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

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

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).

My Bible

It is good to get used to your own Bible. In these days of the extensive use of technology, this is getting to be  less and less  common. However, I still think there is something good about having your own Bible. In doing this, you get used to where certain things are in you Bible. You get used to what part of the page you saw something. How many times have I been looking for something in my Bible and not quite sure what reference it was, but knowing that it was in a certain location.

There is something encouraging to see people bringing their own Bibles to church with them. We have a church Bible at Feltham, which for practical purposes is good. However, to see people getting familiar with the Word through using their own Bible, as Scripture is read and preached in church is encouraging. There is just something good communicated by someone bringing and using their own B Bible in church and getting familiar with it.

(Originally posted at Venabling on 22/07/2014)

Sunday Priorities

Our commitment levels to Jesus Christ our Lord through His church sometime alarms me. Let me observe some Sunday morning activities in the Feltham area?

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses out on the streets before 8.45.am. to disseminate their poisonous teaching. But they are committed enough to be out there.
  • The Car Boot sale at Hounslow Heath. People are out there selling their wares and looking for bargains. Stall holders allowed to set up from 6.30.am.
  • The Indian cricketers out from 7.00.am. enjoying their game together in the park

Wow! Now there is commitment. Commitment to leisure, religion and materialism. The display of professing Christians is pitiful in comparison, I feel. For many Christians lots of things seem to take priority, on a Lord’s Day,  over being with God’s people for the Worship of the God who is their Father and His beautiful Son. The “well-earned” lie-in, the playing of sports, the working to get some money and other intrusions all divert us from the priority of worship on the Lord’s Day.

Is it a problem with church? Well perhaps it is, and we need to think about this. Is church so dull and unappealing that people just don’t feel any interest in getting out to the services? If so we need to ponder upon what is happening in church and change as necessary.

Notwithstanding this I am still left feeling that Jesus Christ must be really unimpressive to most people who profess His name. And yet it all seems so wrong. He gave up everything for me, suffered at the hands of those He had created is really true and it is major. Surely I can sacrifice a bit of lie-in time or whatever. Surely I can put myself out so as to be praising Him with His people.

I finally note for our consideration the Word of the Lord

  • to Eli concerning his family …Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained (1 Sam. 2:30b).
  • to the self-protective Israelites through Malachi.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Mal. 3:10).

In both cases the Lord is urging His people to put Himself and His call first. And if they do He is promising blessing

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.

Tag Cloud