It is because believers are lazy and ignorant that we do not experience more and more in our souls the visits of grace and the dawnings of eternal glory.” (The Glory of Christ: John Owen p.10).
Mmmmmh that makes me think about where I am at spiritually. So here are some observations:
Christianity does not just happen to people. There is a necessary and purposeful seeking after that which is of God. There is a determination to acquire the Lord for our souls’ welfare. We read scriptures like:
- From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12).
- Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14).
- “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near (Is. 55:6).
We must attend to the means of grace. Bible reading, prayer and fellowship are the necessities for spiritual progress. A lack of attention to these things guarantees spiritual inertness. All Christians need to be attending church and learning and growing in fellowship with another. And how about your personal time of drawing close to the Lord through prayer and the Word; how is that going?
We should be passionate about growing in our knowing. Spiritual laxity is often covered over by the attributing of too much to the Holy Spirit. We need to set ourselves to learn that we can’t just sit back and expect the Holy Spirit to insert knowledge into our beings through osmosis.
We have settled for too little. We have drifted into a Christianity which says this is as much as we are going to get. So we have little appreciation of His ways and a shallow understanding of His salvation and our future glory. And yet, I am persuaded that God has so much more for us to experience.
So let us rise up to know the Lord and in our knowing to be full of worship and passionate service of Him who is Lord.
This post is based partially upon a surmise, but my surmising does not take away from the main point.
I was out on the disused athletics track at the back of our home recently at around 4.45 pm which was just about twilight. As I was finishing off my exercise routine, a man and a boy, who I surmise to be his son, appeared.
The man started to berate the boy regarding how bad he had been at football the previous weekend. He accused him of being a failure in attacking, defending etc. As a punishment he was going to have to run round the track. The boy whimpered, but the father did not let up. After a while the boy duly obliged and started to trot around the track with the overbearing father cycling alongside.
The disturbing scene was made more so because the boy looked no more than about eight and appeared very weak. This all left me somewhat stunned and with some thoughts:
- Should I have intervened and at least made the man think about the unreasonableness of his approach. In the West, we so easily don’t get involved deeming it not to be our business. I felt sobered because in my failure to take action had been a party to allowing this boy’s misery to continue
- I was sad for the boy who is been brought up in an atmosphere of fear. He must dread going to play football, if that is the response of his Dad.
- The Word of the Lord says in Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Provoking our children to anger by our unreasonableness is not healthy parenting.
- I am left wondering about what motivates such a Father. Is he wanting to live out his own dreams through his child? If that is so it is a selfish imposition and thereby reprehensible. We parent our children so as they flourish to be themselves not who we want to make them. I wrestle with my attitudes to make sure that I am driven for my children to fulfil everything God has called them to be and not what i want them to be.
Oh Lord make me to be a reasonable Father who works your best for the children you have given me to Father. Amen
I want to dwell here upon our visit to Pompeii. The city of Pompeii was obliterated by volcanic ash emitted as a result of an eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79AD. The city has been re-discovered through archaeological excavations which have taken place over the last 250 years. We visited it on Monday, November 4th.
It is an interesting place to visit. The audio guide was not so helpful, but speaking to the personnel who were situated at certain parts of the site to keep watch and guide people was most helpful. They all spoke good English and seemed to be archaeology students at Naples University.
One thing that became apparent through visiting was that Pompeii was a place of gross immorality. Sexual licentiousness, fornication and lasciviousness were de rigeur in the place. It really had resemblance to a Sodom and Gomorrah type place. Here is one view on how we can consider the burying of Pompeii in volcanic ash as a judgemental intervention of God.
Further information on the happenings on that fateful day can be found here. I make two further observations:
- South westerly winds were normal at that time of year in Southern Italy. For Pompeii to be devastated required North-westerly winds. This again points to the finger of God.
- The previous day the Romans had been celebrating Vulcanalia which focused upon their devotion to the god of fire including volcanic fire. There is only one God of fire and that is the true God known through Jesus Christ.
In reviewing this whole matter we must be careful of saying this event happened as an act of judgement by God because of the sin of the people. The Lord warns of the danger of such cause and effect reasoning in Luke 13:1-5 where He says:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish
I conclude with three observations:
- When we see calamities in the world rather than rushing to apportion blame or attribute responsibility we need to realise that we are in a world destabilised by sin. And I am a sinner and I need to repent so that I will not face judgement.
- The similarity between what happened to Pompeii and what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah are striking. So striking that we hear the voice of God echoing through the Pompeii events and saying sexual immorality is detestable to me and devastating to humanity and my anger stands against those communities given over to it.
These two observations should gave us much pause for thought as to our own personal situations and the precarious position we find ourselves in in the West through the embracing of a multitude of sexual perversions
Here are a miscellany of observations from our time in Italy:
- We flew out with Ryan Air and manged to avoid spending any extra money on additional stuff. Meant travelling light and having small bags.
- It is always a privilege to stay in a home in a foreign country. So rather than being a tourist viewing from the outside, you actually get inside the culture. As a result you see and experience so much. What a privilege this is.
- it was great to be with the Catchpole family and their various guests who were coming and going from their home. Their welcome and hospitality was so beautiful, Their open home was a challenge to our tendency to make our homes a fortress.
- We drove a bit through Alec kindly loaning his car. This was generally OK, but driving on the right-hand side does present its challenges on account the necessary re-adjustments that have to be made. The traffic of Naples on Monday evening was pretty dreadful and an experience all of itself.
- We had plenty of pizza which is only to be expected in Italy I suppose. Generally it was really good quality.
- It was great that May Lin got on so well with Patrizia and that Zech was able to play stuff with their daughter, Joy.
- The cheek-to-cheek greeting for both men and women was somewhat culturally different for us, but it seemed courteous to participate in the accepted cultural mores.
- Great to be able to talk about Scripture and the Lord’s work and ways with Alec and Patrizia.
- Partizia is doing a great work in the prison in Pozzuolli with the ladies incarcerated there.
- Seeing the warmth of relationship between Alec and his children was warming and challenging. His willingness to spend time with Joy and help her with her studies was admirable. I was challenged about how much time I invest in my children; Alec certainly set a great example.
- The humour seems to have a certain brutality about it. If you know someone rally well it is reasonable to greet them by pointing out how ugly they are for example.
- How blessed it is to see them still zealous in serving the Lord.
We recently had the privilege of visiting Italy, Pozzuolli near Naples, to be precise. We stayed with Alec and Patrizia Catchpole and their family. You can find out more about their ministry through these links here and here.
The River of Life church of which Alec is one of the elders is essentially a first generation church made up of those who have been converted within the last fifteen years. It was beautiful to be able to attend their service on a Sunday morning, to be a part of their worship and to meet some of the people.
Their worship service was not dissimilar to ours at Feltham on a Sunday morning. They would not have a split in the service, though, like we have at Feltham with the Lord’s Supper service and preaching and worship all is included in one service in Pozzuolli.
Graciously Alec’s wife Patrizia, and son, Joseph, translated for us and so we could follow what was going on. The preaching by Stephano was sound and lively. The main message was that we are to glory in the Lord and not in his gifts.
Hearing one or two of the testimonies of those converted was such a joy. They were really encouraging to my faith as I was faced with living demonstrations of the grace of our God. This brings me to ponder on the similarity to Barnabas’s experience at Antioch. In Acts 11:22-23 we read: The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
I attended a house group on the Tuesday morning and was struck by their desire to hear God’s word, their affection for Alec and their delight in being together.
Three things I have been left to ponder upon:
- Getting involved in the community. Alec is a gregarious individual and very much a people person. He obviously has a lot of contacts through his mingling in the community of Pozzuolli.
- House groups These seem to be quite fluid in their arrangements. There is one for students and one for the younger adults. Otherwise you can get involved in whatever one you want to and whenever you want to. This may all reflect the haphazardness of the Neapolitan culture, but it has a certain attractiveness.
- Gospel Engagement The commitment to get contact with as many people as possible and get the Word of the gospel, out to as many as possible was striking. I am left thinking about whether we should be more thoughtful about 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. There, in Pozzuolli, they have done various things such as karaoke, concerts, tent missions, watching football on a big screen, playing football amongst others all with a view to making the gospel known to people.
1 Corinthians 8 addresses the issue of how we interact with one another when we see things differently in the church. In particular it deals with the issue of when we perceive that we have freedom in Christ to act in a certain way, whilst other Christians do not feel comfortable in engaging in that same behaviour.
In such a situation we need to be careful about how we speak and act towards such a fellow Christian. Our freedom should never be a means for bringing the other brother to stumble in their faith.
Paul reaches the apogee of his argument when he speaks of how the brother you could stumble is one for whom Christ died. He writes of how by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11). Christ gave up all of His freedom that he eternally and joyously enjoyed in the favour of His Father in heaven. He relinquished that in order to bring eternal blessing to your brother. And that blessing was only brought through the Christ suffering ignominy, shame and dereliction on His cross.
Won’t I and won’t you then, be very careful about indulging our freedom in Christ. We should always act circumspectly to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. True love motivates us to do this.
It is a worthwhile thing to have always in our minds in our dealings with fellow believers that they are ones for who Christ died. This title, in a sense, rests over them and is an insignia upon them.
Woe betide me if I am selfish and careless in my treatment of another Christian.
Yesterday, I wrote here about how globalisation is westernisation. One of the observations from my time in India was that concerning ladies dress. Herein, I would suggest is one of the cultural manifestations of the westernisation process.
The area, Machillipatnam, where I was at the beginning of my time was quite remote. I perceived that it was not so affected by western influences. One of the ways that this was manifested was in the dress of the women. Saris were de rigour with very little departure therefrom. As a result there was a decency and modesty and certain refinement about the way the ladies presented.
Being in Chennai, which is a large metropolitan centre, revealed a changing in the way the ladies were dressing. Saris were still very much present. However, there were far more, particularly among those of a younger generation, who were wearing western styles. The contrast was striking between the decent and the modest and the less decent and less modest.
I was left feeling sad. Here is a culture with a heritage of decency in the ways the ladies dress and they are in the process of changing it to that which is much less attractive.