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

Parental Example.

How is your parenting going? Here I want to think about some issues bearing thereupon:-

Teaching

As parents we are called to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4b). This means we are to actively engage with our children through teaching, correction, discipline, encouragement and the like in order that they grow in a good way. This is essential for healthy parenting. The book of Proverbs is in many ways Ephesians 6:4b put into practice. It is a father teaching his son “best practice” for life.

Consistency.

However, notwithstanding the fact that teaching our children is essential, we can undermine our teaching by not backing it up with ourselves modelling what it is to live out our teaching. Not only do we need to teach, we need to live out the teaching. Timothy was blessed to have great examples around him. Paul could say to Timothy continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (2. Tim. 3:14). The teaching he had received had been bolstered by the conduct of his teachers, namely his mother, grandmother and Paul, his father in the faith. If we do not live the truth that we teach our children, then we will exasperate them and in doing so contravene the Lord’s exhortation in Ephesians 6:4b.

Passions.

However, there is more here to be considered. We must remember that we provide the example of Christian discipleship which our children are most exposed to. Do we recommend the gospel of Christ by our zeal, passions, faithfulness and excitement about God and His ways? Or do we convey the impression that it is all drudgery to be involved with spiritual matters? What do our children observe to be a priority in our lives? Are bible reading, prayer, family worship and church attendance optional extras which sometimes appear in our lives? Or are they essential to our whole existence? Do we incline ourselves to speak honorably of the Lord or are His Name and His ways rarely upon our lips? Are our homes filled with delight about sharing fellowship with God’s people and seeking to introduce others to the gospel? Or are they centres of self-centred indulgence?

When our passions, conduct and teaching are in harmony then all will be well with our parenting. And it will be especially well when our children hear us, from time-to-time, pleading with our Father regarding their souls and their eternal welfare.

Anti-depressants.

Recently, I have come across some very hostile statements about anti-depressants. Someone went so far as to describe one lady as being a “drug-addict” because of her consumption of anti-depressant medicine. So how do I respond to this, as someone who still takes anti-depressant tablets, having been a bit rattled by what I have heard?

My focus is two fold here. The first is the fact that depression is in my family. Both of my parents, for example, suffered and so there is likely to be a genetic connection. Such an observation leads me to the conclusion that there is likely some liability in my being to depression. The taking of anti-depressants seeks to fight against this liability.

The genetically connected tendency towards depression is reflected in the second observation and that is that I likely have chemical imbalance that makes me prone to depressive tendencies. Hence it seems reasonable to continue with the anti-depressants.

As I remarked to my doctor about this issue earlier in the year, I perceive that anti-depressants are an emotional safety-net for me. To experience the emotional free-fall that can take place as part of the “depression” condition is not pleasant. Accordingly, I am glad to have the safety net.

I have sought to withdraw from them at varying times over the years, but the withdrawing seems always to have a deleterious effect on my welfare. So I continue taking antidepressants. I take a very small dose, but I do take.

Some would say that I should not take anti-depressants, but just trust God to sustain me through and have victory over the depression. My response is that I take the medication as a provision of God for my mental and emotional welfare. And with the help of the medication God sustains me. Everyday that I am able to usefully function is, in a sense, a day of victory over depression.

Blaming Or Apologising.

We all live as a part of different institutions. Families, schools, offices, factories, churches, social clubs are all institutions of one flavour or another. It is interesting to ponder upon what sort of culture pertains in the institutions I am a part of. This can be looked at in different ways, but one way which is quite reflective of the state of the institution is to consider whether there is a culture of blame or culture of apologising.

Things go wrong in all institutions but what is the default response when there is failure. The initial response is either to seek out who can be blamed for what has gone wrong or to seek to apologise for any part I have played in the failure. A blame culture produces a negative interaction between people and destroys morale. Whereas an apologising culture creates a sense of warmth and generosity among the people.

You can spot it in a marriage. Ponder upon how you respond when something happens between you and your spouse. Do you rush to blame or apologise? If something spills over on the cooker do you seek to blame your spouse for letting it happen or do you apologise for disturbing him/her by taking them unnecessarily out of the kitchen. You see it in a football match. When a pass is misplaced does the person apologise for mis-directing it or blame the other person for not running in the right direction?

When you perceive that a blame culture has taken hold in an institution then all does not augur well. The prospect is for a broken marriage, a fractious office, an unhappy church and an unsuccessful sports team. Whereas the reverse is very much the case when you have an apologising culture; then you will see strong marriages, healthy families and churches that are so keen to move forward well.

It is interesting to observe that the tendency to a blame culture set in right at the beginning of the history of fallen humanity where the man blamed the women and the woman blamed the serpent (see Gen. 3:12). The blame culture is the culture of the world. An apologising culture is a culture of grace. It is a culture of taking the lowly place. Through it we realise we are sinners with a capacity to do wrong and sadly we really do, do wrong. And when we know we have done wrong we apologise.

So what kind of culture am I contributing to in the institutions of which I am a part?

……….at getting them out serving. I have been struck recently how cycling through Feltham at about 8.45am on a Sunday morning the (so-called) Jehovah’s Witnesses have had their stand set up on the street (two stands actually on March 12th). And I am left thinking how do they do it? How do they get people out at that time on a Sunday Morning on the streets. Hence my conclusion is that law must be more powerful than grace in getting people to do that kind of thing.

Why do I say it is law? It is law because the whole JW system is based on performance. It is based on doing things in order to get into the favour of God. So the more “door time” or “street time” you do then the better. So if you are a leader, in that system, you have got a ready made structure in place to get people doing things. Ultimately it is a system of drudgery. It is such because against your will or better judgement, to keep in the system you have to do your time out on the doors or streets.

As for us believers in Christ we believe in grace. We believe in a system of faith which is established in grace;

  • Jesus Christ gave Himself to the cross for our sins.
  • It is through the grace of God that we are saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (Eph. 2:8a).
  • It is in grace that we live For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)

This last point is pertinent for us here. I say this because in Romans 6:13 we have these words

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness

The connection between the verses is that we offer every part of our beings to God because grace not law is operative. Our whole focus of motivation is found in the grace of God.

Surely this should be more potent than law. Grace leads to life in God and being delighted in God should be displayed in a delight in life. We are reconstructed people who now want to live for the pleasure of God and the benefit of others. In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul speaks of how through him knowing of the fear of God (see v 11) and Christ’s love (see v 14), he is motivated to serve.

So how is it that law seems more effective than grace is in getting people serving. It should never never ever be. So what is going on. Here are some thoughts:-

  • Is it the preaching? Are we just not centering on the grace of God in Christ enough?
  • Is it the praying? Are we just not praying people into the grace of the Lord?
  • Is it because we are all innately law people rather than grace people? But the gospel should be changing that all the time.
  • Is it because we are not living in vibrant fellowship with the God of all grace? So we are not receiving His grace continually into our lives.

There is something enticing about a law system that “gets people out”, but it is destructive. So I will dive (and drive) into grace in all my living and leading although I so easily can become a “law merchant”. The law system seems very attractive, but ultimately it is tawdry and miserable. Grace, in contrast, is beautiful and delightful. So go for grace Philip in all your ways.

Can They Pick The Fruit?

Christians are called to be fruit bearers. As a result of the transformation of our lives that comes through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and through the Holy Spirit coming into our lives, we  are to live lives that display the fruit of God’s workings. Scriptures which indicate this would be:-

  • I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
  • This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)
  • So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Rom. 7:4)
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23)

In horticulture there is a general understanding that fruit is to be picked and enjoyed. So the question I have to ask myself is whether or not there is the fruit of God’s workings in evidence from my life. Moreover, do people see that there is good fruit on display that they can easily pick? Or do they have to go rummaging through the leaves in order to seek to discover whether there is any good fruit or not.

In Matthew 7:15-20 our Lord gives further clarity about this fruit-bearing issue. He says:-

‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.

The fruit on display in my life will confirm who I am. We have established that the Christian should have good fruit in their life. However, developing this theme further – let us be clear that everyone is bearing fruit in their  lives. The question is, is there good fruit on display, is there the fruit of God on display? Is that fruit which comes rom the Spirit there for all to see?

So where am I in respect of these things? If I am a Christian I will have good fruit in my life. If I am a healthy Christian I will have lots of good fruit on display.

The Young Visiting.

Love always desires to bless. Love wants to bring good into the lives of others. Love puts others before me. The Christian is called to love. In fact upon becoming a Christian we are rewired to be lovers.

One way younger saints can so easily bring blessing into the lives of older ones is by visiting them. My experience is that such visits have brought much blessing and encouragement into the lives of older people. They are so encouraged that someone has given them some time; someone has thought about them. You do not have to visit for long; ten minutes can be long enough. If the older person is very weak and in need of rest ten minutes can be more than enough.

So younger people go and show some love.

Alas too many people are too busy to be kind as I wrote about here. Don’t fall into that category. Go and bless an older person with a visit as soon as you can.

 

Adam And The Gospel.

We can never fully grasp the immensity of the cataclysmic events that unfolded in Genesis 3. We begin the chapter with a harmonious earth beautifully ordered, with man and woman taking their place obediently in their realm before God. We end the chapter with sin on the march, all creation under judgement, everything bearing the marks of the curse and man barred from the garden of Eden.

In the midst of all this chaos we find there is gospel hope. There is hope of a better day. It first comes with the promise in v15 and is found in these words of the Lord God to the snake (Satan).

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.’

The seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, will have His heel struck and so will be brought to the cross. But in that cross He will crush the head of Satan and render him powerless.

This is the only bright word amidst the devastation, ensuing from the fall, that was all around him. And yet in v20 we read Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. Logic would determine that he must call her the mother of all the dying, because that is what prevailed all around. There was no life in sight. And yet, hanging on to the promise of v15, he, in faith, declared her to be Eve. He asserted that God would bring life through the crushing of Satan. Thereby he named her to be the mother of the living. This is amazing faith.

In v21 we see two further critical ingredients of the message of the gospel. In v7b we read how, consequent to the fall,  Adam and Eve realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. However, this was to no avail in being a proper cover. In v21 we read how God made garments for them. Before the fall there was no need of any garments because everything was pure and there was no shame. The fall brought shame and Adam and Eve knew they needed to be covered up. The need for coverings, whether they be fig leaves or skins, testify to the fact of mankind in sin. The wearing of garments by ourselves is a continued reminder that we are sinners. The coverings are an ongoing testimony to the reality of sin and us being sinners.

We also learn in v21 that the giving up of the life of another is necessary for a suitable covering to be made so that we can be acceptable with God. The coverings of v7 prove to be useless because they were man-made. But then the God-made (and provided) coverings of v21 were entirely sufficient. In the providing of these garments we see a foreshadowing of the ultimate giving up of life and shedding of blood to provide a covering for others when our Lord Jesus died on the cross. There he provided a coat of righteousness to all who believe.

So there is the gospel. The promise, faith, sin and the substitutionary offering. All this reminds us of our need of Christ and the provision of salvation in Christ.

 

 

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