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

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

This scripture from Hebrews 3:12-13 gives us a reminder of the sobering truth that there is an inclination in each of our hearts to allow our evil unbelieving hearts to lead us to fall away from the living God. The necessary response to such a tendency is to be exhorting one another to continue on in the way of the Lord’s grace.

A vital implication of this teaching is that we need one another. Left to ourselves we are prone to drift into ways of spiritual peril. With good brothers and sisters around who are prepared to “speak the truth in love” we are encouraged to keep in the good way of the Lord.

Oh how we need each other. But we need each other to be spiritually on our case. So much of our time together as Christians has more of a resemblance to the cleaned up version of the world, rather than vibrant local church centred on discipleship. I should not want to interact with other Christians just to pass the time; I want to interact so as to see them progress for the Lord.

O lets’ healthily, helpfully and above all prayerfully be getting on each others case more and more.

Coronavirus (6)

I last wrote some two weeks ago. Since then I have not been well. May well have had a mild dose of COVID 19. However, it has not been possible to get a test. I am now feeling stronger.

It has been a bizarre time with all the hiatus around appertaining to the transformation of our society through the restrictions that have gradually, but swiftly, changed how we interact with one another. This has had a significant impact upon us as a church.

As churches we are left with something of a tension. We do not want to give the impression that a virtual church conducted online is how it should be. It certainly is not. Church is meant to be lived out with real face-to-face community. However, neither do we want to give up in despair and say that there cannot be anything of church at this time. We do want to engage best with what is technologically available to facilitate fellowship and the functioning of the church.

We have been using ZOOM thus far as our main means of gathering. The advantage of this platform is that there can be interaction and there is a sense of us being together. Live-stream facilities seem to have a far better presentation, but less sense of community.

This is all a new voyage and there should be understanding within churches and between churches. I suggest that as long as four main guidelines are operative then, although we may be doing things differently, we will be on the right lines:

  • we are seeking to operate according to the principles of scripture.
  • we are seeking to do all to edify the people.
  • we are seeking all for the glory of God.
  • we are zealous in prayer.

It is good to feel somewhat brighter again. The last two weeks have been somewhat bewildering and a struggle. However, I look back to the keeping power of our God and thank Him for how He has led us as a church and family.

 

 

We Have A Hope

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:19-20).

The writer here is referring to the hope that the Christian has. This is what the believer in the Lord Jesus can confidently look ahead to. Fundamentally our hope is a person. In 1 Timothy 1:1b Christ Jesus is described as our hope. He is the One who has gone into heaven for us. Our life and our future are bound up with Him. And because He has gone in we can be sure that we are going in. The image is of a tow-boat pulling the vessel into port. Our Lord Jesus is right now pulling us home to glory.

At this time of uncertainty and turbulence in this world, we need to set our whole beings on things above. In fact we need to set ourselves on the person who is above, our Lord Jesus. Circumstances will come and go in this world, but He remains. And He is there in heaven for us. As high priest He is there in heaven ever caring for us.

One great danger, I feel we have at this present time is of being brought down by relentless exposure to the situation around us. The media has a continual output of material which largely produces fear. Continued immersion in that inevitably results in fear in our souls.

Accordingly, we need to take ourselves in hand and make sure that faith arises to the One who is our Hope. We need to be mining the Word of God for more of our Saviour. need to speaking of Him more and more together. We need to be thinking of Him more and more. We need to be steadying ourselves. Thereby we can know that we are firm in faith.

Oh Lord help us into this way at this time.

Coronavirus (5)

As I have sought to establish the outworkings of God in judgement one response that we can have as Christians is to become active agents in the undertaking of that judgement. So in the context of what I mentioned here we can go all anti-China and anti-LGBT+ I assert that this is wrong.

The Lord Jesus when He came into this world came on a love mission. In Isaiah 61:1-2 we read:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favour,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

At the commencement of His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth our Lord read this scripture, but stopped after reading “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (see Luke 4:19). The day of the vengeance of our God will yet come. We are today in the day of the Lord’s favour. We await the Lord’s return which will usher in the day of vengeance.

Continuing this theme we read in John 3:17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Condemnation time will come, but now is salvation time.

The reality of the love mission of our Lord Jesus is seen in the ministry that He performed. Peter in Acts 10:38 declared that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. He did not come to make people sick or bring demons into them. He rather came to heal and deliver and restore and cleanse.

All this was a profound declaration of the fact that God has a heart which desires to bring blessing. Yes His judgement ways are known in this world and rightly so on account of the sin of mankind. I wrote about this here and here.

However, now we declare good news not as a fiction, but as a reality. And the most profound act to bring blessing is that of our Lord giving Himself for the cleansing of sins on the cross. this is at the core of the day of the lord’s favour; a salvation from our sins.

Our mission now with the coronavirus working out its nefarious impact is to be people of the day of the Lord’s grace. We are here to be a people of love and good works. Our Lord Jesus did not come to “rub salt in the wounds” of the wrecked people and culture that He observed. He did not come to wreck, but restore. We are called to emulate Him amongst the needs that we discern around us. The impact of the coronavirus will no doubt provide unique opportunities for us to show love. Let us be swift to respond.

And let us not forget that the law of God in the Old Testament was permeated with a responsibility to particularly care for the widow, the orphan, the poor and the needy. Let us not fail in that respect whether it be among the people of God, but also among those outside.

Coronavirus (4)

So we are being shaken; the coronavirus is shaking the world. In James 4:13-16 we read:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” –  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 

The self-sufficiency that prevails in the opening statement of this passage reflects very much the society in which we live. We are a self-dependant society who believe our times are in our hands. We are the captains of our own destinies. So we are so very easily involved in a relentless pursuit of self-engineered security.

And then God steps in and shakes us. This can be through a multitude of means and ways. At the moment it is happening on a global scale. The coronavirus, which on March 11th was declared to be a pandemic has disrupted so many lives. in fact it is likely that 99% of the population of the world have been impacted to some degree. For some it may be slight such as not being about to watch a football match on TV or obtain a product in a shop or the simple uncertainty about the unknown which is happening in another country. For others it is more severe such as the cancelling of holidays, the alteration of works schedules. For others it is very severe even to the losing of livelihoods and lives.

Our lives which we thought were set on a serene course are disrupted. God steps in to shake us. The question then comes: how do we respond?

If you are an unbeliever this shaking is a mercy from God and you should trace through all the logic derived from this shaking. This goes as follows.

I am not in control. All those things that I have set in place to being stability to my life, such as relationships money, status, achievement are all ultimately insufficient to stabilise me. Left to myself I am adrift on a sea of uncertainty and I don’t know how things will work out. And ultimately I am headed for the reality death and I have nothing to give me certainty and security in that day. I need help. In such a state you begin to realise that there is a God who does control all things. As you push further in to the awareness of that God you realise your instability is caused by your sinful rejection of Him. This God, though, has not left us to self-inflicted extermination because of our sin. Wonderfully He has sent a Saviour to rescue us. Acts 4:12 reads  there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He bears the Name Jesus which means He has come to save us from our sins (see Matt. 1:21). And when we embrace Him as the One who has died for our sins we become part of an unshakeable kingdom with and everlasting King.

Oh may the giving of the coronavirus and all the consequent shaking lead you and many others to stability, security and unshakeability in Christ.

For us who are believers. We need to afresh enter into all the the glorious certainties that we have because we are in Christ and a part of this unshakeable kingdom. We are not exempt from the shakings of the world in terms of our health and our wealth and our general circumstances and situations. However, we believe in the God who is creator and sustainer of all. We are the ones who can live in the reality of the beginning of Psalm 40 which goes as follows:

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

This is our position in the God of our salvation. May we be a people who are continually putting our trust in the Lord now and forevermore.

As we finally return to the teaching in James 4:13-16 let us realise that we need to acknowledge that all our plans and activities need to be made and undertaken with an “if the Lord wills” attitude.

If the coronavirus leads to a diminishing of our arrogance then much good will have been accomplished through it.

Coronavirus (3).

Yesterdays’s post here left many unanswered questions regarding how we respond to an awareness of the judgement of God.

One way we respond is to go all anti-China and anti LGBT+. So we have a moralistic, even militaristic, crusade. This would be like people get hostile with the Jews because thy conspired to kill our Lord on the cross. This is not where we should be going. All it does is lead us down a dead end where we all compete about the value of our different moralities.

Rather, the response should be that of repentance. We must go here to what our Lord said in Luke 13:1-5. After His observations about the calamities that were in the news at the time, the Lord rebuts any tendency to categorise sin and sinners. He then pleads No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (v3 and v5). The sensible response that we should have to the occurrence of calamities in the world whether they be natural disasters, viruses, “acts of God” or man-made is to realise that we are in a broken world. This world is broken because of sin. And I am a sinner who is culpable amidst all the mess around. I therefore need to repent. All these calamities give a message that sin ends badly. And I need to repent because if I do not turn back to God; it is going to end eternally badly for me.

C.S Lewis in his book The Problem of Pain famously said that Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

As with any calamity whether it be personal, family, community, national or global we need to ponder on the message that we are getting from God. Through the coronavirus God is declaring to us that all is not well. This world is not what is should be. In the original state of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 when sin was absent all was well. Adam and Eve moved with God. Sin wrecked it all. Today we need to return to God.

In that sense coronavirus is a mercy to shake us out of our complacency and make us think of these realities.

And praise God our repentance is not in vain when it is true and genuine. Through our Lord Jesus who died on Calvary’s cross we can can have full and free forgiveness of our sins. For those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ there is the returning to God. We once again can have fellowship with Him who made is for such. And this fellowship we be expedience in its fullness in heaven forever.

 

 

 

Coronavirus (2)

On Monday I posted here about how sin being in the world, leads to a world under the judgement of God. This in turn leads on to an expectation that calamities will be known in this sin stricken world. Today I want to consider as to whether we can make a direct connection between the fact that certain sins are promoted today and the giving by God of the coronavirus.

One passage which bears upon our consideration is Luke 13:1-5. The passage read:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Here the Lord is warning against the tendency that we have to categorise sins and sinners. Behind this tendency is the desire to “get ourselves off the hook” because we are not such bad sinners as others. It is very dangerous to engage in such thinking and we put our souls in peril if we do,. Rather as the Lord exhorts in v3 and v5 we should realise we all sin and are sinners and we need to repent.

However, this does not take away from the fact that in the Word of God we see the Lord portrayed as the One who does bring specific judgements as a result of specific sins. The fact that He does this shows that He is not some frenzied tyrant who deals out “the bad stuff” willy-nilly. Rather He is the One who brings just retribution for those involved in the pursuit of ways which are against his will.

Consider the taking away of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC by the Assyrians. The Lord makes it patently clear that He did this because of their specific sins. So we read in 2 kings 17:7-17 how the nation rejected the commandments of the Lord, set up false worship and engaged in child sacrifice. That leads to the conclusion in v18a Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. There is a direct connection between their sin and His judgement.

Further if we go back to the first big judgement after the fall, that of the flood, we see that it was because: the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5).

As a final representation of this principle that specific sin leads to specific judgement consider how the church at Ephesus was threatened with the termination of their existence because they had abandoned their first love (see Rev. 2:4-5).

We seem today to be possessed of a great hesitancy of attributing certain disasters to certain sins. Our forebears were more bold. J.C Ryle writing about the cattle plague of 1865-7 in the UK wrote in respect of the cause thereof:

It has come upon us because of our national sins. God has a controversy with England, because of many things among us which are displeasing in His sight. He would gladly awaken us to a sense of our iniquities. This cattle plague is a message from Heaven.

He then goes on to list the specific national sins. You can read the document here.

Matthew McMahon on The Puritan Board discussion forum here says this: A number of Puritans (including Vincent and Mead), were directly involved in the plagues and fires of London. Mead saw the plague as a direct example of God’s wrath against the city for its sin and wickedness. Vincent saw the great fire in the same way. The reference here is to the Great Plague and Great Fire which occurred in London in 1665 and 1666 respectively.

So what are we to say of the present happenings. I make two observations:

China

The Chinese authorities have set themselves over the last two years to seek to establish total submission from all entities in the country to the Communist party. They want control; they want to take the place of God. The Christian Church is one of the entities which has borne the brunt of the increased repression with church buildings being burnt to the ground for example.

It is interesting that China was the source of the coronavirus infection and has borne the brunt of its effects thus far. The Communist Party which sought to control everything has found itself with a phenomenon that it could not control. Surely we can see the God who truly is, showing that to defy Him has consequences.

LGBT+

The pernicious LGBT+ agenda has rampaged through western societies over the past twenty five years. It has all the capacities if a virus. In fact it is an ideological virus. It has been an attack on two fundamental God given teachings which lead to orderly society and the healthy development of wholesome human interactions. These are that we are born male and female and that marriage is between one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others. The desire and intention to indoctrinate all into the new dogmas is being undertaken with a vengeance. Most international organisations have fallen to the might of those propagating these ideas. The promise is that a new freedom will pertain which will release mankind into a new age of security, peace and advance. And woe betide anyone who will not conform!

The fact that the coronavirus has spread throughout the world makes me to ponder upon how God is signifying His disapproval of the LGBT+ virus which is increasingly infecting the whole world. In sending the coronavirus God is saying that the new zeitgeist will not bring in a utopian state. Security, peace and advance only come when He is acknowledged as Lord and His ways are held to as those which are healthy and wholesome.

I suggest that through the coroanvirus God is providentially working out His judgement purposes. To resist God in terms of His role of ultimate authority (exemplified in China), and Him in being the establisher of the way which is most healthy and best for humanity (exemplified by the LGBT+ agenda) is not consequence free.

You may feel I have overstated my case in this post. That may be so. But I do want us to be aware that God is not indifferent to the rejection of Himself and His ways on His planet. He sovereignly governs for His own glory.

If I am guilty of drawing too many connections that does not take away from the poignancy of the connections made. If you and I only take heed to the principles that to submit to God as Lord and to embrace His way as the way of life, stability, peace and advance that will be good.

And finally to be aware that sin leads to catastrophe will always be edifying for us. In fact it is a mercy of God to know that He is stepping in to show us the consequences of our errors. This all forewarns us of an eternal reality. For in hell the message resounds loud and clear, and that eternally, that ultimate outcome of sin is catastrophe upon catastrophe. As we have a sniff of these realities in the present judgement of the coronavirus let us urgently flee from the wrath to come.

 

 

 

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