we see Isaiah presenting this contrast. Let us look then specifically at Isaiah 65:1-12;

Salvation is not earned (v1). We learn straight away that the natural tendency of humanity is to turn from God. No matter how much revealing and speaking is done by God the tendency of mankind is to turn away. So we deduce whenever there is blessing that it never comes because people deserve it, it is all through God’s grace.

False Ways (vv2-7). The heart of the problem for the unbelieving was that they were pursuing their own imaginations. This sets such a challenge for ourselves. What is it that drives our lifestyle. Are we driven by our imaginations or by the Lord through His Word?

The character of our life flows out of the origin of our life. There can be lots of religious activity, and the people in vv 3-5 had lots of that, but it was all really a sham. At their hearts they were a people full of sin and defiance of the Lord (see v7). We need to be very careful as we consider this because religious activity is very likely a part of your life if you are reading this. Ask yourself is this activity just a cover for my sin and defiance or is it out of a heart devoted to God?

Moreover, we need to note the endpoint of a religious, but defiant life. It is is judgement; it is to fall under the condemning hand of God. It is always good to consider what will be the end of my ways. Stop and think right now! If you are not in Christ and are still defiant then your end is BAD; very bad.

Blessed Ways. (vv8-10). In vv8-10 we see the servants of the Lord appear. This is not surprising when we remember that the Servant of the Lord came to make servants from among the servant of the Lord, Israel. These people are anticipating blessing. The land was so important to the nation of Israel as it was God’s special gift for them and v9 indicates how a blessing, which will be fully realised in the still future millennium, is set for them.

It is interesting to note that the cause of the life of these blessed people was that they were people who sought the Lord (see v10b). Their passion was to know the Lord. The origin of their lifestyle was seeking the Lord, which means that it was the Lord Himself who brought them blessing.

The Wretched. (vv11-12). The final verses present us with the wayward again. They are forsaking the Lord (see v11a); they are pursuing all kinds of religious practices, but not godly practices (see v11b). The dubious ‘Fortune’ and ‘Destiny’ are the gods they serve, as many do today.

At the heart of their problems was that they refused to listen to the Lord: “when I spoke, no one listened” (v12b) is what the Lord said to them. As a result you “did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.’ (v12c) is the Lord’s assessment. Our attitude to the Lord is vital. If we reject the Lord’s Word we set ourselves in a bad way.

Oh this passage is so sobering. Are you One of the wretched living out your life refusing to hear God’s Word whilst following your own imaginations? Then think about the deadly end of such a way. If you are of the godly seeking the Lord then you have the brightest of futures. The contrast could not be bigger. And finally remember that there is NOT a third way or a third people. You are either saved or lost; blessed or condemned.

This post was taken from the July 2018 Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter.

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for September 2021. It contains an article on the public reading of scripture.

Prior to celebrating the Lord’s Supper there is the requirement that all participants should make sure that they are properly prepared. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup (1 Cor.11:28) is the message of Paul to the Corinthians. The implication of this is that we are to use the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to get ourselves right before the Lord through confessing our sins and repenting of them. There is a further implication that, if needs be, we are to resolve any issues that may be causing a breakdown in relationship with another brother or sister.

One benefit of having the Lord’s Supper in church every Sunday is that we have an opportunity to make sure that our lives are evaluated in the presence of God every week. In undertaking the examination I confess my dependence on God and desire to be right with Him. Accordingly, if there are known sins in my life I confess them and repent of them.

There are two issues here. The first is my relationship with God When I approach the weekly communion feast I come confessing all known sin before God. Moreover, I confess all my unknown sins because His sight is purer and more probing than mine.

The second issue is my relationship with others. We must do everything in our power to make sure that we are living in harmony with other people and in particular the believers we are in fellowship with in the church. There are though, very often, issues that we cannot resolve. Romans 12:18 indicates that as much as lies within us we are to live at peace with all men; if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Notwithstanding this we need to make sure that we have resolved all the issues that we are able to.

Matthew 18:15-18 refers to situations whereby other people have sinned against me. If that has happened I have an obligation according to that passage to take the initiative to go and resolve the matter. There is a process to go through which is outlined in these verses. First, go the person, then if they will not repent take one or two others with you. If repentance still does not ensue then take it to the church. And finally if there is no change that person must be put away from the church. Sometimes we will not be able to go through that whole process before the Lord’s Supper, but we must do what we can.

Matthew 5:23-24 refers to a time when we are aware that others have something against us. In such situations we are to leave the place of worship, which is very pertinent in the context of us coming to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We do that with a view to sorting the matter out with the person who has something against us.

In all this we are entering into the greater meaning of the Lord’s Supper. After all it is our New Covenant feast. Of all our activities as a church it is the Lord’s Supper which binds us into the triumphant consecrating of the new age by our Lord Jesus through his death and resurrection. As we go through the process of weekly preparing for and then celebrating the Lord’s Supper we come into the full expression of what Christ has done for us. We are experiencing afresh how through repentance and faith Christ is made real in our lives.

It is, moreover, one of the implications of celebrating the Lord’s Supper that we should be moving away from the celebration as repentant people. If, after you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you then go freely into sin, it is a denial of what you have done. Someone has said that our weekly pattern of life should be one whereby we are living in the light of, both what we have done in celebrating the Lord’s Supper last Sunday and of what we are are going to do on the following Sunday. Our lives should be governed by the powerful reality of what celebrating communion together before God means.

Moreover, there is a corporate responsibility which comes upon us because we celebrate communion together. Communion cannot be an individual thing. When we take the bread and cup together we declare to each other that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour. So, I should expect to be challenged by those others if I wander off into sin and deny my confession to them..

Finally, in the scripture that we started with, the Word says that we are to examine before we eat. The scripture does not say that we are to examine and then decide whether or not to eat. This teaches us that we are duty bound to resolve everything, we can, before celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

This post was taken from the May 2018 Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter.

Mum and Dad’s Parenting

I write musing upon my own childhood. I don’t ever remember my Mum and Dad playing with me. They were busy my Dad working the farm and my Mum doing all the household tasks and another ancillary activities to assist in the function of the farm and family. And I didn’t and still don’t have one iota of bitterness that they did not play with me.

I think the reason, I have no bitterness, is simple and that is that I had all that I needed. I had security. I had my Mum and Dad there. I would happily amuse myself playing “farm” by the fireside and other things. And then I did so much with Andrew, my brother, who was a little bit older than me.

I have written on the issue of the importance of security as you are growing up here and here, As time went by I would go along with Dad to watch football; following Macclesfield Town to various places. One visit with just myself and my Dad comes to mind when we went to watch Macc against Wigan Athletic at Springfield Park in Wigan. And we would have our holidays and days out. Also we would visit other families as a family. So I had plenty of happy experiences in the flow of family life.

What strikes me from my experience is the need for parents to be thoughtful about the input into their children’s lives. The best gift parents can give to their children is a strong marriage and the security which that engenders in their lives.

There seems to be a lot of obsessing today about making sure that we do certain things with our children. It can almost seem that parenting has become an entertainment industry whereby you have to be always thinking of the next interesting activity that you have to provide for them to do.

Sometimes we feel that the greatest crime we can commit as parents is to allow our children to be bored. But there is a sense that bored children are children that have an impulse to use their initiative to do things and that can only be good.

This finally raises two issues:

The problem of technology. The easy cure to boredom and the plaintive cry “I don’t know what to do” is to plonk them in front of a screen. Is this really the best for our children?

The issue of family breakdown means the diminution and even obliteration of security. This is so destructive for the wholesome development of a child. It is one of the scandals of our age that generations of children have been mauled by the adoption of an anti-family ideology which denies children the security they thrive in.

The removing of those from the fellowship of the church in obedience to Matthew 18:15-18, Titus 3:10 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 should always be most painful for the church fellowship. The goal of excommunication is never simply to ostracize. Rather, it is that through ostracism the erring one will be brought back. The bringing back involves true repentance over the grievous sin they have committed. In the meantime the church is called to live faithfully before God in respect of the one who has been removed from fellowship.

This means that the person who has been excommunicated, is to be treated as an unbeliever (see Matthew 18:17. However, in 1 Corinthians 5:11 Paul nuances how this treatment should outwork. He says But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. The person who has enjoyed the privileges of being included in the local representation of the Christian family must feel the cold of being away from this and outside of this. It seems that they are not to be treated like other unbelievers who have never had that privilege. Unrepentant former church members are to know the pain of exclusion from the church.

Now the church should never glory in such exclusion, but rather should be mourning over such a situation and passionately praying for restoration. In many ways there is a tight-rope to walk here, but with the Lord’s grace we must be faithful to his call. We want to love the erring ones and thereby reach out to them. But we need to exclude them so they miss the experience of the warmth of that love and are led to repentance.

One thing that is often said concerning the believer “under discipline” is that they should be “brought under the sound of God’s Word. The argument being that in such a place they can be confronted by the truth that will lead them to repentance. However, I feel this approach is misplaced. Speaking generally, the problem with the unrepentant one who has been excluded from fellowship is not their lack of hearing or knowing God’s Word. Their problem is that they refuse to obey God’s Word. Until that attitude shifts; nothing shifts. To seek to be continually getting them “under the Word” can potentially, muddy the waters. What they best need is time out in the cold to soberly consider their ways. And may this lead them to repent.

Getting Away

Receiving an email recently from a church pastor prompted me as regards to what I believe is an increasingly big issue for us all and that is the ability to “get away”. The church pastor sent an email saying that he was away and could not properly respond to my message. I was left thinking: if you are away why are you looking at your email and feeling obliged to respond.

Before electronic and mobile communications, which spawned the attenuating development of social media, the ability to get away was quite straightforward. At the end of each day, each weekend and for a chunk of time, on holiday, each year you could get way. Very easy really. No-one able to check-in with you by phone or any other means.

But now it is so difficult. Getting away does not just happen, we have to take action to make it happen. Whilst musing upon this I came across this article, by my nephew dwelling upon this issue. It is here. It is specific to his situation, but has much thoughtful advice about why we need to, and how we can, take action to make sure we “get away”.

This is relevant for us all, but I particularly want to mention it for church pastors. If you just go away without proactively committing to get away then you won’t get away. So be thinking about deleting those apps and switching off notifications. Most things can wait. And if they “can’t wait”, but end up having to wait; it is unlikely that a crisis will ensue. And probably it might do good for those who have to step up and take action on the things that can’t wait.

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