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

Appreciation.

I was on a bus journey recently from Manchester to London. Somewhat casually I was walking past the driver at the end of the journey and thanked him for getting us back safely to London. His reaction to those words was striking. He mentioned how much what I had said meant to him and how most people never said anything.

This lead me to ponder on the power of words of appreciation. How much blessing and encouragement can be brought into the lives of others by simply taking time to appreciate someone for what they have done.

So much of our lives is passed in taking things for granted. The meal provided, the rooms cleaned, the building opened up, the tables and seating arranged; the list could be endless. So many of things happen and we accept them and benefit from them without a word of appreciation.

I am challenged once again about seizing the initiative to show appreciation to someone. And as for yourself, why not get thinking and praying about who you can appreciate. You don’t know how much blessing you will bring thereby!

Closing in Prayer

It is normal in many of our church services to close everything off in prayer. This prayer is very important, but is often badly done, I fear. Here are some thoughts:

  • You are closing the service not doing a resume of the service.
  • It is not the time to re-preach your sermon. They have heard your sermon once; they don’t want to hear it again in prayer.
  • Be praying for response to what has gone before.
  • Pray for the Word not just to fall to the ground, but be effective in lives.
  • Set the people up for moving forward.
  • As a rule keep the prayer short. The people know the service is closing that is what they are expecting you to do.
  • If you go on and on with your closing prayer closing you will frustrate the people.

Middle Lane Hogging.

It does seems to be a big issue on motorways. And in many ways it is a frustrating issue. The issue is that people refuse to go into the inside lane on motorways. Here is an article on the subject. Some thoughts would be:

  • Is there no proper instruction / training on this matter when people learn to drive?
  • Makes me wonder whether motorway driving should actually be in the practical driving test.
  • How do you respond when it happens that someone is hogging the middle lane and the inside lane is free. Previously I used to attempt to go round them into the outside lane. However, I have to confess I have taken more and more to undertaking in a careful manner.
  • Surely there should be more instruction going on. There is such a lot of it happening.
  • And surely there should be action taken against lane hoggers. The article talks about fines and points on license. I am not sure how much it happens.

And if you read this and you are prone to middle lane hogging perhaps you could explain why you do it?

Should I Go To Church?

Life is busy for so many of us. A phrase often heard is: “there just does not seems to be enough hours in the day”. So we have to be thoughtful about what we put into our lives. One thing to consider is whether we should bother going to church.

Before getting into directly answering that question we need to ponder upon which church we should consider going to. There are many fake churches which are not really churches at all. The church we should consider going to is the church which

  • believes that The Bible is the inspired, authoritative and infallible Word of God.
  • preaches the message of the Bible that focuses on how God has brought salvation through Jesus Christ.

It is the church that professes this and seeks to live it out that we should consider attending.

The issues to consider in whether or not we actually do attend church are dependent upon whether or not we are true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the true Christian church attendance should be a normal part of their life. In fact, we have to say, that if a person is not attending church, and is professing to be a believer, the genuineness of their profession must questioned. Right at the beginning when the church was established in Acts 2 the people drew together so that they could hear the apostles doctrine; enjoy fellowship in the grace of God, worship in the breaking of the bread and seek the Lord through their prayers (see Acts 2:42). These things continue to be at the heart of what a church does when they meet together.

Christianity is a “together” religion and this togetherness is displayed in the church. The church should always be together in their support for one another 24/7, but there must also be those important times when they come together. So we see as God works to bring salvation in the book of Acts that churches were being formed and those in the churches came together. If we look in Acts 20 as an example we see there reference to the believers meeting together on the first day of the week in Troas to break bread and to hear God’s Word (see Acts 20:7). Paul in Acts 20:20 indicates how the church in Ephesus was taught publicly as well as house to house.

The rest of the new testament shows how believers are to live for the Lord. At the heart of that experience is being in church. It is interesting that the book of Revelation is sent to churches. The exhortation to true believers in churches in Hebrews 10:25 is that they should not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching. It is important for Christians to meet together.

But what of the non-Christian? Why should someone who does not share this faith come to church? They should come:-

  • To Hear: The greatest need for the non-Christian is to be saved. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. It is in church where you will hear this message.
  • To See: In church you see God at work. The church is God’s special place. In church you see a disparate group of people coming together as one in Christ. You should come to church and see how these people love one another and display their unity. As you observe it your wise response is to say “I want that”.
  • To Anticipate. If you are a human being you want to live. The place where you find life is in Christ. And that life in Christ is to be lived in the church. So if you are not a Christian you will yearn for that life and come to church to see the place where that life is lived. And that is all in anticipation of you one day being a part of that body.

So always and for everyone the church is the pace to be. It is God’s place. For believer and unbeliever alike, there are good reasons to be there. For the believer it is an essential place to enjoy your salvation. For the unbeliever it is the place to learn about Christ so that by faith you will obtain your salvation in Him.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of December 2016)

Pastoring For Sympathy.

It is very easy in pastoral ministry to “play the sympathy card”! After all, there are plenty of struggles and difficulties in such ministry and so there are many ways you can get people to sympathise with you.

I am reminded here of our Saviour. How, as He approached the cross, He was greeted by women weeping and wailing and expressing their sympathy for Him. His response is simply to say I don’t want your sympathy I want your repentance and obedience in the light of what is ahead. The passage reads in Luke 23:27-31:

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then

‘“they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
    and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”

For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Similarly it is our desire and longing, that we want people to become followers of Jesus and not to be sympathisers of us in all our struggles.

One way in which this can all become so very complicated is through the subtleties of our hearts. We can easily use sympathy for us, to get those under our care, to be obedient to God, But I suggest that this is manipulative ministry and is not acceptable. Paul would talk in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 about how we should not be guilty of these practices. He says we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:2). What I am thinking of here is getting people to live a certain way because you have spent so much time with them and/or spent so much money on them. As a result, so runs our persuasion, they should respond to go in God’s direction. Such manipulation is wrong.

Notwithstanding what I have written there are those times when it is appropriate to seek the prayers of the saints, so that they know we have struggles in this world as well. We do need to be genuine in seeking help whether practically or prayerfully for the furtherance of the ministry. These things bind us to our brothers and sisters. However, that is very different to using dubious means to accomplish good ends.

Take Your Time.

It is a good principle to exercise in all matters of life, but particularly if you are involved in church leadership. The principle I am referring to here is that you do not rush to respond to a situation that is presented in front of you. It is always best to make sure that you “field” the information about a situation so you can go away and pray and consider. People may be demanding an instantaneous response, but so very often that is just not necessary. Sometimes you have to risk offending people so you can get the space to consider something. Very often that will be through discussing the matter with others.

Quick decisions are very often bad decisions. So take your time. This applies in parenting matters as well and, as I mentioned above, in so many other realms. The principle is stated generally in Proverbs 18:13 where we read To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. We must always listen well, and listen fully, before making a decision.

Now there are, I know, times when decisions must be made. In such times we need to utter a Nehemiah type prayer, (then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (Neh. 2:4b-5a)), and look to God for what to do. In doing this we trust that all will be for the best even though we may not have had time to consider things sufficiently.

Discipleship.

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a learner and a follower of Jesus Christ. Accordingly if you are involved in discipling someone so that they are formed into being a leaner/follower of Jesus Christ there are certain things that are required:-

  • An Example. You need to be displaying Christ in your life to the person you are discipling. They need to see your life so that it recommends the truth you are seeking to pass on to them.
  • Teaching. There is information to pass on concerning the faith. There is also the need to provide wisdom for life.
  • Consistency. Your life must match with the truth that you are passing on to the person. If not, the whole discipling process is derailed.
  • Visibility. You cannot hideaway and just send podcasts to the one you are seeking to disciple.
  • Goal. Your Goal is not to make a person religious.  Rather, it is to see them moulded into the likeness of Christ.
  • Prayer, You will need to be relentlessly praying for the working of God’s Spirit, so that spiritual, Christ-like, formation will take place.

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