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

Archive for the ‘Christian Life’ Category

Do Not Presume.

What I want to consider here is the presumption that certain things will happen in our lives. At the heart of such an attitude is a perspective that I am in control of my life. James says Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.  (James 4:15-16).

Making our plans is right Solomon says,  In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Prov.16:9). But all such plans should be subject to the Lord’s will. 

I am not saying that we should always be verbalising “if the Lord will”, but I do believe such a sentiment should be continually on our hearts. This is the godly attitude to life.

I remember a couple sending out address cards for their potential new home upon them getting married. Alas the property purchase fell through.

We need to be careful how we act as regards the anticipation of events.

A Society Without Principles.

As we observe the UK at the present time what is the most urgent need of the country? In order to begin to answer that question let us consider where we are. One of the most disturbing developments over the last fifty years has been the demolition of absolute moral principles. These principles, upon which our society was historically founded, were derived from biblical teachings. Today, we live in a situation where the standards adopted by most people are dependent upon the prevailing majority viewpoint. So, people reason that if the majority do it then it is fine for me to do it. And likewise if the majority believe it, I will believe it. This is particularly observable in respect of the change in attitude to homosexual relationships. We have gone from a situation where homosexual activity was considered abhorrent, which was only some fifty years ago to one where today such activity is celebrated.

Since the Reformation in the 1500’s, the UK has had its principles based on the Bible. Christianity is a faith which is rooted in absolute principles. God is a God of standards – absolute standards – and He has revealed them in His Word. Most particularly, we see His standards revealed and encoded in the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20:1-17). When a society is based on standards which flow from the Bible then there is a solid basis to that society. This is because God, who gave these standards, is good and desires the best for His creation. When biblical standards are adopted, even though everyone may not be a Christian, at least the moral framework with which people operate in society is good and beneficial to people. These principles also guard society against strange initiatives which would be destructive to the welfare of people. Accordingly, it can be said that when a society is Christianised through the influence of Christianity then that is good for the country.

As a general principle, when a society has detached itself from the moorings of fixed principles that society is filled with many uncertainties and dangers. In the UK, the heritage of Christian belief has underpinned the development of the values in our society. When these started to be rejected in the 1950’s and 60’s then the immediate consequences were negligible. This was because the majority of people still held to a world-view which had wholesome moral principles at the core. Moreover, they were used to and comfortable with the lifestyle connected to the principles. Therefore, very little changed as to the way people conduct themselves.

However, over time, when there has been an increasing rejection of those standards and accordingly things have become very concerning. In the UK generations have grown up who ignore or even reject biblical morality. As long as things are well in society, then the tendency is for people to generally be kind to each other and uphold law and order. However, because there are no moral principles underpinning the consensus, the situation can change and change very rapidly when there is a certain trigger.

The riots of August 2011 were an occasion when some of these dangers were manifest. For a brief period of time the accepted consensus changed. It suddenly became acceptable for people to take property that was not their own as was demonstrated in the looting of shops. People had no moral undergirding to prevent them doing this. And as an atmosphere of lawlessness took hold, people just flowed with it. Normal decent law abiding citizens suddenly became looters and thieves.

This phenomenon is one of the most frightening issues in the UK at this time. Moral principles are not the basis upon which people determine their conduct. Rather, people operate according to standards which are deemed to be acceptable to the majority of people. Accordingly, if there is a trigger, which normally is in the way of some catastrophe, then a vast swathe of the population can be swayed to follow a new abiding consensus without any thought of the dangers involved.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that there is a lack of a moral framework which prevents people from adopting destructive behaviour. The Ten commandments provided such a framework through being a strong moral code. Alas, such a standard is now considered out-of-date.

Two further factors enhance the cause for concern.

  • The majority of the population have never known the cost of having to literally fight in a war to uphold vital principles.
  • The “Sitting-at-Screens” generation, of which we are all to some degree part, have grown up experiencing life as something that happens to them. Through spending lots of time just watching TV and looking at computers there is an inclination to allow life just to happen to us.

These two things add to the tendency towards a “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” morality.

However, as Solomon observes in Ecclesiastes 1:9b there is nothing new under the sun. Similar situations have happened before, such as in the days of the Judges. In those days everyone did as they saw fit (Jud. 21:25b). Thankfully, though, during those times of collapse God was seen to be active in raising up Judges, like Gideon and Samson, to call people back to Himself and His ways.

So what do we need most as a country at the end of 2014? We desperately need people of principle and “back-bone” who will be able to resist the moral volatility which is likely to be displayed in days ahead. We need characters who are like the aforementioned judges. Men and women who call us back to God. What is the hope for our land? It stands in many returning to the Lord God. It will be seen in many hearing the call of the One who is the fulfillment of all that the previous Judges prefigure. He is Jesus and He still calls out as He did when he started His ministry ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15b) May many be converted to God and find a way of life which is solidly established because it is based on scripture. Then principles would start to determine our ways again.

(Taken and adapted from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of December 2014)                                                                                                                

Make Your Life Count

Are you part of an effective kingdom or a kingdom set for collapse. To ask the question in an alternative way: are you connected to the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ or to the kingdom of this world? One is set for glory, the other is set for devastation.

Matthew 21:18-22 is a passage which brings these issues into focus. Our Lord has clashed in vv12-17 with the religious system which was operating under God’s name. He has rejected that system because it has become a system given over to the undertakings of this world and is no longer a kingdom which operates unto godliness.

The cursing of the fig tree on the following day is a visual aid for the disciples to show His verdict on the religious system in Jerusalem. The Lord came to the tree wanting fruit, after all He was hungry (see v18). It was not time for the fully developed fruit, but it seems in His hunger He would have been happy to have consumed the less developed spring fruit. But He found none. There was a lot of show, but no fruit. There were many leaves, but no fruit. And so it was with the religious kingdom based around the temple. The Lord’s cursing of the fig tree was emblematic of His view of Jerusalem. In an act of power He cursed that tree. The rapidity of the death of the tree astonished the disciples (see v20). This was the power of God at work. To this point of the account we have on display a fruitless kingdom and a powerful King.

When the kingdom of this world meets the powerful Lord God in Jesus Christ then this kingdom is shown up for what it is fruitless and powerless. However, it is different in the kingdom of God. Two things will come forward to show what leads to a fruitful condition and a powerful life. And when there is a lack of these elements, there is powerlessness and fruitlessness in the life. These two are faith and prayer (see v22). The believer can be involved in dramatic things (see vv21-22) if they have faith and prayer. In fact it is the believing person who through having prayer in their life has power in their life; not the religious.

This all of course links us into our Lord Jesus Christ who is the true man, the whole man, the man of faith and a man of prayer. He is the King who is fruitful and powerful. When we are connected to Him we will be displaying these dual attributes: prayer and faith. And the Lord will come and find fruit and He will be pleased.

Alas if we are of this world we will be fruitless. There may be religious show, but no fruit and no power, because there is no faith and no prayer.

Which kingdom do we belong to?

Love In The Church.

At the heart of the Christian message is a small word with big implications; that word is “love”. In the Greek language of the original New Testament the Word is “agape”. This is not sensual love. It is not affectionate love. It is selfless love.

The Love of Christ for us When we speak about Jesus Christ, out of love for us, coming into the world to save sinners, we are speaking of agape love. The motivation for Jesus Christ coming to lay down his life that we might have life was selfless love. Let us ponder upon two scriptures that reinforce this point:

  • God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). This tells us of God’s love towards those who had nothing to offer to gain his love. This is self-giving love.
  • This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). This love is a love which meet us at our point of need. It deals with our sins. Without the love operating to effect salvation we remain miserably stricken in our sins and therefore destined for destruction.

Our Love

This love of God provides the motivation for our love. John puts it like this: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18). So our love is to be a love which operates with the love of Christ as the model.

Such love is fleshed out by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a. Read those verses and ponder whether or not you are loving in a way which follows after the model of Christ. Such love is not selfish seeking glory for itself. Rather, it reflects Christ-like attitudes in the way it humbly operates desiring the best for others.

Preferring Others Before Ourselves

This can all sound and appear idyllic and we think that is just what we want. However, the problem comes that we are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world and dealing with imperfect people. Nevertheless, although there are many impediments to us showing true love we must not miss the call that, as a church, we are to display true love to one another. We are to show Christ-like love among us

But what does such love look like? In the practicalities of living together in a church it means that we are relentlessly thinking what is best for my brother and sister. In his 1 Corinthians description a part of love is not to be self-seeking (see 1 Cor. 13:5b). We often conclude that church life is acceptable to me when things are operating in the way I want them operate. So when the timing of the services are what suits me, the hymns and songs are what I want, the tea/coffee is just how I like it and the temperature/ventilation of the room/building accords with my preference then all is fine.

Have you ever thought of what it might be to approach these issues in an agape love kind of way? If such was the case you would be wanting not what you want, but what others wants. So, for example, as regard to the hymns you may prefer older type hymns. But you know that there are those in church who prefer the newer hymns which have more contemporary tunes. Your delight should come not when the older hymns are being sung, but when the church is singing the more modern hymns. This is because you have agape love in your heart. When that is the case you rejoice and are content when others are being pleased. This principle applies in many issues. We are not talking here about compromising truth, but about the practicalities of living together as a community of people.

Bearing the Burdens of Others

Moreover, this selfless love is always on the look out to help others. I am not in church thinking what people can do for me. I am thinking what I can do for others. This is what Christ our Lord’s love looks like. Paul says to the Galatians that we are to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The best ways to consider the use of “law” here is as the principle according to which Christ lived. It was that self less burden-bearing principle which was expressed most fully in Him carrying our sins to Calvary. That same principle should be seen in our lives as we live together as a community of believers.

Let us think then of some of the implications of this. Are you a Christ-like burden bearer? Are you looking out for those in the fellowship you can help? They may just need someone to talk to. They may need some practical help. Remember that if you are a Christian you are Christ’s one. And you prove you are Christ’s one by living in a loving way after the manner of Christ our Lord.

The love of Christ is the model for our love and the stimulus for our love. He truly loved in a selfless way. We should love in a similarly selfless way.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of May 2014)

 

                                                                                                                                            “-“

”Evangelical”

We are Feltham Evangelical Church. But what does the word evangelical mean? Have you ever pondered upon that question? Perhaps you have contented yourself with the thought that “that bit sounds like a nice religious word and I will ask no further questions”. But really, if we call ourselves “evangelical”, we should have some idea about what it means. So if someone asked you “What does evangelical mean?” what would you say? Let us take time to consider how we should respond to that question.

In defining “evangelical” there are two interrelated tracks to take. They are “Gospel” and “Bible”. As evangelicals, we are “Bible” and “Gospel” people.

Gospel Firstly, we believe with Paul that “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16). We believe that this is the most important message that anyone needs to hear and anyone needs to respond to. It is a message rooted in historical events. Most particularly, it focusses on the life, death, burial, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ our LORD. Paul sums up the message when he says to the Corinthians that “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. “ (1 Cor. 15:3-5). The gospel message focusses on Jesus.

As gospel people, we believe that it is vital that this gospel is made known. So evangelical people are also evangelistic people. Not all of us have the gift of “the evangelist”, but all of us are interested in evangelism. We who have received the gospel realise how incredibly blessed we are and so we want to make it known. We long and pray for people to embrace the gospel and be saved. It gives us joy and delight when we hear and know of Jesus being preached as the only Saviour of sinners. On the contrary if you are not interested in seeing the gospel go forward through evangelism then you are not evangelical.

Bible Secondly, we believe that the Bible is the complete written revelation that God has given to mankind. Anything that is to be known of God and His way is only known because God has revealed such in His Word. In fact the gospel message itself is only known through it being revealed in the Word of God. We preach Jesus and we preach the Word. So what do we believe about the Bible? We believe it is:

Complete. There is no need of any further revelation. God has revealed His purposes in the Scriptures in and through Jesus Christ. In the Bible, we have God’s complete revelation for us.

Inerrant. This means that the Bible does not err. It is a book of truth. We have to be clear here that we are referring to the original manuscripts as being totally inerrant. But scholars have established that the Bible we have today is a reliable representation of those manuscripts.

Sufficient. God has given us all that we need in His Word. We do not need to look for other books or other gurus to lead us in the true way. The Word of God is truth and thus, all we need for living in the true way.

Body of truth. As we believe in Scripture, we are led to believe that there is a body of truth represented by Scripture. Jude speaks of the the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people (Jude 3b). These truths would include the belief in God as three persons in one God, the deity of Jesus, the only way to God being through Christ, the fact that Christ dies as the one offering for our sins and the physical bodily return of Jesus Christ in the future.

So we are an evangelical church. We are a “Gospel” and “Bible” Church. And if you have the Bible, it will lead you to the gospel. And we only have a gospel because it is revealed in the Bible. And as we ponder upon these things, we are led to conclude that every Christian must be an evangelical because to be a Christian, you must believe in the gospel presented in the Bible and the Christ revealed by the Bible. And so, not only is an evangelical a Christian, but a Christian is an evangelical. To say you are a Christian, but not an evangelical is a contradiction.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2014)

By Faith.

The Holy Spirit says without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. 11:6a) and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23b). In such statements we are reminded that faith is the key which unlocks the door to us experiencing the true ways of the Lord in our lives. If there is no faith then there is no relationship with God. It is by faith that we come to know God and it is by faith that we live to please God. The principle that faith is essential to living a righteous life is set by Habakkuk when he says Behold his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him – but the righteous shall live by his faith (Hab. 2:4 ESV). This theme is taken up three times in the New Testament (see Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11 and Heb 10:38). In these three scriptures the essential nature of faith to experiencing life in Christ is developed.

But what is faith? When we have faith in someone we are trusting them; we are believing in them. We are reaching away from ourselves and our situation to rely on them.

Faith is not just an optional extra for those who take their religion seriously. Rather, faith is at the heart of everything that is done for God. Faith is the means by which things are accomplished by God. When we read through Hebrews 11 we have the continued statement “by faith”. The chapter tells us of men and women of God who accomplished great things for Him and the necessary ingredient for doing this was the exercise of their faith. We need to remember this. Faith is essential for the experience of God in our lives. The power of such faith is seen in what our Lord says to Peter ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them (Mark 11v 22-23). So we learn that to truly know God we need faith and to truly do anything to please God and for His glory we need faith.

This contrasts radically with the thinking of the world in which we live. The world in which we live relentlessly tells us of the need to trust in that which is tangible and “real”. That which can be touched and seen should be trusted is the message we hear. If we trust these things we will do well is the worlds’ mantra, but it is not so with God. God says “Trust me! Reach away from yourself and have faith in Me.” We need to fight against the deceptions of the devil as he urges us to trust in ourselves and all around us. We need to have faith in God.

But faith in God is not just some religious slogan which unites all “of faith”. It has value and meaning only in and through Christ Jesus our Lord. God has made a new and living way into His presence and that way is not just made by Jesus, it is Jesus. To use another image, faith is the pipeline which brings forth the flow of Jesus into our lives. The pipeline reaches from the place of need to the source of blessing, and from that source comes the blessing, wisdom and strength of God. Faith takes us out of ourselves and into God.

When we think of exercising faith and the blessings of God coming into our lives, we so easily assume that this means all will the work out pleasantly for us. But to conclude this is to be confused. The confusion comes because we view Gods’ ways through human spectacles. As a result we think if I have faith all will go swimmingly for me. Hebrews 11:35 in this context is an eye-opening verse. The verse starts with a statement which concludes a section about many people having glorious “successes” by faith (see vv33-35a), but it continues to start a list of how many others had exactly the same faith, but with radically different outcomes (see v 35b-38). Such outcomes, for the latter group, were mockings, floggings, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, killed with the sword, destitution, affliction and mistreatment, living in deserts, mountains, dens and caves. This teaches us that we are called to trust God and live by faith. The consequences of such living faith lie with the Lord. Accordingly, we are very unwise to go with Job’s friends and conclude that Job was wicked because he was suffering. No, many like Job are suffering because God has determined that that is to be the outcome of their true faith.

So let us be of faith. Let us reject the way of the world which points us to trust in ourselves. Instead let us trust in God.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of Nov 2014)

 

We Need The Right Righteousness.

The Lord Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:20, I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps you should stop and read that again and in doing so, notice in particular the “certainly not”. The Lord does not want us to miss His declaration that if we have a righteousness like that of the Pharisees and law teachers we will not get into the kingdom of God. Such a statement has serious implications because if we are not in the kingdom of God then we are destined for eternal destruction. So that should make us take note about what our Saviour is saying here.

Let us consider, first of all, the issue of “surpasses”. Jesus does not say that our righteousness must be totally different to that of the scribes and Pharisees, but that it must surpass it. This leads us to conclude that the scribes and Pharisees were on the right track, but had not reached the desired destination. They were on the right track because they were seeking to base their righteousness on a scriptural basis. However, they had gone wrong because they were not using the scripture properly. In the rest of Matthew 5, the Lord shows five areas where these religious leaders had used scripture incorrectly. Each section is introduced by the phrase; “You have heard that it was said” (see 21a, 27a, 33a, 38a and 43a). In each instance the Lord shows that each statement made by the religious leaders had some connection to scriptural truth. However, the Lord goes on to show, in each section, how the righteousness which the religious leaders achieved was not the right righteousness.

The deficiency in their righteousness was on account of what they understood righteousness to be. The foundation was right, being in scripture, but the development of it was malformed. This was because they focused on the external and achievable. They came to the Word of God and processed it in such a way as to focus on what was within their ability. And as they achieved the standards they had set for themselves they “ticked off” their achievements. It was a “tick-box” righteousness. They set the standard according to what they could demonstrate that they had achieved and thereby show it off for all to see. If you look at all five of the examples given you will see that this is the reasoning. They have used the scriptural commands in such a way as to make sure the standard for murder, adultery, oath taking, getting revenge and loving others is both achievable and clear for all to see that it is being achieved by them.

When the achieving of righteousness is viewed in this way, people are led to glory in themselves. If there is a standard and I can reach that standard by myself then I glory in myself. I say “I must be a good boy/girl and God should be very pleased with me.” People are led to glory in man and not God.

The Lord, though, goes on to show that there is a better righteousness. In each of the five situations presented, He indicates what the righteousness that pleases Him looks like. The righteousness which He seeks to establish is that of the heart (inside) and is not achievable by us. So with regard to murder, He makes hating equivalent to killing, and with regard to adultery, He makes lusting equivalent to sex outside marriage. Through this approach He is dealing with the heart. For everyone who is honest there is the immediate conclusion that “I cannot do that”. When we look to the other three examples we see how the Lord continues with this demanding standard of righteousness. And when we look at these we are to think: “I do not reach these standards. I am sometimes evasive with my words, I am not as generous as I should be and I do show favouritism with regard to who I show kindness to.”

Through this the Lord is relentlessly pressing the point to prove that it is necessary to have a righteousness which emerges from the heart. However, as Jeremiah 17:9 tells us The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Accordingly, we mess it all up in the heart and are not able to achieve this righteousness. We cannot reach the standard. It just cannot be done.

Our desperate plight is searchingly brought home in the final statement of the chapter Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5v48). It would seem that this statement should stand alone as a paragraph on its own because it does not just connect to the foregoing section on loving your neighbour. Rather, it connects to all the passage from v21. As we see this statement we cry “Lord it is impossible; it’s just not achievable; we cannot be perfect.” That is precisely the situation the Lord wants us in. He wants us to be crying for Him to give us this righteousness. Remember we have got to have this righteousness, otherwise we are eternally sunk. But we cannot get it ourselves. So we cry to God, knowing that we are failures who cannot please Him, and He says “I have given my Son Jesus to die, to take away your sins.” When we respond with faith, we are given a righteousness which comes from Him. Praise his Name. Furthermore, as we seek to journey on to live for God we realise that the good life which is pleasing to God can never be derived from my strength, rather, it must always be from God. So it is Jesus through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who works through us and works righteously.

I can never achieve this righteousness myself. So all the glory goes where? It goes to God. I am only accepted with God and in His family because He has given me righteousness and I can only live a righteous life because God works through me. I am dependant upon Him from beginning to end, and He has ALL the glory.

So make sure that your righteousness is not a righteousness based on your religious achievement. The consequences of getting the wrong righteousness are just too disastrous. If you get the wrong righteousness you are not in the Kingdom of God. And if you are not in the kingdom of God, you are set for eternal disaster.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of Oct 2014).

Tag Cloud