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

Archive for the ‘Character’ Category

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.

 

Pig-Head or Snowflake

Criticism comes in the normal course of life. Criticism comes in seeking to serve the Lord. There should be no surprise that if the master suffered criticism then won’t that be true of his servants as well? So we read in Matthew 10:24-25:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

But what do we do when criticism comes? Are we “pig-heads” or “snowflakes”?

Pig-Heads say “Stuff you with whatever you say, I am going to do it this way and if you don’t like it you will have to lump it.”

Snowflakes says “If you have said it, it must be right. I must do what you say straight-away. I will do whatever you say, yes sir, no sir; three bags full sir.”

So where do each of us sit with these responses. I suggest we are all somewhere on a spectrum here between pig-heads and snowflakes.

But how should we respond to criticism. I have written about how we should respond to a rebuke here. I post some further thoughts;

  • Always listen to what the person has to say. Seek calcification if necessary, but don’t pursue every detail ad nauseam.
  • Listen courteously and thank them for their observations which have very likely not been easy to deliver.
  • Consider what has been said and pray over it.
  • Seek advice and other counsel from those you trust.
  • Consider who has made the criticism and of what character, wisdom and maturity they are.
  • Respond and adopt the observations which you think are legitimate.
  • Reject those which you believe do not hold up.

Then move on with your life.  We need to embrace something of Paul’s attitude: But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(Phil 3:13b-14).  Continually revisiting what has been said can keep you from the task in hand which is to serve God and be for Him.

 

Zechariah

Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:5-12 we see him presented as a godly, God-sensitive man. He is:

  • Of Godly Character: It is recorded of him, and his wife Elizabeth, that they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6). Righteous very likely refers to their justified state on account of their faith. And they lived out their faith in full obedience to God’s commandment and statutes.
  • Enduring Difficulty. His wife could not have children and therefore they had never had the joy of bringing forward a new generation to serve the Lord. Childlessness was culturally shameful as well and spoke of curse. The Word says that Elizabeth  was the cause of their childless state (see v7). But Zechariah would not give her up for another. He was faithful to his commitment.
  • Faithful He continued his ministerial call to be a priest in spite of the pain of having no children. Faith prevailed over his problems.
  • God-sensitive. In v9-10 we see how Zechariah was granted the great privilege of presenting the incense offering in the temple. This was the high-point of his career. This could only ever happen once in a priest’s career and now he was undertaking it. Yet at that moment he was diverted by the intervention of God in the appearance of the angel. The remarkable thing is that Zechariah gave up his religious service to acknowledge that God had come. We observe how Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him (Luke 1:12). Experiencing the awareness of God was more significant than the high-point of his religious service. I fear many of us, and our churches, are more concerned with religious performance over and against a living awareness of the living God.

Pulling all this together here we find a man who was godly, persevering and faithful. Such people are sensitive to the workings of God. I wonder, and this is only speculation, if on previous occasions angelic messengers had appeared to an incense offering priest, but they had ignored such because of the thrill of religious service.

How easy it is for this to happen with us. Are we spiritually sensitive to discern the difference between keeping religious activities going, important as that might be in a church, and the Lord appearing among us?

Ultimately it is only those who are godly, persevering through difficulty and faithful in service that have the spiritual antennae to spot when God is coming through His Spirit. Oh that I might be of such a character.

Bark And Bite

So you tell me that their bark is worse than their bite. And I tell you that that may be all well and good, but I am just experiencing their bark and that is very loud. Them sinking their teeth into me is not my primary concern at the moment.

The Bible says that A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov. 15:1). And as for the servant of the Lord he must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness (2 Tim 2:24b-25a). We learn immediately from these scriptures that your bite matters. In fact many people will be long departed from you before the effects of any bite are experienced, whether that bite be flesh devouring or a mere graze. They will be long gone because your bite will have frightened them off. 

Your bite might actually have transpired to be beneficial to the recipient. However, your bark prevented any healing balm from coming from the bite

Whether our words are those of exhortation, correction , rebuke or encouragement they should be gentle. They should be heard and received as words coated in love. They might not be palatable because they deal with issues that go to the core of our being, but the words should come with kindness.

Moreover, gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22b). An unpleasant bark is not in accord with a Spirit emanating character. They are more like the works of the flesh.

You Must Have Time With The Lord

This is essential for the Christian; you must have your personal time alone with Him. You put your life in peril if you do not. Church fellowship is essential and we need to be experiencing that to grow in the Lord. Worshipping in the family at home  must also be there in our schedules. But we must not neglect being in the secret place with the Lord.

You have to find out what works for you. You may be able to operate on a spontaneous basis, whereby in the natural flow of life you are having space to worship the Lord and be with Him. However, for most of us, I suggest, that this is not the case, We need to be more disciplined. we need to set aside a specific time to be alone with our Father and our Lord Jesus. Regular habits are normally good in this respect.

And if your Quiet Time or personal time with the Lord is becoming dull and lacklustre then mix it up. Try whatever works. Try reading a few passages of good Christ centred books. The Puritans are good here and Richard Sibbes is always a good place to start. Try prayer lists. In all this make sure that your prayings and worshippings are Bible framed so you must have the Word.

Living Christians are always God’s presence Christians. No time in the presence of the Lord means death to your soul and impoverishment in spiritual desires and worship.

And of course our Lord Jesus sets the pattern here. He was so keen to spend time with his Father that he would get up early to make sure it happened. Perhaps that is what you need to do (and me). You need to be thinking about getting up a bit earlier and having time in His presence.

I have written about personal devotions at further length here if you are interested.

Humility

I am left musing upon the lack of humility that there is around. There is plenty of faithfulness, a good amount of giftedness and ample supplies of knowledge. Yet I am left wondering about the quantity of humility that is seen amongst the people of God.

This key spiritual attribute should be palpably in evidence among us. After all humility is at the heart of our faith. It is such because humility pulses through everything concerning our Saviour coming from glory into humanity and enduring the cross for us. We read in Philippians 2:5-8:

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Without humility there is neither incarnation nor salvation.

Moreover, how can it be that the true Christian is anything other than humble. We are after all so incredibly blessed. We have come to realise, through God’s enlightening grace, how bad we are. We have been so blessed by God through the cross of our lord Jesus, notwithstanding all of our badness. Being totally undeserving of that blessing because of our sin we now have acceptance in Christ Jesus. And now being so wonderfully provided for through the saving work of our Lord and Saviour, how can we be anything, but humble?

After presenting the truths of how the God of glory rescues destitute sinners and brings them into such blessing according to the Lord’s eternal plan then Paul moves into exhorting the Ephesians believers to live worthy lives. And so he says:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 

At the heart of his exhortation is the call to humility.

Humility is seen in a spirit of self-effacing, setting oneself in lowly way. It is seen in the honouring and exalting of others.  So Paul says to the Philippians 3:2b in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

I wrote about a man who visited Feltham last year here. If there was anything that was the secret of this man’s attractive demeanour it was his humility.

And this all leaves me pondering upon myself. How much do I display this beautiful grace?

Oh and I must remember that there is one place which it is key to visit in order that humility will be cultivated in my life. When I go to Calvary and the cross of my Lord Jesus then there is only one reasonable outcome for my character; humility.

And perhaps that’s why there is so little humility it is because we are so little at the cross.

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