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

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Being There

One of the beauties of being a Christian is to be committed to a local fellowship of believers. In being bound-in with the body of Christ, as has been set in that church, there is the responsibility to be assembling with them on a regular basis. From my earliest days of being a babe in Christ I was blessed to be in a fellowship where there was a commitment to be together. Accordingly, there was the expectation of being there at the services on a Sunday and also at the Prayer and Bible Teaching Meeting on a Wednesday. It was not something I thought about, it was something you did. And I have had the privilege to continue this over the years in other fellowships.

It seems to me to be a freeing thing to not have to think: should I or should I not go to the service. It is all just part of the beautiful responsibility of being in a local representation of the body of Christ. It therefore, perplexes me when there are those who just don’t perceive it that way. The services of the fellowship are attended to on the basis of what fits in with their convenience and arrangements.

In saying what I have, there are obviously times when you cannot be there, ill health, emergencies, holidays, fulfilling responsibilities towards others, work commitments and looking after children would cover circumstances where church attendance has not been possible.

In saying all this we do not want to make church attendance as a means of gaining status with the Lord. Our standing with the Lord is all  to do with the grace that is in Christ. We want church to be a place of delight in His grace and a place where we long to be together.

But that all does not take away from the fact that when we bind to a church we bid to supporting the meeting together at the services. If you are a church member and are not at the services you are missed; the body feels it.

Listeners.

Well, there are not may of them around are there? Who are they? They are listeners. Not many will stop, be quiet and listen to others. What I am referring to here is listening with interest to the person in front of you. It is about giving them your attention.

This of course flows on from what I talked about yesterday. People who need to talk need to have those who will listen. They need to find those who are interested in them. So often you can start to broach an issue in your life and you know that the person is not interested and so you back off.

Alas so many people are just interested in being speakers. They just want to be heard. They want to have their say. There are lots of talkers and not many listeners is my observation. In fact to find someone who will really listen when you are beset by deep issues is a rare thing.

Here is a ministry that is really needed therefore. So why not pray to the Lord today and ask Him if He will make you a listener. No doubt, you will soon find much to do and be a blessing to many.

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)                                                                                                                

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)

 

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Friends For Our Children.

In Psalm 127:4 we read: Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. When we are bringing up our children we are to be preparing them like arrows to be sent out into life. And as we send them out we want them to make an impact for the Lord. One of the ways we ensure that their effectiveness is maximised is by making sure they grow up with good friends who will be helpful for them in their development and as they move into adult life. With good godly people around them help is given so that those arrows are kept pointing in the right direction. Friends who have been brought up with the same values and the same doctrinal teaching as our children will bolster them in their development. If this does not happen those arrows are likely to be seized by the enemy and pointed back at the church.

Paul indicates what the impact of bad company is when he says to the Corinthians:  Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame (1 Cor. 15:33-34). Bad company will weaken our children and mitigate against their effectiveness for the Lord.

We need then, to take action. We need to get our children mixing with good company. Very likely this will mean self-sacrifice. It will mean making sure that they are at church and that they attend the groups for youngsters at church. It will mean getting them to mix with other families by inviting those families to our homes. We also need to be sending them to camps and appropriate holiday conferences. Through all this they will be building good relationships which can be vital in making sure that they go in the right direction and, in the Lord’s mercies, that they would come to know the Lord and be built up in Him and for Him.

Black-Box Thinking.

Here is a book by Matthew Syed. I have not read the book, but understand that his key premise is that we should be learning from our mistakes. It is based on how in the aviation industry the black box recorders are examined after flight disaster in order to learn lessons so that aviation safety can be improved.The fundamental premise is that when you have a failure, you have to examine why that failure happened and implement strategies so that those failures do not happen again.

It is all about learning from your mistakes. So do I learn from any mistakes? Another way of expressing the phenomenon is to observe that life is not about living a failure free life; it is, rather, about learning from the failures that do happen. So easily though we do not have this mind-set. Rather, when we do have failures we just get over them, carry on with life and forget what happened. In such a case we have failed to benefit from the failure.

So am I a black-box thinker? I suggest that should be the general tenor of my life if I am to develop and get stronger. So easily though we sweep things under the carpet. Businesses, churches, marriages are left impoverished because lessons have not been learned from mishaps and mistakes.

Another danger is that when failure does happen there can a tendency to give up. So in marriages when the couple have a row, and are struggling to work things out, there can be the tendency to give up on it all. Or in business if a product is being developed, then it can be ditched at the first sign of difficulty. And in churches, if an evangelistic strategy did not work out, there can be a tendency to just say we will give up on all this reaching out to people. This will not do we must go beyond our mistakes whilst learning from them.

Winston Churchill said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  To make the best of failure you have to go beyond it. The Bible says in Proverbs 24:16 For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. Let us be continually learning, looking ahead and moving forward. After all if there was no black-box thinking then flights would either stop totally or be continually crashing, neither of which are good recipes for success when transposed into life in general.

 

Many Ships Went Down……………

……at sea because people assumed things. It was assumed the boat would go in a certain direction and therefore it would avoid the rocks nearby. It was assumed that the ship would be strong enough to withstand the storm ahead. Such assumptions and many more can lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences if they prove to be false. Jack Phillips, the wireless operator  on the Titanic famously assumed that a message from another ship in the area that there were icebergs around was unimportant. He found the message bothersome because he was dealing with other messages.

Furthermore on a lesser scale relationships can be damaged through assumptions being made. A married couple might make assumptions about  how each is spending their money. If this results in an overspend or a resentment of how the money has been spent, the marriage can be harmed. And when this is taken into relationships in an organisation then all kinds of difficulties can arise. That organisation is then left functioning in a sub-optimal way because assumptions were made which led to fractured relationships. So in a church people assume others will do a certain activity without checking. As a result the whole undertaking can be messed up and fall-outs result.

In all this two things are vital:

Examination: Try and avoid making assumptions. Make sure that you examine the whole situation and determine what is the appropriate action to take. Don’t just assume things. There are times when assumptions have to be made, but the implications of those assumptions need to be considered. Assumptions can be particularly dangerous when you assume a certain course of action will lead to a certain outcome without giving full consideration to whether that is reasonable or not. In case of any doubt then be careful to check whether you have assumed correctly or not. Unnecessary assumptions are sometimes made through laziness.. This is unacceptable; do the necessary work so as to limit assumptions.

Communication: Fully communicate what assumptions you are making so that all involved know what you are assuming in a situation. It is good to be overly cautious as well. You may assume that someone will act in a certain way, but it is always best to check your assumption. Failure to do this may be disastrous if the person sees another course as appropriate. And continually be checking if your assumptions are correct so that matters can move forward in a harmonious fashion and there are no misunderstandings

In all this it is better to be safe than sorry. And it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

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