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

Testing Muscles

I started doing a different exercise recently as part of my ongoing desire to keep at least reasonably fit. I have exercised quite a lot over recent months, but the change suddenly led to some significant aching of my muscles. It was not that I changed the intensity of exercise, it was simply that I was doing something different. The plus side of this obviously is that I am strengthening a different muscle.

Such an experience is in many ways parabolic of the way the Lord works in our lives. We can be moving along with our spiritual disciplines and generally doing well with them. As a result we can be feeling that we have some strength in the Lord.

Then suddenly the Lord introduces something into our lives which tests out an aspect of our character or lifestyle. Suddenly we feel the pressure and are wondering what has hit us. it may be a new colleague at work; it may be an illness; it could be opposition to your ministry in church. It could be a multitude of things. We can feel that it is a massive inconvenience that this this intrusion into our lives has happened and even be feeling pain which we had never anticipated.

But we must know that the Lord has bigger and better plans and that He is testing new muscles. It is, of course, not so that we will give up because of the muscle pain, but rather that through it we will know that our spiritual muscles are being strengthened. This is so that we might have a renewed character and purer lifestyle.

So we relate to the words of Paul who says in Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Let us be quick to rejoice in the purpose of our suffering, rather than in the pain of our suffering. And as the old motivating phrase goes for all gym participants: “no gain without pain.” So let us endure well for the Lord, knowing that in our testings He is working great things.

 

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Our society is full of them; excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour abound. It was my upbringing; it is my circumstances; it is my spouse who drives me to do this; it is my health situation. And of course, the one used perhaps most prolifically; I was provoked. All of these and many others are brought forward to excuse actions which harm others and are reprehensible in the sight of God. In making these excuses we expect a free pass from any examination of our actions.

Moses in Numbers 20:1-13 had a ready made set of excuses. In this passage he loses his temper and disobeys the Lord’s command striking the rock twice rather than speaking to the rock (see Num. 20:8-11). As a result the Lord’s judgement falls. We read  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Num. 20:12).

Moses had plenty of excuses that could have been brought forward to excuse his action:

  1. His sister had just died
  2. The people had no water again.
  3. The people he was called to lead were complaining again
  4. The people were blaming him and Aaron, his brother, for their problems.

Each one could have been a valid excuse we might deem. However, not so with the Lord. Sin is sin and Moses as a leader of God’s people should have known better. To his credit Moses never marshalled any of these excuses in his defence. He simply accepted what was a great disappointment to him; he was not going to be able to lead the people into the land.

Alas, in the church of our Lord Jesus, we can be quick to get our excuses in rather than repent of our sin. Such an approach is ungodly. Let us be quick repenters rather than quick excuse finders. Of course, it is better to go one better and that is not to sin. And in that case we remember that when we are feeling under strain amidst the circumstances of life: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Christmas Is Coming

I do find myself somewhat intimidated by the high octane messages which emerge from certain parts of the evangelical scene about how Christmas is the big time for evangelism. It is the season when we have great “an open goal” to reach people with the gospel is how it is presented. I understand that this is the case in many places, but I have not found it to be so here in Feltham.

It was therefore interesting to read this article here by Stephen Kneale. This would be something of our experience here in Feltham, although for different reasons.

It seems to me that in more middle-class areas we can expect the influx of visitors because it is something that people do a Christmas. However, in an area like Feltham which is historically working class and now of more mixed ethnicity this does not appear to be the case. So we are seeking to reach out and invite people to carol services this Christmas, but we are not seeing it as “The” big time for evangelism. If we did gets lot of people in that would be great and we trust they will hear good news concerning the Saviour who has come to save sinners. And what joy there would be to know of those being saved

If in your situation you normally gets lots of strangers coming in at Christmas then that is great. And may the Lord use the Word declared and relationships established to bring many to Himself.

Jerry’s Funeral Statement

Below is a somewhat unique document. Jerry Haglund who passed away to be with the Lord on August 13th 2007 wrote this so that it could be read at his funeral.  I have set it down exactly as Jerry wrote it.

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Some funerals are less sad than others! You may think that this is a strange statement to make, so let me explain what I mean.

Christians believe the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (as God incarnate) when He said,”Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Again “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life.”John 3:15 and “For God so loved the world , that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”   John 3:16

I believe that in June 1952, when I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, I received the gift of eternal life. Further, I believe that at the moment that I died I went into the presence of God. Paul under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, when he was writing to the Christians in Philippi said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”

Therefore my funeral is less sad for those present here today who are Christians, for they know that I am in the presence of the Lord . Many who conduct funeral services will, I believe, have a lot of explaining to do to God for deceiving people. To sum up their messages to their congregation is ‘rest assured that your loved one is now at peace and in the presence of the Lord.’ even though they may not have committed their lives to God, or prayed, or read the bible, or worshiped God , that somehow it will all be forgotten of God.

It is a fact of human nature that we are to accept the pleasant facts of life, but ignore the unpleasant ones. To sum up, there is a hell to be shunned and a heaven to be gained ; and heaven is not gained by good works, but by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s personal Saviour, believing that when he died on the cross it was able to pay the penalty for our sin. I do hope that all present here today, by faith, with assurance that they know their eternal destiny will be in heaven in the presence of God.

A King Like David

People need to be ruled. When we choose to rule ourselves we inevitably lead ourselves astray because of our heart’s bias towards sin. We need a leader. The question then is who is that leader to be? There are two key figures in the Old Testament who God raised up to forward His purpose to have a people for Himself. The first is Abraham in who the people are formed and given a place to live (see Gen. 12:1-7). The second is David in whom the people find a ruler to lead them.

Interestingly we read in 1 Kings 8:16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ The leader whom God has set Himself to bring forward to lead His people was David. The Davidic Covenant which is adumbrated in 2 Samuel 7:1-17 is the cohering of God’s determination to give a ruler to His people.

David, although being the king Israel needed, is not the ultimate King. The ultimate King is our Lord Jesus who comes of Davids line and brings together in Himself everything which the Davidic covenant promised.

In essence in our Lord Jesus we find true and perfect leadership. It is shepherd king leadership. This is essentially what David was; he is the shepherd who becomes king. Interestingly, he was a shepherd before he became king. In our Lord Jesus we see the messianic One who is ruler of his people as “The Shepherd King”. This King is everything we need in a ruler; a leader who cares perfectly. Shepherds in Eastern lands lead from the front of course, and they lead their people into green pastures. Our leader, Jesus, is the true brave leader who provides us with the greenest of pastures for our souls. 

This all leads us into what true leadership is meant to be. In all realms and particularly among God’s people, it is always shepherd-king leadership. As with David rulers are called to be shepherds before they are kings. There needs to be that caring tendency in their character which prevents them from abusive dominance. Diotrophes was a leader, but not a shepherd leader and He created a mess. John says: I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 9-10)

In our homes and churches we need leaders formed after the likeness of David, but most particularly after the likeness of our Lord Jesus.

Adam was told by the Lord that “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 3:16b-17). When he was given this instruction the primary question Adam had to resolve is: Is God good?”

If God is good then the withholding of something was bound to be for Adam’s good. The withholding of the fruit though, was not the only issue. The fruit by it’s name, being called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had a certain significance. The clear implication of not taking the fruit, is that certain knowledge was being withheld from Adam and his, soon to be, wife.

If Adam concluded that God was not good then this restriction was mean and the accompanying threat was just scaremongering. However, if God is good then the restriction is a grace from the Lord for Adam’s benefit. And the warning is a kindness which reinforces the need to keep the commandment which was for Adams’s blessing.

So how could Adam know that God was good? Simply he just had to look around himself and see the beautiful, fulsome and convivial environment he was in. All of it provided by and gifted to him by God.

But after the command God even went further to prove His goodness. He gave Adam a wife, Eve. She would have been the most beautiful woman in history and they would have had the best sex in history and they were encouraged to do such (see Gen. 2:24 and 1:28).

We conclude then that God’s goodness as etched all over Genesis 1 and 2. Alas, mankind did not live long in this blessed appreciation.

Satan sought to bring Adam and Eve down by inferring that God was not good, but rather a killjoy. His lie was  God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Eve, with the by-standing Adam complicit, fell for it and the rest is history; very sad and bad history. And we feel like shouting at Adam in particular, why did you allow that to happen; you must be crazy to allow any suspicion that God is not good.

This question about the verity of the goodness of God is continually with us as we seek to understand the Bible and life. When we don’t know and don’t understand how do we handle the issues of life? If we have doubts about the goodness of God then we are inevitably in an uncertain predicament about how to move forward in our lack of understanding.

However, if God is good then faith bridges the gap in everything. This is so because, I reason that He is withholding full knowledge from me for my good. At the heart of that conclusion is the reckoning that it is better to trust God than to know everything. As the Word from Habakkuk 2:4b says the righteous shall live by his faith.

So how can we know that God is good? Through the evidence of God’s creation and sustaining of this universe most definitely we can conclude God is good. And as we enjoy food on our tables can we ever doubt that God is good when we have a God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17b). Food comes to us not only as suitable to benefit our bodies, but also for our enjoyment. God is good.

Moreover, when we look back we can follow the example of Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12 and raise our Ebenezer stone. In that verse we read: Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

The apogee of our being convinced of the goodness of God is the cross of our Lord Jesus. Of that event we read God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Calvary says “God is good” in the most profound way. In Christ, God deals with our most pressing need; our sins. Truly God is good.

The evidence then is overwhelming: there is a God and He is good. The saving value of the benefits of the cross trumpets this above all the other melodies of His goodness.

Calvary says: God is good, So faith says: I believe, even when I don’t understand. When suffering comes, when people mess us around, when we feel disobedience would be more convenient. In all the trying circumstances of life we recall that God is good and we trust and obey.

 

If I Had Time……

The scenario goes like this: the preacher has a limited amount of time to present his material and so he says things like:

  • We only have a short time,
  • If we had more time we could go into these issues some more
  • There is a lot more that could be developed here if we had time.
  • This passage requires a lot more time for the understanding to be fully explored.
  • My time is nearly up

The list could go on with other statements of a similar ilk. And you are left thinking that in mentioning about having limited time you have, you are actually using up your valuable time in the mentioning of it.

So why not just get on with your message use every bit of time that you have to helpfully convey the message of the passage and edify the people.

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