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

Archive for the ‘Crises’ Category

Sweet-Reasonableness

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. This is Paul’s call to the Philippian Christians in Philippians 4:5.

Paul is providing this injunction in the context of the disputings in the church at Philippi. It seems from the early verses of Philippians 4 that good gospel workers were prejudicing the progress of their good work by their fraught relations with one another. Relationships prosper when there is a proper give-and-take over issues which are not essentials to the maintaining, proclaiming and furtherance of the gospel of Christ. When there is a reasonableness between Christians then love is manifest and sweet fellowship developing.

Hence we have Paul’s call for this sweet-reasonableness. This word (epieikes in the Greek) can also have the meaning of gentleness. In the reality of life it means that I am willing to give way on issues; I am not always seeking to defend and protect myself. I will willingly make myself vulnerable so that others can have their way.

Underlying this attitude is the discernment of what really matters in life. To give up essential truths about the Christians gospel, such as the eternal Sonship and deity of Christ is not being sweetly reasonable.

For us to be truly sweetly-reasonable in the maelstrom of the issues of life is contingent upon us being relentlessly aware of the final statement in Philippians 4:5; that is “The Lord is at hand.” Why should I be continually fussing about what might happen if I don’t do this or that, or if i don’t have this or that. What if someone acts in such a way so that I am left in a perilous financial position? In such situation we have no need to fret because The Lord is at hand. He is right there looking after you, so don’t get hung-up about winning every petty little battle. The Lord is there and He will look after you and He is THE LORD. He has all things under his control.

And finally, as I have written about here don’t forget that very few things are the end of the world. So keep being sweetly reasonable.

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.

 

Hope (or Help) For The Desperate

Here is a sermon I recently preached at Feltham Evangelical Church. It did me a lot of good in the preparing and the preaching. Here is the outline:

Introduction

A.. Finding Your Feet (vv1-3)

B.. Stabilizing (vv4-5)

  1. In the presence of God
  2. Fellowship with God
  3. The goodness of God

C.. Looking Forward (vv6-8)

  1. Purpose
  2. Praise
  3. Practice

Conclusion

Have a listen if you wish.

The When Of Fasting.

When should we be fasting? The call to fast seems to clear in scripture. The fact that our Lord assumes that we will be fasting in the Sermon of the Mount (see Matt. 6:16) would give clear indication of the appropriateness of fasting. However, when should we be fasting?

Generally

As we see Anna giving herself to fasting and prayer; She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying (Luke 2:37b), we see something of what the devoted believer should be like. Individually believers, sometimes on their own sometimes in agreement with others, should have fasting included in their devotion to the Lord.,

Moreover our Lord saying “when you fast” (Matt. 6:16a) indicates that in the regular course of our lives we should be being constrained to give ourselves to fasting to reinforce our praying. This draws us into the point that fasting as a spiritual exercise is always connected to prayer.

Specifically,

Here I am thinking about when a church should be called to fasting. I suggest that this should be a part of church life, but not a regular part of church life. It should be that we are called to give ourselves to fasting in special circumstances.

In Acts 13:1-3 for example we read Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Here we see the general worshipping the Lord and fasting, but then they specifically fasted and prayed about the sending out of Barnabas and Paul.

If the elders of the church are calling the congregation to fast about an issue too regularly then the impact is lost. Special calls for the church to give themselves to these disciplines should be given, but only in certain pressing situations.

Moreover, I would say they would generally be for matters bearing specially in the life of the church. It is things that particularly affect us that should lead us into this prayer and fasting discipline. In bolstering this argument I would see that the church at Antioch quoted above fasted about the issue of sending out Saul and Barnabas, A furtehr relevant incident is when Esther is facing the necesstity of going in to King Artaxerxes, there we read in Esther 4:16-17 Esther relaying to Mordecai to “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had ordered him. Again an issue pressing upon the Jews led to the Jews being called to fast.

So if the elders of a church are never calling the church to fast then there must be something wrong. But similarly if the elders are calling the church to fast about too many things then something is also wrong.

 

Those are thereby some thoughts on when we should be fasting. The matter needs to be considered generally and specifically.

 

 

 

 

We Apologise For Actions, Not Outcomes.

It is increasingly observed how people apologise for upsetting others. When there is a bit of a furore about something, very often you will hear the person at the center of the controversy saying that he/she apologises to anyone who has been offended by what they said or did. But is this the right approach?

I reckon there was a bit of a furore when the Lord spoke so firmly and sharply about the Pharisees in Matthew 23. I don’t think the Pharisees would have been too impressed. But we never hear of the Lord apologising for offending them. Then think about those who went away from Him after hearing his teaching in John 6. We read in John 6:60-66:-

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.’

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Rather than apologising for the offence caused, the Lord actually challenges the grumbling disciples as to the cause of their being offended. The heart of the problem was that they would not believe. They were offended because they were in unbelief.

To say that we apologise for “any offence caused” is actually an easy way out. It gets people thinking we are being generous when that is not true at all. In fact we may be harming people.  If they are being offended because of sin in their hearts then there is a sense it can be a good thing that they are upset and offended. And their upset should lead them to repentance.

The reality is that if we speak the truth in a godly way, as the Lord himself always did, we are likely to offend people. And in such case we, like the Lord, have no need to apologise.

However, we are not the Lord. And there are times when we speak false things in an ungodly way. In such cases, we can apologize for our words or our manner – or both if necessary. To put it another way; it is sin that needs to be confessed, repented of and apologised for. If we have not sinned in dealing with someone then there is nothing to apologise for.

This of course also applies if we have done something to hurt someone. We do not apologise for causing the hurt. But we should apologise for doing the thing that caused the hurt. And we should be grieved over the fact that our sin has caused such pain.

Let us notice the words of Matthew 18:15 ‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” The Lord does not say we should go to seek restoration of the relationship when we have been upset or offended, but rather if someone has sinned.

So let us be careful in these matters. Wrong actions need to be apologised for. If right actions lead to offence and upset, there is nothing to apologise for.

(Originally published at Venabling on 28th August 2013).

The dangers of when all is going well

Let us observe and take note of this Word from the LORD to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:10-14.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

In many ways the most dangerous times, in our lives, are when everything is going swimmingly. In such times it is so easy to take our eyes off the LORD and trust in ourselves and our circumstances. The LORD knows this danger oh so well, and hence He warns the Israelites (and us through them ) about it. We, like the Israelites tend so easily to forget the LORD when all is going well.. We put Him on one side.

I am thinking of my own circumstances here and thinking of how after going through a time, when I seemed to be coping well and “on top” of things, the LORD suddenly brought me down. Life became “stodgy” again. I started to flounder amidst the demands of life. And in this, I feel the Lord saying: “you need to come back to Me and trust Me again”.

In Deut 8:14 the LORD speaks of the children of Israel being in danger of pride as they settle down with their fine houses and large herds. Self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction have grabbed their hearts as success, prosperity and ease have come into their lives. And they forget the LORD. That LORD who had done so much for them in saving them out of Egypt in the first place is forgotten.

Oh how dangerous this all is. So what is the means as by which we prevent ourselves falling in this way? We need to “praise the LORD” (v10). When all is well and fine we must forcibly return with our thanks to the LORD. We must also commit ourselves to pleasing the LORD through keeping His laws and commandments (see v11). These are the real preventives for ourselves spiritually slipping during times of ease.

Oh let us know ourselves so as to prevent ourselves slipping into spiritual complacency with all the dangers thereof.

 

We Must Pray

A recent Monday found me somewhat bedraggled through a certain circumstance that had beset me. The aura of that experience seemed to hang on me all day. So a despondency and melancholy prevailed.

It is very easy for me to justify my experience. Something had happened quite unexpectedly to cause me an amount of distress. But was I acting in faith? I had preached the previous Sunday on the fact that the great demonstration of true faith was seen in prayer (listen here if you are interested.) Alas, I failed to own my calling to be of faith to the glory of God.

And yet I do remember at one point in the day an almost instant transformation when one aspect of the perplexing situation was brought into the Lord’s presence. Suddenly I could see a way through it. A shaft of light shone into the prevailing darkness.

My musings lead me on to Scriven’s great hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

How much do we lose out because we allow matters to weigh upon us and do not bring them to the Lord? And the Word says

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)
Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you; (Psalm 55:22a)

Philip; remember who you are always! You are a child of God. You have a loving Father. Shame on you for acting like an unbelieving heathen when you have such a kind resourceful Father.

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