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

Get On And Live.

Churches exist in a messed up world with messed up people in them. Yes they are redeemed messed up people, but still, whilst we are in this world we still have the flesh, and therefore are prone perpetrate ungodliness.

In such a situation we are to get on and live. We are to live with a desire to sort out all of the vile consequences of sin in terms of damaged relationships and damaged lives. But we are to nevertheless, get on and live.

There can be the tendency to have an alternative mentality; the hang on and wait mentality. The hang on and wait mentality says that we cannot do anything until we have sorted things out. “It is all such a mess that nothing can be done until we have at least reduced the size of the mess” is the thought. Concomitant with this thinking is the expectancy that a big sort out will cleanse everything and then we can get on. Often this means arranging a big meeting or something of that ilk.

In preaching on the calling of the twelve in Luke 6:12-16 recently two things struck me. Firstly they were such mixed bunch. Just to mention a few things:

  • You have two sets of brothers. Oh the danger of family loyalties.
  • James and John were hot-heads (see Mark 3:17).
  • Philip was a man for detail (see John 6:7). Peter was the “go for it” man. Not much time for details.
  • Matthew was compromised with the Romans. Simon the zealot was part of the insurgency group against the Romans. A recipe for conflict there.
  • Then there’s Thomas the depressive, who knows if anything could go wrong it will do.

Secondly the Lord did not tell them to sort out all of the issues between them and reach a settled “working agreement” and then get on and live and work for Him. Rather, they would have to live together and sort out the differences as they went along.

Similarly if you look at the New Testament letters we do not see the hang on and wait mentality. The letters generally refer to the mess in messed up churches and how it should be sorted. But the churches are never told to stop everything else while they go through a sorting out period. Rather thy are to get on and live whilst doing the sorting out.

I am not saying here taht we need to ignore stuff that needs to be sorted out; certainly not. Such a response is to seal the death-knell of pour churches. What is necessary surely is that we sort out the issues whilst seeking to live.

Accordingly, the church in Philippi had its problems with divisions and these are specifically alluded to chapter 4 vv2-3. Here we see encouragement to the church to make sure that Euodia and Syntyche resolve their differences. But then notice what Paul says in vv4-7. He calls them to be rejoicing, to be sweetly reasonably, to not be anxious and to pray. These spiritual exercises were not to wait until the problems were resolved, but were to be engaged in whilst sorting out the problems.

My Dad’s Hands

One of the disadvantages of having had good parents is that you miss them all the more when they have passed away. It was fifteen years earlier in the month since my Dad died; I still miss him. I just want to muse here upon his hands.

My Dad had farmers’ hands. No surprise there because he was a farmer. But they were real farmers’ hands that authenticated his calling. Thick fingers and remnant callouses. They were just the large hands of a man who had worked at farming all his life.

My Dad was no theoretical farmer. His hands proved that he actually did the farm work. Alas, there are a lot of theoretical Christians around who think and talk about getting out and living for the Lord, but give little evidence in their lives that they ever get on and do it.

My Dad’s hands also reveal a man of relentless commitment. Those hands were not formed by spasmodic bursts of devotion to his land and his animals which he indulged in when the feeling took him. Those hardened hands spoke of a man who in all weathers and in all feelings still kept going to fulfil his calling. Not a fair weather farmer my Dad. I fear there are a lot of fair weather Christians around. When the heat of life has risen and the difficulties of life have encroached upon them they have said “not today” to the Lord and copped out until some easier day. Their flabby characters and tepid passions betoken fair-weather Christianity.

And as I finally think of those hands I think of all that labour my Dad engaged in in order to earn a good living. And on the back of that good living that he laboured to achieve I have benefitted so much. The older I get the more I appreciate what he did for me. Thanks Dad, I miss you.

I wrote here about my Dad; he was a great man.

Support Decision Makers

At the moment playgrounds are open and outdoor gyms are not. The outdoor gym I have used is right next to a playground and I frankly don’t see the logic of closing the one and not the other. So it is a decision I personally do not like and don’t understand. Yet I have a great amount of sympathy with those who have to make judgment calls about things; they have to make decisions. It is easy to criticize those who make decisions. And yet judgment calls have to be made.

I feel as a general principle we should encourage those who are making decisions. We may not agree with the decisions they are making, but unless a clear principle is being breached and life endangered, it is only wholesome to support those making the judgment calls. It is all part of our honouring God to be supporting leadership.

Theodore Roosevelt said ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing’. Obviously such a generalism has to be caveated. However, it is a good maxim. Decisions made mean a direction is set. No decision means no direction.

To undermine a decision maker by continually carping about their decisions even over the must trivial and nuanced of understandings is not wholesome. A decision maker needs to be encouraged in his task. So let us pray for and support our parents, fathers, teachers, church elders, politicians and bosses. When decision makers are encouraged they will be more inclined to prompt and beneficial decisions. A decision maker wearied by continual criticism means all under his influence are harmed.

So if you come across decision maker in your sphere of home, church, government or work who is poor at making decisions, it may be you who have contributed to this by your continual carping.

Depression (Again) (14)

Tomorrow it is due to be two years since I reached something of a nadir in a wretched period of experiencing depression. It was the day I pulled out of work and admitted defeat in my attempt to keep going. I wrote about that specific experience here.

I am presently so much improved, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. To be in our Father’s hands is the best place to be. I continue with medication in taking sertraline. I also seek to keep to a strict exercise regime. The last year has seen two significant blips. One was in late March when I may well have had a bout of illness through Covid-19. Also from mid-September for three weeks or so.

An observation I would make concerning the vagaries of depression is that when you are feeling well you forget what it is like to feel ill and when you are ill you forget what it is like to feel well. That is a strange conundrum which whilst true to experience seems somewhat deficient in logic.

I was blasted by someone for a while last year regarding how I could be a pastor of a church and be taking medication for depression. I wrote here about my reconciling myself to being a “pastor on pills”.

Thanks for all those who have expressed support of me and prayed for me.

My mental and emotional frailties are part of my pilgrimage for Christ in this world. But one day because of my great Saviour, Jesus, glory will dawn. And then we will be what we are fully called to be. Hallellujah. ALL WILL BE WELL.

Boost Your Immune System

I was speaking with a friend recently with expertise in the field of immunology, microbiology (and all of that kind of thing), about the vaccine to combat the spread of the coronavirus. One thing that struck me in what he said was that the vaccine would be an addition to our immune capacity.

Now, I am not a medical expert in any way and I hesitate to venture into a field where I have no expertise. But as a lay man it just reinforced the view that one of the key things we should all be doing at this time when the Covid-19 virus continues to create mayhem in our communities and around the world, is boosting our immune system.

Our immune system is the anti-aircraft system which acts to shoot down the viral enemies which are seeking to invade and destroy our bodily functions. It seems sensible to make sure that the anti-aircraft immune system is as strong as possible to thwart the onslaught of the coronavirus and any other malevolent viral attack for that matter.

So get boosting your immune system would be my thought for one of the best things we can be doing at this time. To that end seek out what might be good ways of doing this.

Just my thought. And so back to getting on with the:

  • Echinacea
  • Cod Liver Oli
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin C
  • Cider Vinegar (with the mother)
  • Metatone
  • Raw Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Raw Onion
  • Turmeric
  • Manuka Honey
  • Magnesium
  • Parmesan Cheese

There’s masses of them available at the click of a finger. They are great preachers. They handle the Word in a faithful and engaging way. The exegesis is first class, the expository development spot on, the hermeneutical skills well-developed and the Word comes effectively to your soul. So you think if only we had preaching like that in our church; I would love it, my church experience would be transformed and all would be well. In fact more than well!

And yet there is one key thing missing here. Those great preachers far far away are just that; they are far far away. And you don’t know their lives.

I was led to ponder upon this having heard a little bit of the personal situation of a preacher I would have admired and benefitted from who is far far away. What was revealed opened up a few question marks for me about the character of the man.

So I want to muse upon three specific issues here.

The first is that of character. It is not exceptional gifts that are the necessary equipping for the pastoral office it is the character of the man. In 1 Timothy 3:2-7 these are given as an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

These are observable and testable matters of character. God is looking for the character of the man, who He calls to the preaching and pastoral office, to be above reproach. By our magnifying the gifts of someone we may well be getting a perspective out of line with the one God wants us to have.

The second thing is that the vital ministry of a man should be among those who know his life and character. It is his character that gives substance to his ministry. So the man called to the preaching ministry should have a life which is open to the view of the people he ministers to. Local and near is the call for true ministry. You may not have the most gifted man (or men) bringing the Word to you regularly in your church. However, if they are men who with an opaqueness display godliness then that is such a key attribute in giving gravitas to their ministry.

The third thing to be aware of is the tendency to be lauding preachers who are far far away whilst downplaying the ministry of the preacher(s) in your own church. To have those magnificent preacher men who you can dip into and pick and choose from may seem very fulfilling to your soul. But is it? Surely it is the faithful man near at hand that we should be lauding. He knows you, he loves you; he lives His life before you. So let’s be finished with all our comparisons to the big men with their big ministries. And let us cherish those who faithfully serve us without a great fanfare, but are sold-out for the welfare of our souls. So go encourage those involved in the preaching ministry in your church today.

Led Leaders

True leaders know how to be led. This phrase has hovered with me over many years. What is being referred to is the fact that a true leader knows how to appropriately respond when they are not in a situation of leading something. In such a situation the true leader knows that their call is to support and submit to the one leading.

There is a sense that this is counterintuitive because we think that a true leader must to be seen to be such by always dominating the situation. They prove their leadership by being seen always to be the one in control. This is a worldly way though, and not godly. One of the most astonishing phrases in scripture is in Luke 51a And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. Here is our Lord submitting to his parents as a youth. The ultimate Leader, our beloved Lord, is happy to be led.

The true leader submits because he understands leadership and how it is that organisations function best with the proper operating of leadership. He knows that if the leader is always being disrupted and undermined by those under him then the organisation will not flourish. Hence the elder of a church will know that in his teaching job he must support and submit to the head teacher in his school. In fact he will be the best at supporting them.

For a true leader to be be led will take a significant exercise of the self-control. This is particularly the case when he realises that the leadership he has to submit to has many short-comings. He may feel that he has to take-over in order to save the organisation. After all “he is a true leader”. However, he is more like to sabotage the organisation if he undermines the established leadership.

David was a man who had godly desires in his heart. He was a man who understood that to undermine leadership is a very serious thing. When David’s men urged him to finish off Saul. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sam. 24:6). Now, by this time Saul was making a mess of being king. However, David would not undermine him. This is all the more striking when we realise that David is the true king.

We tend to think that a true leader is shown by their relentless tendency to dominate and impose their will. However, this may well be simply a demonstration of selfish indulgence which helps, neither themselves, nor others. And by way of consequence they harm the situation wherein they are seeking to dominate.

When we are looking for leaders in our churches we need to be savvy to this principle. A true leader knows how to be led.

It is a good thing in life to always take time in making decisions. I am not talking here about the trivia of life such as whether to choose this or that from a menu. I am talking about decisions which have a life changing element to them.

One of the phenomena of the last year have been the number of significant announcements from our governments about the restrictions being implemented appertaining to the coronavirus outbreak. The danger is that we respond to the relevant announcements by immediately scrawling through the details of the text to see what it means for my life and then immediately make decisions based there on.

For some people it is absolutely necessary that they do act in that way because they have to make an immediate response. In that context I am in admiration of how many school leaders responded to the announcements of January 4th to make sure they had measures in place so that their schools could operate on January 5th.

However, for most people, decisions do not have to be made instantaneously. In such situations it is best to take time for things to settle to see what is the understanding of the regulations and then make relevant decisions about how you will act.

In saying all this we are very much dealing with a principle which should flavour our lives in whatever capacity we operate. The principle is that we should always take time to fully assess the information and options before making decisions. Very few things of a life changing character require an immediate decision. It is always good to follow the dictum of Judges 19:30b consider it, take counsel, and speak.

And here are a couple of proverbs to confirm the wisdom of this approach.

Desire without knowledge is not good,
    and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
(Prov. 19:2)

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
(Prov. 21:5)

And in considering every situation and in making every decision don’t forget to pray. If I make a decision before I have prayed to my Father, I am displaying foolishness.

The North Korea Test

I have been musing on our response to the present restrictions imposed upon us by our government in England. In particular I am pondering upon how I would interact with a North Korean believer in respect of my response to our present situation.

So we have a North Korean believer who is seeking to live for the Lord and thereby enjoy fellowship with other believers. This article here gives some details about the lengths they would go to. Imagine meeting such a believer and explaining to them about the opportunities w have to fellowship at the present time in this country.

Now I do not want to minimize the intricacies of working through our situation so as not be responsible for unnecessarily facilitating the spread of the coronavirus. However, within the legitimate use of the opportunities that we have, how zealous am I to seize every opportunity for fellowship.

If I scorn or despise the using of Zoom, or other technological means, which can link me to fellow believers in the church, would I be ashamed before a North Korean believer who would be just so thrilled to have anything of that ilk so as to link with other believers.

And when I am indifferent about seizing the opportunity to physically fellowship together with others in the services at my church, is that not shocking in the light of what our North Korean fellow believers put themselves through to enjoy such fellowship.

Now in mentioning about the matters above I do not want to speak too hastily. There are many reasons why believers, particularly in the vulnerable category should not be physically attending church at the present time. But I do want to probe at my attitude. How important is it for me to work out the mandate to: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25)?

Whether it is with regard to online meetings or “in person” meetings could I look a North Korean believer in the eye and say “I am making best use of what is available to me to engage in church fellowship”. Or in the presence of such a fellow saint would I be ashamed?

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for January 2021 for you to have a read. Please pray for us here in Feltham as we seek to move forward for our God.

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