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

Archive for the ‘Character’ Category

He Does Not Want Our Sympathy

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.

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.

A Man With No Deceit

In John 1:47 we read: Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” This was the estimate of the Lord Jesus of this man Nathanael. Would that be His recorded assessment of me and my life?

We must then ask what it is to be without deceit. Deceit is that aspect of character whereby we fail to present ourselves as we genuinely are. Actually, when operating deceitfully we are operating in a way contrary to what is presented. That is what deceit is  and it can be found in our words and our actions.

The first use of the word in the Bible gives demonstration of what the meaning is. Eve gives her commentary in what happened when Satan came with his temptation by saying “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:13b). Though the serpent Satan presented himself as one set to bless Eve, his actual purpose was to destroy. Always undergirding deceit is the drive to maximise self-interest, Why is deceit found in a person? It is because they want to promote the interests of themselves or of their grouping. Satan was the original self-interested deceiver.

Deceit then is a natural outworking of our sinful hearts. Paul says to the Ephesians that they are to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, (Eph. 4:22). Further he says: Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Eph. 5:6). Deceit is to do with the workings of our hearts in opposition to God. Deceit naturally flows in this world which is dominated by self-interested motivations.

Is God deceitful then? To which we answer No; never. We read of our Saviour that He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22). Our God always deals in a straight way. So we read: For I am the LORD; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ez. 12:25)

As those who are born of God we are called to a Nathanael type life. We are to be those who put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (1 Pet. 2:1). Moreover we realise that For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit (1 Pet. 3:10).

Alas as believers we so easily go in the ways of the flesh and we need to realise it is a complete abhorrence. Deceit should be shunned and hated with all our beings.

Testing Muscles

I started doing a different exercise recently as part of my ongoing desire to keep at least reasonably fit. I have exercised quite a lot over recent months, but the change suddenly led to some significant aching of my muscles. It was not that I changed the intensity of exercise, it was simply that I was doing something different. The plus side of this obviously is that I am strengthening a different muscle.

Such an experience is in many ways parabolic of the way the Lord works in our lives. We can be moving along with our spiritual disciplines and generally doing well with them. As a result we can be feeling that we have some strength in the Lord.

Then suddenly the Lord introduces something into our lives which tests out an aspect of our character or lifestyle. Suddenly we feel the pressure and are wondering what has hit us. it may be a new colleague at work; it may be an illness; it could be opposition to your ministry in church. It could be a multitude of things. We can feel that it is a massive inconvenience that this this intrusion into our lives has happened and even be feeling pain which we had never anticipated.

But we must know that the Lord has bigger and better plans and that He is testing new muscles. It is, of course, not so that we will give up because of the muscle pain, but rather that through it we will know that our spiritual muscles are being strengthened. This is so that we might have a renewed character and purer lifestyle.

So we relate to the words of Paul who says in Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Let us be quick to rejoice in the purpose of our suffering, rather than wallow in the pain of our suffering. And as the old motivating phrase goes for all gym participants: “no gain without pain.” So let us endure well for the Lord, knowing that in our testings He is working great things.

 

D*E*R

It used to appear on radios and televisions, DER was the acronym standing for Domestic Electric Rentals. DER were the producers of electrical goods. I remember that one Christian reworked the letters as an acronym for “Devil Entertains Regularly”. The message was that through the radio or TV the devil takes people away from occupying themselves with more wholesome, soul-strengthening activity.

Firstly, I would want to be clear that we should be free to use radio or TV in a wholesome way so as to give much benefit through valuable programmes which educate us and even edify us. Along with that there is the recreation that can come when we use these means in a proper way.

However, with the proliferation of media sources, primarily through the internet, we have vastly more opportunities to indulge in distractions and diversions than ever before. Therefore, we are more easily open to the DER phenomenon whereby our time is used in trivial (and less trivial) distractions which can take us away from more wholesome and valuable activity.

I confess to being very much guilty of being taken away to consume so much time in triviality by the use of the computer and phone. I believe this is a key battle ground for our souls welfare, It is not that we might be consuming unedifying material. but it is that we are not giving ourselves to a more excellent way.

Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16 makes this observation: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. The idea is that time is passing us by and we need to buy it back so as to make best use of it. We need to take heed to this in an age when we have distractions, diversions and entertainments all too readily available.

So when we are consuming media let us be thoughtful of how DER is a real thing and can lead us to be taken away from things that are more excellent. With this in mind perhaps we need to be thinking more about having media fasts which give us time away from DER things.

Cor Deo

On November 14 and 15 I had the privilege of attending a Cor Deo Mini-Intensive. Here is a link to their website. These were two golden days of learning and being transformed and renewed by the study of God’s Word. There were three main elements:

  • Studying John 3, 5, 12 and 17
  • Considering some of the streams of thought and activity which have flowed in order to give us “church history”
  • The foundations of the gospel and Christian living.

Some thoughts on why it was such a great time:

  • Peter Mead is a very good teacher with a clear mind. He drives you towards the heart of the God who exists in tri-unity.
  • The main passion of Cor Deo is that people are drawn into the excitement of knowing fellowship with the God who has purposed in Christ to bring us into knowing Him. This trinitarian God is a welcoming God.
  • The study group of seven of us was a great number for interacting. Furthermore, they were such a great group of disciples of our Lord. Humble, with many great insights, all wanting to know more of God and grow in him.
  • The pace was generally just right with time to healthily give attention to things, but also with enough pace to keep things going.
  • I feel there is much to recommend the approach of Cor Deo. The smaller group format gives a certain intimacy in the pursuit of knowing God. This along with their main thrust being upon us being brought into experiencing and knowing God leads to an edifying and uplifting time. We were encouraged to see God not as one who gives information about Himself or who wants us to keep ruler to get on His good side, but of actually entering into experiencing Him.
  • The accommodation was a bit dingy and cold (particularly on the first morning). However, that almost added to the sense of us “being in this together”.
  • Altogether, I would highly recommend attending Cor Deo if you want to be pushed into really knowing the LORD. Of course, if you just want to be an “information gatherer” of “keep the standards” person it is not for you
  • Mike Chalmers, Peter’s co-worker, is also most helpful in his teaching and gives a geniality to the sessions in his own unassuming way.

 

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