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

There is an interesting event recorded as our Saviour heads for the cross in Luke 23:27-31. The passage reads as follows.

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then

‘“they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
    and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”

For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

 

As the Lord is headed for the gruesome suffering of the cross, a group of ladies emerge on to the scene demonstrably showing their grief and sympathy. But the Lord does not want their sympathy. He rather wants them to consider their own position in the light of oncoming events. Desperate times are ahead and they need to be thinking of what that means for themselves and their children.

AD 70 brought these catastrophic predictions to fruition as the Romans ransacked Jerusalem.

It is interesting that the Lord did not enter this world to win sympathy. He rather came to win a people for His Father and Himself. There were a multitude of ways that He could have legitimately played the sympathy card. After all, He was the ultimate “good boy” who was being treated disgracefully. But, no, he wanted and was working for the obedience of faith. He wanted people right with God; not taking pity on Him. The spiritual welfare of others supplanted any aspirations for personal popularity.

We must take heed to this in our serving the Lord. There are times when we can be treated badly even abominably by people and thereby think that we deserve some pity and sympathy. Alas, that should never be pour priority.

Our priority should always be to see others following Christ on account of our service. We relentlessly commit ourselves to this disciple-making agenda. We want no glory or pity for ourselves, but the consecration of others to our Lord Christ.

Roberto Firmino – Baptism

This video here about the baptism of Roberto Firmino has been doing the rounds this week. It has appeared in all sorts of connections.

In seeing the video on people’s facebook feeds etc. I am left wondering about whether people are all being a bit hasty in passing it on. The testimony itself seems somewhat hazy. I may be being cynical, but having Alisson there as well adds to the publicity effect and big impression.

Then there is the Hillsong connection with all the questionable theology connected therewith.

All this leads me to wonder about the issue of discernment. The concomitant implication of laying hands suddenly on no-one (see 1 Tim. 5:22) also comes to mind. We are so easily taken in by the impressive,

I may be being an overly-cautious misery-merchant. And of course should rejoice over one sinner who repents. But I have not read anything here about repentance. And that makes me suspicious.

In many ways I would be glad if this post is wrong, but I just wanted to express my concerns.

Depression (Again) (13)

It is a year today since I reached the lowest point of my episode of serious depression around the turn of the year. On January 17th I pulled out of work to seek to get myself better.

It is sobering to look back over this year. In it I see how there has been so much to learn. To be reminded of our weakness is never a bad thing. It teaches us of our need to rely on our God and also upon others. This passage from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 has been ever so precious to me:

 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I trust I have learnt to eschew the peril of self-dependence which afflicts so many of us, particularly in the West. To have tasted that his grace is sufficient is a beautiful thing. I trust I will always be experiencing that reality.

I do now feel so much better in terms of my mental and emotional health. I thank my Father for this.  I trust I am a more caring and sympathetic person on account of what I have experienced.

I remember the pain though and do not want to go there again. But I have learnt so much through the experience.

Now feeling so much better there is that tendency to think that I might be able to get off my medication. To be anti-depressant free is, in a sense, the holy grail of the depression sufferer. Wisdom convinces me that it’s only in a better land with the Lord when that will be the case. There there will be no more pain and suffering. There will be no more depression when we are with the Lord. In the meantime I walk with a limp.

I do not know what the future holds, but I do know the One who holds the future. So by faith we seek to go forward.

 

 

Stewarding / Greeting

This satirical video (which you can find here) about those who have responsibility for greeting people at church will, at least, have you smiling (possibly even creased up laughing).

It humorously deals with what is. in many ways, a very serious issue. I feel welcoming people at church is one of those ministries which can be taken for granted. It is seen as something that is easy to do and is on little consequence in the whole maelstrom of church life. I believe this to be an inappropriate assessment.

The way people are welcomed at the door is so important. Some may be coming to church with many griefs and burdens; a cheery greeting at the door can uplift them and set them up for a good time at church. Some would be coming to your church for the first time. The first impression those people get of the church is likely to be with those greeting them on the door.

Those involved in stewarding / door duty should be gifted with awareness and sensitivity. They need to potentially deal with people becoming ill or other eventualities. Their competence, or lack thereof can effect  how church goes for many people.

So take note of those in your church who are involved in this vital ministry. Pray for them and encourage them as they seek to serve the Lord.

Envy

Envy is a sin that can grip the souls of all of us, It is that sense of displeasure that arises when we here of others being successful or prospering in a certain way. Church leaders are particularly susceptible to these things.

King Saul was an envious man. We read this of him in 1 Samuel 18:6-9:

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul kept an eye on David from that day on.

This is a display of envy which shows all the classic features thereof.

  1. It does not delight in the success of others. Saul did not celebrate David’s achievements.
  2. It hates to hear others being praised over and above yourself.
  3. It seeks harm for the other person. We read how Saul’s envy led to him wanting and striving to eliminate David.
  4. Envy takes a soul from love to hate. We read  And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armour bearer (1 Sam. 16:21). Alas this love faded and was supplanted by hatred. So we read:  And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David ( 1 Sam. 19:2).

If you are a church leader it is easy to slip into envying other church leaders and churches. They have more numbers; they have better gifts: they receive more mention in the Christian press: they see more people being converted. The list could go on.

In many ways when we lose sight of our Saviour then envy can infect our souls. When we see our Saviour giving up all for our sins, we start to see our bankruptcy and unworthiness. This leads us into seeing how blessed we are in Christ. As a result we start to long for the progress of all of our fellows brothers and sisters and servants of the Lord. We long for them to grow in Christ. Moreover, we become driven by desires for the gospel of this grace to reach and transform many. We have no desire to “big ourselves up” and “little others down”. Our goal is for Christ our Lord to be big and made bigger still.

A sight of Jesus and His cross dispels all envy. A Christ-focused man cannot be an envious man.

Are You Ok, Meghan?

Please see this video here at approximately 1.56 in. It is a fascinating interaction. It shows how the Duchess of Sussex obviously had a heart-cry that people would really take a interest in her welfare. This had particularly been the case subsequent to the birth of Archie, her son.

So I want to ask you; will people leave your church tomorrow with a heart-cry that no-one had shown an interest in them? I want to challenge you (and me) to be the ones who make sure that does not happen. So to the person:

  • Whose spouse has turned from the Lord, ask them how the situation is now.
  • Who has been out-of-work, ask about the job applications and their prospects.
  • With a difficult marriage, ask about the present situation.
  • who is struggling with depression, ask how they finding help to get through the situation.
  • With health difficulties, enquire about their health.
  • Recently diagnosed with serious illness, express your concern for them and ask whether they need any help.
  • With young children, ask how they are coping with all the demands of full -on parenting.
  • Who is a full-time, carer ask how they are coping with the relentless demands of that situation.
  • In work, ask how they are coping with the demands laid on them.
  • At school, ask them about their studies and the pressures they are experiencing
  • Who is a parent ask how their children are getting on spiritually.

Overall right now get your heart in tune with God’s and go and care for your brothers and sisters tomorrow in church. If such is the case you will be engaging in a big, big ministry. And that ministry will be even bigger if you pray with and for those people.

And if you are the person with that heart-cry yearning for others to take interest in you Can I say four things:

  1. It may be best you find someone who you know well, who you are sure will show interest in you and listen.
  2. You go up to others ask them about their difficulties and situations. An outward loving interest in others can be the means the Lord uses to help you through your perplexities.
  3. If no-one shows interest in you; remember that you have a Father in heaven who will always care for you and take an interest in you.
  4. Don’t berate the state of your church if no-one takes an interest in you. We do not always get everything right for each other. Sometimes we fail each other. Your best response to such failure is to be a loving example yourself.

Hard Times

The hard stuff of life will either make you bitter or blessed; it will either do you good or do you bad. The key thing in all this is how you (and me) respond to the hard stuff.

Zechariah was struck dumb in Luke 1 on account of him failing to believe what Gabriel said to him. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:20.) It seems from the sign making in v62 that he was also left deaf through the judgment.

Now Zechariah was a priest and an essential part of his calling was to speak. It must have been so hard for him to endure those nine months of enforced silence. Effectively he was indisposed from his duties; his whole identity was being messed up.

Moreover, he could have legitimately argued that it was all a bit of an overreaction by God to take away his speech. After all he had only had a question about how it was all going to happen; that is how Elizabeth would have a baby.

Notwithstanding the pain of the experience and the apparent harshness of the way of God Zechariah was a man who consecrated all of this hard experience to God for good.

It is in this context we read the beautiful words And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God (v64). The experience that Zechariah had been through was consecrated unto blessing. His mouth proved it. He knew the good workings of the Lord, he could see such was the case with his happy wife and beautiful baby in front of his eyes. But more than that he knew all was in the purpose of God. It is this latter appreciation which made him joy in God as was proven in his song of vv67-79

Here are striking things for ourselves. In the hard circumstances of life we will be saved from bitterness of soul when we realise that God has purpose in our sufferings. We may not full understand, but we can believe that He has good purposes.

Zechariah went into his dumbness not believing; he came out of it full of faith. May we come out of all our hard situations of life full of faith.

And finally just to note that hard stuff never leaves us neutral. It will always change us. and that can be for bad or for good, Are your trials making you bitter or better?

 

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