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

Knowing Their Character

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (2 Tim. 3:14). In this scripture Paul is supporting his insistence that Timothy keep with the Word of God by reminding him about who he had learned that Word from, This instructs us that the character of those who teach us the Word gives extra reason for us to believe that Word.

This is not to say that if the Word is brought to us by someone who we know to be an infidel, or afterwards proves to be an infidel, that we reject the Word. Our Lord said in Matthew 23:2-3 that The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. The Word must be obeyed because it is the Word of the Lord.

Nevertheless we should be doing what we teach. The Word that we teach should be modelled in our lives. This is a big issue for parents and all who teach the Word to others. But it is also a critical issue in our witness generally. It is the power of a godly life which lives out the gospel, that gives credibility to that same gospel when it is shared with others. And thereby there is effective ministry which attracts people to our Lord. It may even be that someone’s sweet testimony for Christ led to you seeking the Lord.

The implication of this is that we must be aware of our proneness to hypocrisy and be vicious in rooting it out in our lives.

This also has implications for the manner in which we conduct our affairs before God. We live in an age of the all-pervasive internet and social media. It has became easy in this digital age, to meet in cyber churches or to get our spiritual food from our favourite Bible teacher online. In such a situation we very likely have no knowledge of the charachter of those who are teaching us. It should not be this way. Knowing the charachter of our teachers is a God-ordained way in which he verifies His message.

This, therefore, gives strong impetus to the need for us to be based in local churches. And in those churches we need to have leaders who do not “ivory tower” themselves. We need those who move among the people so that their lives can be seen. Paul speaks in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 about Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. The leaders were among the church in Thessalonika and that is the way it should be. If you are a church elder you need to be among the people so people can see your character.

This also cautions us against churches becoming to big. If church members are not interacting with those who teach them because the church is simply too big, then means should be put in place to resolve this situation. That may mean refining the organisation of the church,or planting another church.

Rigidity

My traversing of different churches earlier in the year has led me to ponder upon the issues related to order, rigidity, familiarity and informality. When I use these terms I am thinking of the general structure of our services.

I am left wondering whether our churches at the more conservative end of the evangelical spectrum, have not adopted an overly rigid form. We have justified under the guise of being orderly and reverent.

We have seen the excesses of the charismatic movement and deemed that anything that smells of the charismatic approach to worship needs to be rejected. So as soon as someone lifts their hands or claps or moves their body in worship, we conclude, with pharisaical like undertones, that they are “going charismatic”. This, of course, alternatively, means they are “going-off-the-rails.”

We instead stick with our rigid formality and comfort ourselves on being faithful and reverent whilst all the time having no sense of God.

Now I am not arguing for chaos. But I am arguing that we need to think about how we reflect the working of God in our services. I know that some people (and some cultures) are more demonstrative in worship than others and perhaps we. anglo-saxon Brits. are less so. But surely there can be more room for the showing of emotion and expressing that in different ways in our worship services. In this context I have written previous;y here about David and Michal.

Let us also be thoughtful of those from those more demonstrative cultures who come among our churches. I feel we have lost many over the years from our church, Feltham Evangelical, because they could not accommodate themselves to our church culture. Many, I feel, we could have led into a better understanding of God’s way, but alas they moved on from us. There were things they liked about our church, but we expected them to adjust too much. In the end they went somewhere they were more comfortable with. It all makes me wonder whether we could have done more to prevent this.

 

 

The book of Acts is a marvellous book to study. it is a book of action. It is the book which presents to us the great establishing of God’s new regime; the church. The church starts in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and spreads as a living organism through the known world.

The first twelve chapters, in many ways, lay the foundations for the work of the Lord’s grace down the ages to the Lord’s return. In these chapters the work of God is established in all groups of people. From starting out as a Jewish entity by the end of chapter twelve the church has well and truly become an entity where all are accepted into the same group. Jews and Gentiles of whatever, race and background come together as one on the basis of being accepted by God through faith in Jesus Christ.

In chapter 13 there is a transition. Paul and Barnabas are set apart (see vv1-3) to be the chief leaders in bringing forward, under God, the spread of this church. I want then briefly to look at what happens in ch 13 vv4-12 as the work of God begins to move forward and outwards:

  • The Holy Spirit works through the church. In v3 we read that “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. the church sent Paul and Barnabas off to their new ministry,” However, in v4a we read “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit. ” So we ask who did the sending? The church and the Holy Spirit did. The Holy Spirit works through the church to move forward his work. It is essential to remember this as we engage in the work of the Lord’s grace. The Holy Spirit works with and through the church. This is the normal way of God’s workings.
  • They preached the Word of God. in v5 we hear that “They proclaimed the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues,” Their priority in starting out in mission was to preach the Word of God. And so it should be for us. The Word of God should have priority.
  • Strange things happen and strange people appear. There is a Jewish man who is a sorcerer. We might say what is he doing there? A Jewish man involved in sorcery; that cannot be! And not only that he was a false prophet as well (see v6). For the Jews, a sorcerer and a false prophet should have had been completely rejected, but there he was. There are many things that are not explainable, Paul and Barnabas are not preoccupied by this strange development; they get on with the work. Yes, they rebuke him (see vv9-11), but this was because they were set on the Word going forward to the proconsul. We need to be fixed on getting on with the work ourselves. Odd things happen and incongruous situations transpire, but these should not divert us. We must continue with the work of getting the Word out.
  • However, there is an intelligent man there who wants to hear the Word (see v7). Truly intelligent men always want to truly hear the Word. People may have a poor intellect, but if they want the Word they are intelligent. Let us be praying that we find them.
  • Barnabas and Saul were together and known to be together. In v7 the pro-consul called for both of them. It is good to work in fellowship with others.

In these verses we see certain patterns set for how the work of God will progress to the nations through the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. In many ways patterns are set that do well to follow today. In our ministry we should have the same priorities of Paul and Barnabas:

  • Fellowship with the Lord’s Church.
  • Dependence on the Holy Spirit working through the church.
  • Preaching the Word.
  • Not being diverted from the ministry.
  • Finding “intelligent” men.
  • Working with other godly believers.

Love Island

So as I sit down to my breakfast I am greeted by some advert on the Kelloggs cornflakes packet about winning tickets to the Love Island finale.

Now I have never watched Love Island, and so some would say, I am in no position to say anything. However, I am aware enough, to know that it is about watching beautiful people interacting and manoeuvring around and with each other to see who ends up having sex with who. Please correct me if I am wrong in that understanding. This is now prime entertainment in our culture and the advert on the Kelloggs packet tells me how mainstream it has become.

Apparently only the football beat Love Island into second place for popular TV watching in 2018 for 18 to 34 year-olds. And all the while reports come out that we are having less sex than ever.

Oh what a mess this all is. That which is a precious gift from God to be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage, by a man and a woman (husband and wife), has become cheap entertainment. Now you can argue about it being a study in how people interact in certain circumstances, but surely that is a smokescreen for the fact that people watch it for who is going to go with who and how far.

And while we titillate ourselves in our voyeuristic engagement with Love Island we have lost the real joy of sex. Marriages that can be sweetened by this beautiful gift are losing out.

We are a society saturated by sex and increasingly we have not got a clue what it’s for and how it should fit in with our lives. All the while the pornography industry prospers, nicely nudged along by Love Island of course and lives are ruined.

If only we would stick with God’s plan we would be saved from all this mess of course. Strange that isn’t it? No, not strange at all because God’s way is always the best way.

And Lord please have mercy on our nation. In losing you we are losing everything.

Our Sins Are Gone.

The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel (see Jer. 50:18a) says in Jeremiah 50:20. 

In those days, at that time,’
    declares the Lord,
‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt,
    but there will be none,
and for the sins of Judah,
    but none will be found,
    for I will forgive the remnant I spare.

This is such good news. Guilt resulting from the committal of sins is the fundamental problem of the human race. It is because of sins that we will eternally die. It is not poverty, disease or a miscellany of a myriad of things that will damn us, it is our sin. We stand guilty before the eternal judgement throne of the eternal Judge. We face the sentence of “guilty” and the punishment of death.

Then the good news comes there is no guilt; it is gone. There are no sins; they are gone. We are in Romans 8:1 territory: there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because of our Lord Jesus taking our sins and our guilt to Calvary’s cross we can rejoice with Israel and Judah about removed guilt and removed sins. Oh precious is the fact of our Lord Jesus giving himself. So let us believe in Him afresh and rejoice in Him afresh.

If these fundamental truths grip our hearts we will be set for a good Lord’s Day tomorrow.

Some churches are always waiting and some other churches are always working. Rather the case should be that all churches are both waiting and working churches.

The waiting church is always pushing back to God, but never moving forward into activity. Whilst the working church is always busy with its programs, but never taking time to seek after the Lord.

If you study the schedule of a church you can generally tell in which direction the church is veering. A lot is revealed by what is contained in the calendar of the church. The waiting church has lots of prayer times. The active church has lots of services and events and activities.

So where are we to be with these things? How are we to get the balance? The most important thing is to start in the right place. The believers at the beginning of the book of Acts were urged to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Whilst with his apostles  we read of our Saviour: And while stayingwith them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:4-5)A principle is set here for us to be waiting upon the Lord as a first priority. 

Waiting must always come before working, but waiting should never be alone. In Acts chapter 2 we see the working church bearing witness to the mighty grace of our Lord.

Moreover we see in Acts 2 how their work is effective work as we see the dramatic impact they have as they testify to the Lord and His ways and declare the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Their labour is not in vain as they see many won for the Lord Jesus.

So we learn for our churches, but also with great personal relevance that when we prioritize waiting we will always be settling ourselves up in a good way. However, if we do not move forward into working then the value of our waiting can be lost.

Prayer and Recovery

I write this pondering upon how I am immeasurably recovered from where I was five months ago. My mental and emotional state now is incomparable to how I was when in the depths of weakness and despair through depression. If you want to follow the issue of my depression please follow the “Depression (Again)” posts which start here

I write this wanting to thank all who have prayed to the Lord for me. I am grateful for all who have shown an interest in me. I am grateful for all who have encouraged me. But I am left, above all, pondering upon the issue of the power and impact of prayer to the Lord by different ones for me.

Paul says to Philemon about how, through prayer, he expected something to happen. He writes: At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you (Phile. 22).

I am left wondering about how much of my recovery is down to the fact that people, including possibly yourself, have prayed for me. God really does work through prayer.

I am reminded of what I wrote here from Jackie Hill Perry about how she believed her coming to Christ was bound up with prayer.

Which all leaves me pondering upon how much of Philippians 4:6-7 is being seen in my life. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Oh may you and me be encouraged to be praying for people and situations and believing God really does work through prayer.

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