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

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

True Kindness And Love.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:3-5). These are Paul’s words to Titus about the salvation we have been given. They are profound words which go to the heart of God’s motivation in saving us. Through these words, we are shown the true nature of kindness and love.

Our situation before we come to Christ was absolutely catastrophic. Our understanding of the position of the unbeliever should reflect that they are living foolish lives and are trapped in a life of deception through all kinds of passions surging in their beings and through engaging in all kinds of pleasures. It is selfishness which drives such a worldly lifestyle. For us Christians we need to be reminded that we were in such a disastrous situation before we were saved. All who are unconverted to Christ are like those who have been cast overboard out at sea and are sinking in the turbulent waters. Spiritually the non-Christian is sinking into an eternal hell and they need to be saved.

The most poignant and profound need we have is to be saved. We need to be saved from our present empty, self-defeating lives which are leading us to eternal destruction. Into such a situation came the intervention of our great Saviour God. God came into this situation with all His kindness and love. He came to rescue us.

We need to remind ourselves here that we could not rescue ourselves. We read in Titus 3:5b that the Lord’s salvation came to us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. As regards to the possibility of achieving salvation ourselves, we are all hopeless cases. We cannot save ourselves. It was into such hopeless situations that our loving God came with His mercy. He came, not undertaking the punishment that we deserve, but rather bringing the great hope and joy of salvation.

The motivation for this intervention is the fact that there is kindness and love in the Lord’s heart. He is full of kindness and love. However, those tender dispositions did not just remain inside Him. Rather, they have flowed out of His heart. They have appeared. And how have they appeared? They have appeared in and through Jesus Christ. When we see our Saviour we see the kindness and love of God displayed towards us.

Throughout the Old Testament God had relentlessly prophesied about His plan to intervene in the situation of mankind, in kindness and love through His Saving Messiah. The coming of Jesus Christ into the world saw the fulfilment of everything anticipated in the Old Testament. How we should be praising God that He is not an absent detached deity. Rather, He is our everlastingly kind and loving God who in Emmanual. In Jesus Christ, God has come close to us; He has come into human flesh in order to save us.

Here is true kindness and true love. Here is God working to act in such a way so that the action meets the need of the recipient. God in sending His Son sent One to provide salvation and in doing this He met our deepest need. If we want to know how kind and loving our Saviour is we look at Jesus and we look at His finished saving work on the cross, and as we do so we fall down with worship and thanksgiving to see how kind and how loving our God is.

The word kindness speaks of a tender attitude that brings blessings and benefits to others. “Love” tells us of his love for men in all their sin and hopelessness. God through Jesus came with such kindness and love and He acted at our most real and deepest point of need. He saved us from ourselves, our sin and eternal destruction. Praise Him!

Sadly our kindness and love so often is not like God’s. We are well intentioned, but ineffective because we do not focus upon bringing benefit to the intended recipient. We go wrong because, unlike our God, we focus on what we want to do and what we think will benefit the one we want to help. Rather, what we need to do is focus on the need of the other person and then bring our kindness and love tangibly and helpfully to them. This is the way our God works and so should we. Our salvation is the most profound and beautiful display of this.

Accordingly, let us be people who think about our ways, as we seek to distribute kindness and love to one another. As an example, to buy someone who has no interest in cookery, all kinds of cookery books and utensils as presents is totally inappropriate. You may think in your head that these are such great presents and you are showing such kindness and love. However, you have completely failed because you have not considered the recipient.

Oh,how marvellous is the love and kindness of our God which has determined that we should be saved. Let us be thoughtful about imitating our God in our love and kindness.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of February 2015

Worship By The Spirit Of God.

In Philippians 3:3 Paul tells the Philippians (and us) what characterises the true people of God. These people are said to be the circumcision (Phil. 3:3a). This is pictorial language which describes us as those who have given up living for the flesh. Three different facets which define the people of God are then presented. We who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh. (Phil. 3:3b). Our purpose in this study is to concentrate on what it is to serve God by the Spirit?

The word “serve” in this verse refers to service which is directed towards God. Hence, in many versions of the scripture the word is rendered as “worship”. This service/worship can be viewed in a general way and also in a specific way. Generally it refers to our whole lives being full of worship. So in our day-to-day lives we are seen as living lives which please God. When thought of specifically it refers to those times when the church comes together to worship. It is this latter aspect I want to concentrate upon, but there are significant cross-overs to the issue of “whole-life worship”.

So what is it, that we will find in a church worshipping God by the Spirit? How will we know, when a church is gathered together, whether or not they are worshipping by the Spirit of God? For that matter how will we know if we, at Feltham Evangelical Church, are worshipping God in an acceptable way? Let us go to scripture and see what we discover:-

Not physical. This issue is specifically derived from the context in which our statement is found. At the beginning of Philippians 3 we find the true Christian lifestyle contrasted to that of those who concentrated on outward forms. When we find a concentration on the things of the senses then we should conclude that this is not of the Holy Spirit. When seeing, touching and smelling are emphasised then the emphasis is not spiritual, but physical.

The Word. When the Holy Spirit is leading the worship then there is an emphasis on the Word of God. Everything, whether done or spoken, will harmonise with the requirements of the Word. Moreover, there will be the reading and proclaiming of the Word of God, with the Word element having prominence in the service. It is inappropriate to prescribe exactly how this takes place, but it will surely be there if the Spirit of God is there. In asserting the prominence of the Word in the ways of God we remember that faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Rom. 10:17).

The Christ. When the Spirit comes there is the glorifying of Jesus Christ. This is the Holy Spirit’s most delightful work; the Spirit loves to magnify Christ. As the Saviour has gone to heaven so the Spirit has come into this world; being sent by the risen Lord. Accordingly, we read the words of the Saviour ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me (John 15:26). When there is much speaking about the glory of Jesus in a service we can inclined to conclude that the Spirit of the Lord is there.

Sin. The Spirit convicts of sin. So we read in John 16:7b-8 the Lord Jesus saying Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement. When the Spirit is working there is an awareness of our wrongness before God.

Praise. We read in Hebrews 13:15 about the fruit of the lips being a sacrifice of praise. This thankfulness is connected lives which confess His name and is through Jesus. It reflects a positive attitude towards God in all His goodness towards us. When the Spirit is present in the service there is a much thankfulness to and appreciation of God.

Understanding. On the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came to manifestly demonstrate God’s new regime amongst mankind there was the special gifting of the disciples speaking in different languages so that all could understand (see Acts 2:1-12). When the people come together to worship God by the Spirit then there will be that awareness that everything is being done in an understandable way.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of January of 2015

 

Hey! Look At Our Works!

Our Lord Jesus said to His Jewish opponents: Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father’ (John 10:37-38). Here, He is effectively saying that if you won’t believe in me on account of my teaching about myself; then look at my works which reveal who I am and thereby believe in Me.

Now that should be something that happens with regard to our churches; we similarly should be able to point to our works. There are many who will come into contact with us who will not want to receive our teaching. They might say it is obscure, strange, too strict, or whatever else. But we should be able to say to them that they should take a look at our works. There should be something about the life of the church that is qualitatively different from that which they see in the world. There should be a kindness among the people, an interest in one another, a sense of belonging among the community which is the church. The younger ones and the older ones have a caring intent in each other. There should be a generosity of spirit to those who do not fit in with society’s norms.

These works should be a demonstration that God is alive. If people ask: “how can I know that God is alive I haven’t seen Him do anything?” Then you should be able to invite that person to your church and say come and see. Come and see evidence that God is alive.

How is it with my church? How is it with your church? And come to think about it what am I contributing to that transformed community?

 

Consider Others.

I have heard it said that the young men can dream dreams and the old men can see visions, but it really does not matter because the middle aged will make all the decisions.

What Am I Putting Into The Church?

“If every church member was like me what sort of church would our church be?” This is the translation of a notice which is displayed in an Italian church building. It is striking in how it directly challenges the quality of our lives and commitment to “our church”. So how is it with our commitment to Feltham Evangelical Church?

Why is it, though, that we should bother about church? The main reason is that God is interested in the church. In Old Testament times God chose to give Himself a special place on earth at Jerusalem. It was the place He delighted in. Today, God’s special place is not Jerusalem (nor any other place or building), but it is the local church. Paul affirms this when in 1 Tim 3:15 he refers to the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. Remember,also, the words of Jesus: I will build my church and the gates of hades will not overcome it (Matt 16:18b).

In considering our attitude to church it is interesting to remember that of Nehemiah. When Hanani and other men from Judah reported about Jerusalem that Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (Neh. 1:3-4). In similar vein the state of the local church should affect us. Note also that Nehemiah did not just respond to the matter with feelings, fasting and prayer, he got on and acted. He showed his commitment to Jerusalem by going and seeking to rebuild the walls. And in getting the re-building going he influenced others to get involved in this mighty work for God.

So how is it with us? So many of us see all the defects of “our church” and complain that this and that is not right. But where is the fasting / prayer and where is the action. Are we willing to put ourselves out to aid the cause of Christ in “our church” or do we just lob destructive missiles from our cozy bunkers where we talk about the poor preaching, the lack of zeal of others, the fact that others are not friendly etc etc.. And whilst criticising “this, that and the other” we do nothing to help. To a greater or lesser extent we are all either contributing to the building up of the church or the destruction of the church. We so easily think about what we are getting out of the church. However our focus should rather be upon what we are putting into the church.

Remember as well the great truth of human experience is that we are all influencing one another for good or ill. Our life, our demeanour, our words, our conduct they all influence other people in the church. Paul speaks of Hymaneus and Philetus as having a message which spreads like cancer (2 Tim. 2:16). Will we have a cancerous effect on the church? Remember cancer, unless checked, always spreads and destroys life. Rather we should seek to heed the exhortation of Paul to Timothy to “but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

The truth of scripture then informs us that we should each be committed to a local church fellowship. We should then support that church through prayer and involvement in its life and work. Re-enforcement for how important this is comes in 1 Cor 3.

Paul is speaking to the Corinthians as local church. In vv10-11 he speaks of how he was involved in laying the foundation of the church at Corinth and that foundation is Jesus Christ. We note that every true church is built on Jesus Christ. A foundation must be built on though and Paul says that each one take heed how he builds on it. There is a day yet to come when, like the Corinthians, we will be examined for what we have put in to the local church; that is the day when we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Are we building into the church that which will endure for God (gold, silver or precious stones) or are we building in that which will be burnt up and be destroyed (wood, hay and stubble)? In that day of judgment those faithful in their commitment to the local church will receive a reward (see 1 Cor 3:14). However, those who have used the church for selfish ends will retain their salvation (which can never be taken away), but they will be saved through fire; the builder will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:15b)

How is it then with us? We should be acting now in anticipation of that day. Remember in all this that God is interested in motives. Matt 6:1-18 speaks about those who have engaged in spiritual activity (giving, praying and fasting), but that has all been for show. Such people have their reward now and have nothing left for the future. God knows the heart.

Let us then be thoughtful about our attitude to Feltham Evangelical Church. Our commitment (or lack thereof) does not just have consequences now, it has consequences for the future judgment!

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of December 2006)

 

Elders? Who Needs Them?

Well, every church needs them for a start. God has ordained that in His church there will be those who will have spiritual oversight over His flock. So in each individual representation of His church, each local church, elders are needed. To have a healthy biblical church which functions for the glory of God, we need elders. It is interesting to observe in Acts 14:23 to read that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. This happened when they were re-visiting the churches at Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. Through this we learn that they placed a priority on having elders recognised in these churches.

One perspective that often seems to prevail is that a church needs a certain compliment of elders and when that number is attained then that is enough for the time being. However, this seems to me to be an inappropriate approach. I say this for four reasons:

  1. Elders should not be appointed according to “as need should arise”, but according to gifting. Everyone in the church should be fulfilling the ministry that God has called them to. When this is happening then the church is functioning well. Accordingly, when someone is displaying that they are an elder then they should be recognised as such.
  2. Coming to a position that we feel we need elders now because we have fallen below compliment, runs at the risk of getting elders who are not gifted by God. Say Brother X suddenly leaves the church and there is one less elder. The church suddenly thinks we need another and they appoint brother Y. They do this just because they feel they need someone to fill the position not because he has demonstrated the required gifting.  This is a dangerous approach.
  3. Every church always needs elders. To sit thinking we don’t need more elders at the moment is a recipe for a church losing it’s way. Always in order to secure a future we need to be training, discipling, recognising and supporting elders.
  4. We need always to have elders on our prayer agenda.  When a Church stops praying about the recognising of future elders then the future is not great. Always a church should be praying for wisdom and strength for the present elders. But also be praying for the raising up and recognising of further elders.

(Originally posted at Venabling 02/06/2015)

Put Some Effort In!

A scripture that struck me forcibly recently was: Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting’. Anyone enquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp (Ex. 33:7). To enquire of the Lord required some effort to be put in. You had to go to “the tent of meeting” and that was some distance away.

Moses, of course, could have pitched it inside the camp or even close-by and thereby made it easy. But instead it was outside the camp and some distance away. In all this there was surely a test for the people. No-one could just halfheartedly stumble into the place where they could enquire of the Lord. Rather, they had to determine to go there. They had to put some effort in. The indolent, lackadaisical, casual and generally indifferent would not make it. Moreover, others would see you going to the tent and might even mock you for “taking religion too seriously.”

This leaves me to ponder upon how it seems that our churches are populated by a lot of people who are of the indolent, lackadaisical, causal and generally indifferent sort. I therefore raise the question are we making church too easy. Should we, as leaders and preachers, be pushing back more at people and challenging them as regards to whether they really do want to come outside the camp which is some distance away.

So what are some specific implications here:

  • It just seems so many fall into the socially acceptable pattern that I go to church once on Sunday morning and that is it. But people don’t seem to register that it might be good to go at other times to church. Going a great distance to the tent of meeting seems far from people’s thoughts.
  • We are so starved of people showing an interest in the faith that we “lay hold of people too quickly”. The Word corrects us here and says  Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 5:22a).
  • When people are showing interest push back at them to see if they are genuine. Ask them to buy a book or a Bible rather than giving them one for example. The Lord seems to have done this on occasion such as with the enquiring Syro-Phoenician woman (see Mark 7:24-30. In particular in v27 we read: ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’
  • Easy converts generally are no converts of all because they have never seen the heart of the Christian message. This is expressed by the Lord: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Lk. 9:23).

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