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

Our Satisfied God

There is only one being in the universe who is self-satisfied. That being is our God. That being is the God who being One exists in three persons. In the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit there is perfection and each finds full fulfilment in this sharing together. There is no stifling of their persons in this serene atmosphere of perfect Oneness.

As the being created of God, as head over His whole creation whether animate or inanimate, we are formed in the image of God. That image has been marred disastrously by sin. Notwithstanding this, the reality remains that we who are in the image of God have been made for fellowship with God. And it is only when we connect into the all self-satisfied God that we enter into satisfaction.

Satisfaction seeking is a phenomenon which is essential to our human existence. The idolatrous practices that we engage in are an expression of a search for meaning and satisfaction. Driving these pursuits is the mantra “And when I am satisfied I will be comfortable with who I am”.

Alas the satisfaction seeking in this world does not deliver because the place of all satisfying rest, God Himself, is eschewed. We only enter into satisfaction when we enter fellowship with the God is is essentially self-satisfied.

The Word of God says For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Pet. 3:18). The purpose of God is that we should be brought to Himself. The purpose of Christ coming to this world was that we should have a relationship with God. And this is NOT misery and it is not just something that some who are of the more religious bent might find beneficial. It is the finding of life and that in all its fullness.

Our God is Life and offers that life to us, His image bearing creatures. Oh come enter in and enjoy. Enjoy God; enjoy life.

Rethinking Church

The restrictions on the numbers of people who are able to gather together are very likely to be with us for sometime. Social distancing has soon become a part of our vocabulary and a part of experiencing community together. This has had significant ramifications for churches and how they operate.

I suggest that this should not just be viewed as something to be “sat out” until it passes. Rather, it should be seen as something that gives us opportunity to advance.

Two consequences of the coronavirus outbreak for churches are that there are larger churches which are finding it impossible to congregate as one gathering. There are also smaller congregations which are finding it hard to continue. This is on top of the disused and redundant church buildings that are around.

It seems to me that there now needs to be some smart thinking about what this means. Is there not an opportunity to “seize the day” and start to re-occupy some of these building by splitting the larger congregation to form smaller churches which will be able to meet properly as church

Through this, buildings will be rescued and the witness of the church can spread to more areas.

There needs to be some brave thinking from every side. Flagging congregations need to be brave to admit that they are petering out. Larger congregations need to be brave to realise that they may no longer be able to enjoy their bigness with all its slick events and impressive happenings.

Knowledge of Good and Evil

The taking of the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was seriously bad news for humanity. Since then mankind has encroached upon territory which we should never have ventured into. We have become determinants of good and evil when such should always have been determined by God. Not that good can ultimately become bad and bad can become good; such is existentially impossible. This is because God alone determines the essence of good and bad and that is fixed.

However, what we can do is advance on a process whereby we redefine good and evil according to our own proclivities. This can be done on an individual basis, community basis or societal basis. Isaiah 5:8-30 we see the portrayal of a society which has lost its moral bearings. In v20 the Lord says:

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter! 

Five things I would observe:

  1. The concept of right and wrong begs the existence of a standard by which right and wrong can be judged. If that standard is based on consensus then it is a continually moving phenomenon. When opinions change so does “right” and “wrong”
  2. The use of right and wrong reveals an awareness in human beings that there are things which are wholesome and things which are harmful. This is ever an indication that we are made in the image of the God who has eternally established, in conformity with His holy being, that right brings well-being and wrong brings decay.
  3. When we look to ourselves to be determinators of right and wrong we are set upon either conflict or totalitarianism. We have conflict because different peoples or communities categorise right and wrong in different ways. Inevitably this leads to conflict between those communities. We have totalitarianism where there is a determination to avoid conflict. Accordingly, conflict is snuffed out by forcing everyone to agree with a moral code determined by an individual or an elite coterie who impose their philosophy.
  4. We are a people designed to function properly when we flow with the rulings of our Maker. We are created in the image of God and we are designed to function in appropriate God-ordained ways. We self-destruct when we decide we are going to set the rules. It is like a car engine rebelling against the fuel that is meant to power it. In such a mutinous act the spark of the engine catches the fuel and the whole car explodes. We are meant to be fuelled by God’s Spirit of wisdom. Alas awe have rejected that and humanity has exploded so as there to be in a God-resistant chaotic mess.
  5. Individualism is driven out of a tendency to self-define good and evil. So you have your right and Wrong and I have mine. In a utopian view each should be left to happily co-exist. Alas when this individualism is mixed with our tendency to assert self-interest whether that be regarding myself or my community, an inevitable conflict develops. Hence, in our rebellion utopia is a forlorn aspiration.

“Rule Of Six” Etc.

The new “Rule of Six” came into effect on Monday, 14th September, in England. This means that significant restrictions still apply in respect of who we can meet with and how. This obviously indicates that the main thrust to deal with the coronavirus outbreak is to curtail social activities and thereby seek to restrict the spread.

I would be hesitant to condemn this approach out-of-hand, because I am not well enough informed. Moreover, there is still a binding call on me to submit to the authorities out of reverence to God. However, I would just mention a few things:

What of Belarus? When the outbreak hit Europe in March Belarus was seemingly the only country to carry on as normal. It is interesting that each weekend, presently, brings the country to the news because of the protests against the President. The inference I take from this is that the country is not being prevented from continuing with its normal activities by Covid-19. So what did happen and what is happening in Belarus as regard to the spread and impact of coronavirus? Did they make the right call?

The assumption in the news here is that lockdown was the right approach. The standard portrayal is that the government was too sluggish and we should have been in lockdown earlier. But surely the question has to be asked whether lockdown was and whether it continues to be the best approach.

The rules on social engagement which prevailed from May 13th to September 13th left a degree of haziness which left everyone having to work things out as regards to implementing the mixture of law and guidance. In one respect it was confusing, but it generally led to a reasonableness in peoples’ attitudes to one another and also in the attitudes of the authorities.

But now everything is very clear cut; six and only six. I fear that that this will give licence for the authorities to be invading so many inappropriate settings such as children’s parties and family gatherings. Moreover, it is a snoopers charter which could lead to the potential poisoning of many relationships.

And further down the line I fear that we could have changed social attitudes through this. This might lead to us being open to a more totalitarian way of operating. This could happen because we have got used to living in suspicion of one another and with over-intrusive activities by the authorities such as the police. Combine this with the anti-Christian wind in our nation and it could easily lead to a society of informants and very uncomfortable times for true believers.

As I mention that I realise such could lead to a great purifying of the church. So out of a negative could come a big positive.

I possibly muse too freely, but we need to be thoughtful about these situations. One thing is clear we need to be declaring and living by the better hope that we have in Christ our Lord. “Solid joys and lasting treasures none, but Zion’s children know.” The world is passing away; let us cleave to the Lord.

Rethinking Evangelism

It seems to be that the coronavirus outbreak is a providential opportunity to rethink our evangelism. One thing that I think should now be consigned to history is the emphasis on “come and see” or “attractional” events. What I am referring to are those events, whether they be formal services or more social arrangements, whereby we, as churches organise them with the intention that people come to us in order to be evangelised.

Through the impact of coronavirus people are now being instructed to avoid congregating at social events. The “Rule of Six” which is due to become law in England on September 14th will only intensify this feeling. It seems to me to be nonsense at this present time to be expecting people to be coming from outside into our church buildings to attend these events. On top of this in organising them we have to have regard to all the rules that are presently in place.

We have to be thinking rather about how we reach people where they are. This may means through person-to-person means or online means. But going and telling seems to be what we must be about rather that waiting and telling.

This brings us in line with how we should have been thinking all along. There used to be a time when people in the UK would “come and see”, but that passed away in the middle of the twentieth century. Since then we have largely been “flogging a dead horse” with “come and see” evangelism.

And it is the way that we should be going because our Lord told us to go and make disciples. He did not say arrange a meeting and wait; He said go. The Lord when He called Andrew and Peter did not say that they were to be restaurateurs. He told them rather that they would be fishers. Fishers go where the fish are. Restaurateurs wait for the punters to come in.

Lets us seize the opportunity to prayerfully and carefully go and make disciples now.

Of “Masks” and ……….

You are not obliged to wear a mask when you visit a shop in England. Neither by the law of the land are you required to wear a mask when attending a church service.

What you are required to do in both of those instances is to wear a face covering (see government guidance here). Now a mask is one version of a face covering, but not the only version. Face shields also constitute face coverings, for example, and can be legitimately used to keep the law.

Here then are five reasons to encourage people to think about the use of face shields:

  • Comfort. Face masks tend to engender moisture accumulation around the mouth.
  • Awkward. Face masks lead to the misting up of your glasses if you are a wearer of spectacles.
  • Visual. Other people can actually see your face when you have face shields. They can see your expression. You actually feel you are having contact with them.
  • The Face. Your face is a critical part of being you. The hiding of your face under a mask has a dehumanising effect. God has created us with faces to reveal who we are. Speaking mask to mask is not healthy for social relationships.
  • Deaf people. Deaf or hard of hearing peole rely on lip reading. You never know when you will come across someone in this category. It is courteous to be prior aware of the possibility of encountering such a person. Love determines that having a face shield shows sensitivity towards the deaf and hard of hearing.

So can we please ditch this thinking about the necessity of wearing masks. It is not necessary. There are other alternatives that can be used to fulfil the need to where a face covering.

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for September 2020. It has an article on “Go Love Again.”

Persevering In Ministry

Here is a very helpful brief post about persevering in the service of the Lord. I think it applies beyond that of just pastoral ministry.

One nuance I would apply to the points made is that of the danger of just loving preaching per se. From the points made by Mr Stegeman I would emphasize the connection between the first two and major in point two on the need to love preaching to people.

Oh Lord help me to continue for you.

Prayer Changes Us

And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white (Lk. 9:29). This describes what happened to our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. Prayer changed Him. In the process of prayer His face and appearance was altered.

This leads me on to the observation that the key impact of prayer is not that it changes things, but rather that it changes us. Communication with our God and Father in prayer re-frames us into His likeness. When we pray we are altered for good. Prayer brings us to encounter our God and know Him and His good purpose.

This leads me to ponder upon whether my demeanour reveals that I am a praying man. Those who pray are generally serene and have a calmness about them. Those who pray know the One who is in control of all things and that is reflected in their disposition. Those who pray know the workings of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly those who pray will have the fruit of the Spirit on display in their lives.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal;. 5:22-23a) is how Paul describes the traits formed by the workings of the Spirit. The person who prays has those in their lives.

A praying person is a changing person. He is being formed into the likeness of Christ. Can people tell from my appearance that I am a praying person?

Meeting People At Home

One of the key means by which Christians are called to build up relationships with one another is through hospitality. Very often the best way, but not the only way, of achieving this is by welcoming people into our homes.

I wrote yesterday about my perception of the way the government’s policy in response to the coronavirus outbreak has been working out. I specifically contextualised this in the context of churches. Please read that here. In that piece I emphasised the difference between “shoulds” and “musts”. The understanding of these terms also has a bearing upon how we can exercise hospitality now.

A consulting of the relevant document about meeting with people from other households, which is here, places the statement about who and how we can meet people in the “should” category. This means that it is not a matter of law and mandatory, but rather strongly advised. I wrote about the implications of the “must” and “should” terms yesterday (see here). Accordingly, it may be unwise to have more than one household to your home, but not illegal.

In all this we need to remember the essential thrust of government policy is to “stay alert” so as to “stop the spread”.

One further issue we need to thoughtful of is the impression that we are giving to our neighbours. We need to consider that our neighbours may have no awareness of the nuance between “musts” and “shoulds”. If our neighbours are continually seeing different people going in and out of our homes they may be alarmed at the way we are conducting ourselves. We may feel we are exercising due caution and wisdom. However, we need to be thoughtful about the impact upon our witness before them.

Let us not forget though in all this that we are called into a community of faith as believers. We need each other and proper social interaction is a means of facilitating this. We are called to exercise hospitality.

We go forward seeking to be wise and honour the Lord at this difficult and confusing time.

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