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

Where are you up to in your life of living for God by faith in Christ? Have you now reached a certain position where you feel that you no longer need to be taught certain things? If that is the case then you need to hear Peter’s message in 2 Peter 1:12-15 when he writes to his readers: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (2 Peter 1:12-15).

Peter was so keen that the Christians he was writing to continued in the faith that he was not ashamed to go over with them, the things he had taught them before. Peter considered that there were certain essential truths that it was good to continually remind Christians of.

Why did Peter’s readers, and ourselves, need to be reminded? At the heart of the issue is the problem of forgetfulness. We so easily forget things. In the midst of the busyness of life, we get caught up in our day-to-day activities and forget to contemplate the key teachings of our faith. This forgetfulness leads to us being stunted Christians who do not grow as we should. However, when we do remember the key teachings of God’s Word we are then in a place where we can grow for the Lord. Consumption of good healthy spiritual food leads to good healthy growth.

Peter has been outlining how he longs for growth in his readers (see 2 Pet. 1:5-7). He has shown them in these verses how they need to go on from faith to goodness, to knowledge, to self-control, to perseverance, to godliness, to brotherly kindness and finally to love. He has indicated in vv8-9 how there will be serious implications, as regards their spiritual welfare, if these things are lacking. In vv10-11 Peter goes on to exhort them to embrace the Lord’s purposes of grace by pressing on for God. In doing so they will be assured of their salvation.

At the heart of this message is a concern that they would never forget that they have been cleansed from their past sins (see v9b). This, it seems, would be the focus of Peter’s ongoing reminders to them. He would continuously be reminding them of what God has done for them in Christ. He would tell them of Calvary; the place where their sins were forgiven. He would tell them of a loving Lord and Saviour. The knowledge of these things gives the crucial impetus for them making progress and being assured in their faith. Let us take heed to this teaching. If we do not we put our spiritual lives in great peril.

It is pertinent at this point to consider what the writer of Hebrews was concerned about in Hebrews 6:1-2. Here we read, “Therefore, let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement.” Is this message contradictory to Peter’s writing? The writer here seems to be urging them to leave their foundations. Let us then consider what is actually happening here. The writer is urging the Hebrew Christians to move forward. There was a danger that these Christians would just dwell upon the Jewishness of the basics of their faith. In doing so they would go “round and round in circles” and make no progress. Instead they needed to use these basics as a foundation. The foundation would lead them to building lives for Christ.

This message in Hebrews does not contradict Peter’s urge to be continually reminded of the basic truths of our faith. The danger for the Hebrews was to wrongly use the basics they were taught and therefore end up not growing up in Christ. The Hebrew writer and Peter are both reminding us in different ways how we need to have the right foundations and then move forward from those foundations.

Peter’s point is that we need to be continually going over things so that we are building in the right place. So easily we create our own set of beliefs, Christianise them and think we are doing something for God. Peter will make sure that he does everything to ensure that this will not happen. We know from building construction that good foundations are essential for a solid building. Peter wants us to know our foundations so that the we build our lives to be strong and substantial for the Lord.

So beware the next time you find yourself thinking as you hear a message, “I have heard that all before and have no need to hear it again.” Stop and consider that God may be using this message as part of his schooling to make sure that you do not forget His ways. And remember if we forget His ways then we may end up having a life which is of no consequence, because we have lost contact with the true foundations which God has given for our life for Himself.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical church newsletter of Feb 2014

……at sea because people assumed things. It was assumed the boat would go in a certain direction and therefore it would avoid the rocks nearby. It was assumed that the ship would be strong enough to withstand the storm ahead. Such assumptions and many more can lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences if they prove to be false. Jack Phillips, the wireless operator  on the Titanic famously assumed that a message from another ship in the area that there were icebergs around was unimportant. He found the message bothersome because he was dealing with other messages.

Furthermore on a lesser scale relationships can be damaged through assumptions being made. A married couple might make assumptions about  how each is spending their money. If this results in an overspend or a resentment of how the money has been spent, the marriage can be harmed. And when this is taken into relationships in an organisation then all kinds of difficulties can arise. That organisation is then left functioning in a sub-optimal way because assumptions were made which led to fractured relationships. So in a church people assume others will do a certain activity without checking. As a result the whole undertaking can be messed up and fall-outs result.

In all this two things are vital:

Examination: Try and avoid making assumptions. Make sure that you examine the whole situation and determine what is the appropriate action to take. Don’t just assume things. There are times when assumptions have to be made, but the implications of those assumptions need to be considered. Assumptions can be particularly dangerous when you assume a certain course of action will lead to a certain outcome without giving full consideration to whether that is reasonable or not. In case of any doubt then be careful to check whether you have assumed correctly or not. Unnecessary assumptions are sometimes made through laziness.. This is unacceptable; do the necessary work so as to limit assumptions.

Communication: Fully communicate what assumptions you are making so that all involved know what you are assuming in a situation. It is good to be overly cautious as well. You may assume that someone will act in a certain way, but it is always best to check your assumption. Failure to do this may be disastrous if the person sees another course as appropriate. And continually be checking if your assumptions are correct so that matters can move forward in a harmonious fashion and there are no misunderstandings

In all this it is better to be safe than sorry. And it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

Still Waiting.

Some little while ago I realised we had a message on voicemail on the phone at the church building. I wondered whether, at last, it might be someone who wants to know about how to obtain salvation in Christ. Alas it was not so. Rather, it was (once again) someone enquiring about renting our building for some purpose or other.

This is one small reflection upon how we are still waiting here in Feltham for the time when we see Feltham seeking the Lord. Indifference still prevails. We seek to give out good literature. We seek to contact people and engage with people about the Lord and His gospel and yet still the mood of indifference prevails. Yes, on the street there does, I feel, seem to be more willingness to interact. But still, largely, there is indifference.

Oh yes you could criticise us as regards to our methods for reaching out.  I confess there is much weakness in this. But that still does not alter the fact that there is so little response. And so we continue to long and wait and pray and expect. The gospel is still the power of God unto salvation. The desperate state of the world is proven theologically and empirically. Lives are messed up all around. The palliatives of the world distributed to the people in the various manifestations of materialism and hedonism leave an aching heart. Yet the One who is the Bread of Life and is the source of living water is still the despised and rejected one.

Oh Lord have mercy. I leave you with this song by Stuart Townend. A song that reflects many of these yearnings I feel.

Yet may it be that these islands see a turning to the Lord. Could it even be this weekend when we start to see Feltham seeking the Lord.

Political Mutation.

It is interesting to observe how the Conservative party during this election campaign has brought forth policies which were an essential a part of the manifesto of the Labour party at the 2015 election. I heard this policy on worker’s rights, for example, being referred to as an Ed Milliband policy. This also applies to the cap on energy bills which Mrs May announced.

So what is going on here? The Labour party has, no doubt, moved to the left in terms of ideology and policy. The Conservatives are therefore seeking to fill the vacuum. This is an observation on where the parties are at.

This manoeuvring of the Conservative party is symptomatic of how political parties operate on the basis of expediency now. The historic predisposition to adopt policies that were based on principle has been substantially diminished. A prevailing ideology in a political party is not totally lost, but it holds less sway than it used to. Pragmatism now predominates.

A slightly different slant on this issue is that populism now trumps over principle. In the recent local election on May 4th it was interesting to hear those who had been victorious declaring how “they had listened to the people”. It is, of course, good to listen to people and understand where they are at. But I just got the sense that populism prevailed over any thought of acting upon principle.

All this leads me on to a niggling worry that it is no longer what is right and wrong which drives how we act as Christians individually and in church. So easily it can be what makes us popular which determines the course of action we take. This type of thinking can insidiously seep into the church from the world around. Truly, it is vital that we talk to people and seek to understand where they are but it must be principle always which drives us.

Humanistic Utopia.

The aspiration of humanism that morality can be constructed independent of religion is a lie. Such a perspective is based on a high view of the moral capacity of mankind. The assertion is that people are inherently good. Accordingly, if we get conditions to be as advantageous as possible so there are no external factors to destabilise people and their relationships, then all will end happily ever after. The kicking over of Christianity in the West has been seen as a means of releasing human beings from a straight-jacket which has stifled their development. With Christianity gone we can be free to fully develop is the thinking.

Alas the endpoint of this thinking is not found in a utopia, but rather in a dystopia. The heart of the matter is the evaluation of the condition of mankind. The humanist approach denies the reality of original sin and thereby gives an all too optimistic prognosis of mankind. The reality is though that Paul give the correct diagnosis of mankind in Romans 3:9-18

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
    there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.’
‘Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practise deceit.
‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.
    ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.
    ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Like as when an untended fire is left to is own devices so with mankind. A fire spreads to leave decimated landscape in its wake. So with sin; it also spreads to leave the decimation of humanity in its wake.

Where we would agree with the humanist though, is in saying that the answer is not in a moralistic religious crusade. A determination to uphold morals in society may make for a cleaner moral atmosphere, it does not however, deal with the root cause of mankind’s problems; namely sin. Rather it is the provision of a Saviour who deals with our sins and rescues us from them taht we need. Jesus Christ is the One who comes to be Saviour. He comes to rescue us from our plight. Our sin has set us on a pathway to eternal dystopia. However, He takes all of that judgement at His cross and we can be released into a better life. Moreover, the news is far batter than us just being left in a neutral ambiguity. We instead have a life immersed in Christ. His life is now in our lives and so we can have a new life.

The only bright future for the planet is when righteousness is established in hearts and lives through Christ. To place the hope in humanity is a disaster. We need to look to Christ.

Noah’s Priorities.

So Noah has been cooped up in the ark with a large number of animals and birds and seven other sinners for 320 days. What a relief it must have been to get out from all that smell and noise and all those sinners. In Genesis 8:18-19 we read how they ventured forth onto a cleansed earth. It must have been so clean after all the water had ebbed away. Now Noah is free, but what will he do? We think, “Noah why don’t you go and enjoy yourself? Surely you need a bit of recuperation after what you have been through.” Or we might counsel him and say: “Noah there’s so much to do, you need a home and some food. You’d better get on with it.  You don’t even know when it is going to rain again (!) and if you don’t have any crops all eight of you are going to starve.”

But Noah thought differently so we read in Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. “Why are you doing that Noah? There is so much to do and you don’t even know where you are going to get the stuff for the altar”, we might ask. So why did Noah do it?

  • The earth may be cleansed. All may be beautiful. But he realised he was a sinner. 320 days with 7 other sinners had made him very much aware that he was a sinner. We need to know this: Beautiful scenery, beautiful weather, beautiful food, beautiful drinks are all marred by the unbeautiful me. I am a sinner and I need another life to be offered up as a substitute so that I can be acceptable to God. And all these offerings anticipated our Lord Jesus and what He would do.
  • The principle for populating the ark was that all animals and birds went in two by two. But it was different with the clean birds and animals; he took seven of them. He must have pondered why? He was not told why. But, I suggest, he concluded that these must be for sacrifice. He had the example of Abel to guide him knowing that Abel was accepted on the basis of sacrifice. He determined that I only have extra of the clean so that they are to be offered up to God, not just to be there to repopulate the earth. This all indicates to us how God provides f us so that we can worship Him. Don’t forget the Lord’s day is a gift so that we can worship God. And remember above all our Lord Jesus is given so that we can be worshippers. In Him and through Him alone we can worship God. So neither should we miss the provisions of God for worship nor should we reject them.
  • He wanted to start with God. Here was a new start.  He wanted to make sure that he started by honouring God. He said I will not go forth without making sure that God is worshipped and acknowledged. And so He took the offerings and offered them up. How much we have to learn here. We so often feel I am too busy to give time to prayer and reading the Word, but such reasoning is folly. We are always headed for a mess when we adopt that reasoning. We should make sure we start everything by acknowledging the Lord. Every day, every journey, every meeting,  in everything start by bringing it to the Lord.

These motivations governed Noah’s actions as he left the ark. He left the ark with set determinations; nothing would deflect him. It is interesting to note that this would take preparation. The clean animals and birds had to be restrained for example. If he had just let them out they would soon have flown and ran away. Which prompts me to think about how much preparation do I make for the worship time in church.

It is instructive to see what the outcomes of Noah’s commitment were:-

  1. The Lord was pleased, everything in the ensuing verses indicates this. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, (Gen. 8:21a).
  2. Noah was blessed. He was now set to achieve what God had called him to, so we read in Genesis 9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

So Philip. You must learn to put God first. You ignore this at your utmost peril.

 

We breathe in the air of secular humanism constantly in the West. It is the dominating philosophy and we as Christians are relentlessly exposed to its insidious teachings. Continually, we are told that God either does not exist or if He does He is not relevant. The message is that it is material goods and possessions which are vital in determining our welfare. 

In such an atmosphere, all issues are viewed from a resource perspective. So governments are continually responding to matters by ‘throwing money’ at them. Politicians prove their success in dealing with a situation by how much resource has been put into a situation.

Having imbibed this culture we so easily follow suit in how we deal with matters in church. Accordingly, we look to bring blessing through bringing resources. Now, this of course has its place. Taking food resources to an impoverished family is going to bring blessing.

However, the reality is that the core problems of humanity are not to do with resources but to do with relationship. We were created to live in relationship with God and with other human beings. So much of the collapse of our society is to do with relationship breakdown. This may be on a macro scale when many people believe themselves disenfranchised from achieving in society. Or at a micro level with marriage and families in breakdown.

Resources do not rectify these breakdowns. There needs to be something deeper. It is only the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that can ultimately touch these issues and bring healing. When people are returning to a relationship with God then relationships with others start to heal.

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