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

Sunday’s Special.

One way that I have sought to work out this specialness over the years is to have a media-free day. And what a blessing it is to have a day free from checking in on news, sport or whatever.

However, there is a challenge to this. One of the things I have heard over the years is that if you are leading a service or preaching on a Sunday morning you need to make sure you have listened to the news, so that you have not missed any big breaking news. This is considered important so that you do not end up leading the service oblivious to a big story that has broken and so is in the minds of the congregation. The death of Princess Diana on SUNDAY 31st August 1997 is quoted as a notable case in point.

So of late I have on occasion checked the Sunday morning news. But then I am left thinking: “do I really have to do this?”. I know it is only a small thing, but do I need to sacrifice the blessing of a non-media day for this? So I think I will revert and go to a no news Sunday again. I may miss a big news thing from time-to-time. But I think the gain is worth it.

A different day on Sunday for the Lord is a big blessing

Why Do You Have That Gift?

You have that gift so that you can benefit others. Paul revealed his desires to the Romans  I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong (Rom. 1:11). Paul would want to use his spiritual gift to make the Romans strong in God. He was interested in them growing for the Lord.

This is so very important for us to learn. In all of our dealings with others we should be sold out for making sure that they are benefited. I should be using all my gifts and energies so that they grow as an individual in God and for Christ.

We do not operate to make people our friends, to make them our supporters, to recruit them to a cause or to persuade them of a view point. Rather we labour in all things for their growth in God and for Christ.

Sisters Dress.

Does it matter how those who are believing in Christ dress? Particularly in this post I want to focus upon how those ladies who are in Christ dress. This applies generally to how they dress in the course of life and specifically in church.

Scripture does bring up the issue of how believing ladies are to dress. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. And Peter says that  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Pet. 3:3-4).

Paul and Peter here are both are responding to the innate tendency of ladies to show themselves off through their dress. He says that a godly sister should not want to show off herself physically, but spiritually. A believing lady should be aware of this when she dresses. This does not means that ladies should be purposefully dowdy, but it does mean that they should steer away from ostentatious display and sexually enticing attire.

The detail of the way a sister dresses is culturally governed. As fashion varies between cultures through time then this will be reflected in the dress of a godly woman. However, the culture should not determine how we dress. Sadly, we live in a morally lax society and that is reflected in the risque way in which many ladies dress. Christian ladies can easily follow that pattern without thinking. A showy display rather than a godly display can sometimes unwittingly ensue.

One way women need to be particularly concerned is how their dress affects men. The male responds very quickly to what he sees through the eye. He can also be prone to follow-on in his mind as he is prompted by what is over-revealed by the ladies he sees. I feel that ladies are so very often not at all aware of how the man responds to what he sees. So they dress in a way that it is too revealing and can cause all kinds of problems.

Now, I know that the response can be made that this is just men allowing their sinful lusts to have free reign, so they need to get themselves sorted before God: they need to repent and be cleansed from their dirty thoughts. Such is true. But I do feel that sisters should be more careful to help their brothers in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul is helping the Christians in Corinth to understand how they should deal with the issue of eating meat offered to idols. He urges a thoughtful carefulness by those who are persuaded that eating the meat is fine. They need to be careful because those who are not persuaded this is appropriate might be stumbled thereby. He finally sums up his argument by saying if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall (1 Cor. 8:13).

Dear sisters in Christ please be aware that how your dress can put in peril the spiritual welfare of your brothers in Christ. And the prettier you are the more careful you need to be.  This is particularly so if you are “in front” in a service for whatever reason. In such a situation, whether you like it or not you are, through your overly-tight and overly revealing garments make it hard for your brother to concentrate and can lead them into sin

I do feel that sisters have little awareness of how their dress affects men. My beloved sisters in the Lord please think about these things.

Nailing Certain Issues

In Nehemiah 10:1-27 we read a long list of those who bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord (Neh. 10:29b). This general commitment sealed the direction they were determined to take from now on.

However, they then went on to make definite statements on special issues. There were essentially three:

  1. Not marrying with the peoples around them (v30).
  2. Not merchandising with neighboring people on the Sabbath (v31)
  3. Providing for the house of the Lord (v32-39a)

In doing this they nailed certain issues so as to make a clear point about what their actions would be in respect of these issues. It appears all three of these were matters of pressing importance to the people of God at that time. It was important to make clear what their attitude would be to these things.

This raises an important principle for us. We generally, as God’s people commit ourselves to following the Lord and His ways. But there are particular issues which are important at any given time and we need to be careful to declare our position on them. One of them, at the present time, I suggest would be that of ‘divorce and remarriage’.  This seems to be an issue which each church should determine where they take their stand so as all know where we are at in this matter. Other issues may vary from congregation to congregation. But I do believe that it is appropriate to consider the way that the people of Nehemiah’s day handled these matters.

It is certainly a challenge to leadership to discern what the issues are and then reach a view of them in the light of God’s Word.  But it does seem to be something that every eldership needs to be continuously thoughtful about.

(Originally posted at Venabling on 01/07/2015)

Walk With Them.

The general principle of conduct displayed by our Lord in His ministry on earth was that of walking with people. His general modus operandi was to move into lives not to confront, but to walk alongside of. This meant spending time with people, talking to them and listening to them. His dealings with the twelve disciples was a realm in which this was specifically displayed. Confrontation was the exception in His dealing with people.

There were times of confrontation particularly when He came face to face with false teaching, hypocritical living or satanic action. We can remember how, when Peter sought to dissuade Him from the cross, He said Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’ (Matt. 16:23).

This makes us to think about the conduct of our lives. Whether it be as parents, employers or church elders, if we are always confronting, then there does seem to be something wrong with our approach to ministering into the lives of others. The general tenor of all our parenting, managing and pastoring should be to walk alongside people, taking an interest in them, seeking to help them with their problems.

Clarity and Words.

I was at the hospital recently seeing a specialist regarding the dental issues of one of my sons (not mine this time!). I asked the specialist what the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist was. She explained that a dentist was a something like a GP Doctor whilst an orthodontist was a specialist. All was helpful to that point. But then we went on to consider what an orthodontist did. At this point she lost me with statements about maxillofacial and orofacial things (or something along those lines) and I was left none the wiser. I think I smiled sweetly and we moved on.

This all led me to ponder upon how we use words to bring clarity and meaning. The lady was very pleasant and probably thought she had explained herself, but she had not explained herself at all. The terms were, no doubt, part of her everyday parlance, given the job that she did and the company that she kept. However, for me they meant little or nothing.

Which leads me on to ponder how we can so easily be guilty of that in teaching and preaching the Bible. It can also happen in general conversation with those who are not so familiar with biblical terminology. Words which are oh so familiar to us, can trot out of our mouths and we think we have brought clarity, but really we have only brought fog. And people smile sweetly and go away none the wiser. I am not saying my orthodontist lady was wrong to use the terms she did, I only needed some explanation.

So as Christians and, in particular as preacher’s and teachers, we need to work at making sure our words bring clarity. Yes we can, and in may ways must, use the big words of our faith such as propitiation, sanctification, redemption. etc. But we must give the meaning.

And by the way if you are out there and hear me speak in whatever context and you feel I have only brought fog through my words please tell me (gently) because with all my being I do not want to fog people with my words.

Spiritual Dependency.

Who do we depend on for the source of our spiritual life? The Lord says this to the crowd and His disciples But you are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father”, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matt. 23:8-11). The issue here I suggest is not the use of titles for people. It is rather what is implied and understood by the use of those titles. 

The Lord establishes the fundamentals of spiritual relationship when He says that we have “one teacher and you are all brothers.” The source of our spiritual life is the one teacher and we all share in the same spiritual life in the family of God as brothers. Using the terms “Rabbi”, “father” and “instructors” indicates the operation of a religious system where certain people have supplanted the “one teacher”. The Rabbis etc. have become the source of spiritual life. So we look to what they say, to their insights and we conceive what they say as the final statement on any matter.

This system is mutually indulged in by the teacher and the taught. The teacher loves the adulation and the fact that others are dependent upon him. The taught love the fact that they have someone tangible who gives them their spiritual strength and support. A destructive symbiotic relationship has henceforth developed. Everybody is happy, but everybody is being spiritually destroyed as a result.

What has gone wrong is that men have taken the place of God. This can happen very subtly. We can start to have our favorite preachers online and we can start to be dependent on them. We can always go to a certain teacher when we have a query and we always take their view as the final Word. Further, someone who has blessed us richly can become the key provider of spiritual nutrition as we feel that we owe them so much.

In saying all this we should not go to the opposite extreme and reject those who God has provided to help us in our spiritual development. Teachers and preachers, spiritual mentors and fellow members of the church can all be helpers in bringing us to know the Master, grow in Him and be spiritually sustained in Him. These intermediaries are only that, though, they are not the ultimate source of blessing.

And those who are in a situation of bringing nurture to others must always watch against this tendency for others to become dependent upon them. I have written about “named ministries” here and do feel that they can contribute to the problem. As an elder in a church I need always to be remembering that I am pointing people to Christ and leading them to depend upon Him.

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