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

Feelings Always Win?!

I want to run to you a hypothetical scenario.

So there this man Rodney; he was brought up in a reasonably “normal” English home. His parents divorced when he was six and he was therefore mainly brought up by his Mum, But otherwise it was a steady background. Now, though, he is 25 and is in Iraq fighting with Islamic State. His journey to this position was full of mental turmoil and emotional struggles. His views on life started to change when he was nineteen. He became disenchanted with the decadence of ‘The West’. Then he started to watch propaganda videos online from Islamic idealists. He started frequenting chatrooms online. Through all this he was going through much anguish as he feared upsetting his family. He feared the reaction from his friends as he moved into the extremist version of Islam. He finally came out into the open after much heart-searching. And now he is fighting and killing in Iraq in the name of Allah.

If you have bought into the prevailing ethos in The West that feelings trump everything, then you are obligated to accept that this is a perfectly reasonable outcome for Rodney. He has been through so much, you see, to get to being an Islamic fighter and so it would be totally wrong of you to say anything against Rodney’s position.

Which all leads me to say that the next time you hear someone arguing a moral point on the basis of feelings, be concerned. Just because someone went through a lot of turmoil to get to a certain position it does not mean that they got to the right position.

My Dad

My Dad would have been 95 today and I do so very much miss him. I share this which I wrote shortly after his passing:-

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During the afternoon of Tuesday January 3rd 2006 a great man passed away. Clarence Venables died in Chapel Brook Nursing Home in Congleton. This man who lived all his days in a small village in a pleasant part of rural England was a great man. Not known outside of a relatively small circle and yet a great man. How do we measure greatness? One way is to consider the beneficial impact that a man has on the lives of others.

A great family man Married to Evelyn for nearly 54 years (they were due to celebrate their anniversary on January 9th), he kept to his wedding vows in loving and cherishing his wife over this long period of time. And was it all straight forward? Of course not! Whenever is marriage all straight forward! And yet through joys and sorrows, easy times and hard times; he continued as a devoted husband.

Four children were given to them in marriage; John, Christine, Andrew and Philip who were born over ten years between 1952 and 1962. Through diligent hard work he provided for his family so that they never lacked. All were supported in their chosen careers. He never wavered in his duty to be a supportive father. Even when they grew older he was always there as a wise elder statesman to give his caring wisdom. For example, when John was going through hard days as he settled at High Lees Dad was there to call upon for support and give advice.

His family being together was always special and important to him. He was perhaps never happier than on those occasions when his children and grandchildren were surrounding him. There was, no doubt, some poetic providential beauty in the family gathering which took place at Mere View when all children and grandchildren were together on the night before he died. Of course he was absent, but it would have been such a special joy to him.

A great farmer He took on the tenancy of Hills Green Farm upon his marriage in 1952. He thereby was involved in managing the farm over a period of unprecedented change in the agricultural industry. Under his capable management the farm changed and moved forward. He farmed with due care for his animals and the countryside where he was privileged to work. He saw the business through great transitions whilst gradually from 1968 transferring responsibility to his sons; first John and then to Andrew.

A great employer His employees always would know his reasonableness. He expected them to work and work hard, but never exploited them. Due wages were always paid on time. Workers were always supported. He stood by his staff during their difficulties when possibly others would not have been so understanding.

A great community man He served his local community with diligence. His main contribution was in his service to the Siddington Parish Council which he served as a member from 1972 until 2002 being Chairman from 1982 until 1985. True to his character he fulfilled his duties with undemonstrative reliability.

Further he was a National Farmers Union (NFU) member. He served as chairman of the Chelford branch in 1975 to 1976.

A great man of sport Herein lay one of his great interests outside of his farming. All sports were of some interest to him except for motor sports which never really captured him. Football and cricket were his main passions. In the football realm he actively supported, Macclesfield Town, Stoke City, Siddington and Congleton Young Farmers over different periods. He was not the detached analyst rather he was the committed supporter. So at the matches there was always a passionate desire for his team to win. And as a committed supporter he had the natural tendency towards bias.

At different times the children were taken along as Dad would go to support his team. One highlight was in 1971 when they ventured down to Wembley to see Macclesfield triumph in the FA Trophy final against Telford.

Then there was the great love of his summer life; the life on the bowling green. Whether it was for the Dixon Arms or the Chelford NFU teams, he plied his sport with great success. Clarence urging his “woods” on with due fervour was a familiar sight across the bowling greens of Cheshire. Moreover, he treasured the camaraderie that he shared with “friend and foe” alike.

A great visiting man Oh how many people were thankful for a visit from Clarence. Unannounced he would drop round to many who were lonely and desperate for someone to talk to. The widows of Siddington and communities were kept from feeling forgotten and alone because one man cared enough to visit. He surely could have given night classes to teach others the skills of caring visitation.

It is worth noting that in this age when values have been so corrupted it is mark of his integrity that his wife, Evelyn, never had any reason to question his motives in doing this.

He is missed by so many in this respect. He was a man who even in the midst of a busy life had enough time to be kind to so many. He was a generous man.

A great market man He was a man who loved his visits to Chelford Market. His time with other farmers and cattle dealers was special to him as he discussed prices and market movements along with other issues of greater or lesser weight. Monday was a special day for him as it was market day. And after lunch with his group of friends at the market he set off on his round of regular visits.

A great man of principle This perhaps gets to the heart of who Clarence was. This is because he was a man who had firm principles. Through thick and thin he did not depart from the deep seated principles which he had learned in his early days. These convictions undergirded by biblical moral principles were the basis of his operations in the family, business and community spheres. So, for example, there was no working on Sunday other than to do the essential farm work.

With this moral framework determining his conduct he was a man who was respected by so many. A reliable and trustworthy man; one who gave his word and stuck by it. Yet he was not afraid to give a rebuke if he thought someone’s conduct warranted it. Accordingly, he was truly a man to be respected. He knew that money and temporary success were not the key issues in life. Clarence was a selfless man who preferred others rather than himself.

However it must be mentioned that he was not a dour man. He had a splendid understated sense of fun. Many will remember that little twinkle in his eye as something humorous struck him. But in having fun he always sought to maintain purity and it would never be at the expense of others.

A great caring man He was no Pharisee because his commitment to principle never prevented him exercising great care to other people. In fact it was, no doubt, his commitment to principle which drove him on to care for others. The comforting arm around Bunty Reeves as she mourned the loss of her husband, Cyril, at his graveside in early 1981 was just an example of his thoughtfulness.

His daughter, Christine, returning home too late one night from a night out was greeted with an arm of comfort and “I am glad that you are home”. Christine did not need to know that she had done wrong. Such welcoming words were honey to her heart.

A great religious man Brought up in Methodism he switched allegiance to the Anglican Church in the village in the 1970’s upon the closure of the Methodist Chapel. As he outworked his commitment to the church he desired that his children be given opportunity to learn of the things which he believed to be important and be found in the church. He served as a Church Warden and Sidesman at Siddington Church.

A great persevering man Life was not always easy for him. He lost his Mum when he was thirteen. The day was like any other day until he returned home from school to find that his mother had suddenly died. As can be expected this event had a massive impact upon him. What is more, in his late teenage years and early twenties he was particularly afflicted by severe mental troubles. These tendencies in many ways never fully left him and few people know how he fought against depressive illness throughout his whole life. What Winston Churchill called “his black dog” was also an unwanted companion for Clarence.

Herein perhaps lies the key determining factor of Clarence’s greatness. He was great because he accomplished so much even though he had suffered so much. These sufferings would have beaten others who were of a lesser calibre. Perhaps, his wife Evelyn and sister Kathleen are the people who really know the depth of these afflictions which would have destroyed many.

 

Clarence was, then, a great man. The Telegraph will not carry his obituary, but the farming community in Cheshire know that they have lost one of their greatest. We mourn, but we remember; a great husband, a great father, a great farmer, a great friend; …… a great man.

 

Age Of The Church.

This is the age of the church. We live in the church age. We live in the time when God is choosing to bring glory to His name through the church. The church is the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ and more. The universal church of all believers is being built and that church is manifest in all the individual churches which have been created for the honour of our Lord Jesus.

The book of Revelation gives specific messages to this world for the strengthening of God’s people and it gives them to churches. The letters to the seven churches indicate to us that God makes a priority of revealing Himself to and through His church.

All this should remind us of the priority we should give to the church. There seems something amiss when a Christian is casual about church. In doing so they are being casual about something that God sets a high honour to.

We need to think about Him speaking to churches as well. He delights to speak when the people are together in church to hear and consider His Word. So we surely must set a priority on being in church to hear His Word.

An Ever Reliable Lord.

In Micah 7:1-6 we see portrayed a society which is in collapse. It is headlined with the exclamation “What misery is mine!” (Mic. 7:v1a). We are then told of crop failure (1b), disappearance of the godly (v2a), brutality (v2b), corruption (v3), a land filled with useless people (v4a), a people set for judgement (v4b), relationships (even the closest) filled with conflict and deceit (vv5-6).

Into such a situation Micah emerges with a great affirmation of his trust in the Lord. He says: But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me. (Mic. 7:7). What a word this is!  A word to tell of light in darkness and rescue from a disintegrating world. He tells of a personal relationship with a God who is his Saviour. How remarkable it is that he can have hope in such a mad situation. And, oh to seize the promise that we have a God, who is Micah’s God and that God will hear us.

We live in the West which, with its feelings based culture, is increasingly developing characteristics of Micah 7:1-6. So what a joy to know that there is Micah 7:7 to hang on to and a God who never fails.

 

The End Of The World.

I heard Tope Koleoso say, in the context of church leadership some years ago, that “very few things are the end of the world.” As someone who very easily panics and has panicked when things have gone in a certain direction in the church, this was a reassuring statement.

I, therefore, seek to remember this maxim, when things happen in the life of the church which I perceive to be undesirable. Such happenings can be greeted with thoughts that a bad precedent has been set, or this will lead to conflict, or this will unnecessarily upset certain people or this will cost a lot of money to put right or ….. In it all I have sought to remember that “very few things are the end of the world”.

So when others are encouraging panic or quick reactions or generally getting stressed out about something I have sought to continue to get the “very few things are the end of the world” perspective. Moreover, when considering things calmly if decisions have been made which prove to be wrong, they can very often be changed.

And in all this we must remember that our Lord is the sovereign Lord. And He is in charge of all things. So have faith in God Philip

Enjoy Life

How do you enjoy life? We enjoy life when we please our Maker who is the living God.

How do we know what please Him? We know what pleases Him through His law. His law tells us what he loves and hates.

So when we follow His law we are on the way into enjoying life.

God’s law is condensed into two core commandments by our Lord Jesus as follows in Matthew 22:37-39:

 ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

So stop now for five minutes and before God consider:

  • How can love God with all my heart soul and mind? Perhaps that means responding to God with thankfulness for some blessing from God or dwelling upon some beautiful characteristic of the Lord.
  • How can I love my naighbour? That might lead you to thank about a kindness you can do, or a thankfulness you can offer or an encouragement you can give.

And then seek to do this every day. The outcome might be more drastic than you expect. This is because when you obey God’s law you please Him and that is when we enjoy life.

I Struggle Too.

What impression do I give as a church leader. One model, which is quite common, is that of the “I’ve got it all sorted, try and be like me” elder. This person refuses to reveal any problems in his life for fear that everyone will then judge him as a failure. Accordingly, such a person is very much cut-off from the people. And when they see him on a Sunday morning in front of them they think he has no idea of what struggles they are having.

Such a model seems to exist on the basis of a denial of reality and is not helpful for the congregation or the leader. For the leader he is trapped in a “putting on a front” lifestyle. He is of no help to himself and no help to his people.

It seems to be a far more sensible approach to be free in sharing our struggles. In this model we are very much aware that we are a church member before we are a church leader. this is a very important order to have in place. If we have it the other way round with the “I am a Church Leader” motif prevailing then we can very soon become the professional who must put on a good appearance at all costs. If you are first of all, a brother in the family of God you can know fellowship with those in the church as you pray for one another and support one another in all your struggles. Moreover, the people can relate to; they know that when you preach you are also a fellow struggler with them. They know that you feel with them in their infirmities.

This reminds me of the model of our Lord and how his suffering in the world provides the motivation for our coming to Him. In Hebrews 4:14-16 we read: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

We also need to be aware of not taking the declaring of my struggles too far. If you are always mentioning how messed up you are it becomes a bit wearisome. It becomes in may ways a subtle self-advertisement.

 So as church elders let us be careful about how we portray ourselves before others. The effectiveness of our ministries depends on it.

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