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

Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

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.

 

 

 

 

Church Comparing.

When you leave an old church and move to a new church there is a call to put behind what is behind. There are great dangers in always comparing your new church to your old church. The problem is particularly present when you believe that the church you have left is superior to the church you have come to.

Some issues here are:

  • The danger that you will never settle in another church. You will always be on the search for a church to compare with the one you have left.
  • You will poison your soul with the continual thinking that ‘I am losing out here. This new church is just not up to what I want.’ So rather than getting what you can at the new church you get nothing because, ‘what I had before was what I wanted (and want)’.
  • It is not fair to the leaders and congregation of the new church to have you always longing for “the utopia” you have come from.
  • You have to decide what really matters. There is a difference between form and substance. If the substance of a church is solidly biblical and gospel centred then we should be able to settle. The form may be, in fact always will be different, but we must be mature and discerning enough to know the difference.
  • Will your yearning for what you had kill you for any further usefulness? It certainly could if you don’t get a proper attitude on the matter.

And in all this remember the scripture in Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes.

Life is full of mistakes.

Some of the mistakes we make are because of willful stiff-neckedness. Whereas others happen because we are badly advised, caught up in unfortunate circumstance or simply through our frailty in understanding matters. Whatever the cause mistakes still happen, and will happen, in our lives.

In considering how we respond to mistakes in our lives we need to be aware that mistakes are not good. If we greet our mistakes with indifference then we are set for lives which accomplish little, are of little honour to God and of little help to others.

We need to commit ourselves therefore to responding well to our mistakes.  Here are some thoughts.

  • The source of many of our mistakes is sin. It is that selfish willfulness to reject God’s way and choose our way. In a sense these are not mistakes they are sins. Such sins need to be confessed. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Moreover, true repentance means we “never want to go there again”. We forsake those sins.
  • When we fall into mistakes, through our own ignorance or weakness, the main response should be to learn. We are fools if we do not learn from our mistakes. If we fail to learn we are likely to repeat those mistakes. And if we continue to repeat our lives will be a total disaster.
  • Some times the learning will mean training. This may be low-key training such as just speaking with somebody to gain insight into what went wrong. Or it may be more formal such gaining a new skill seek to avoid repeating the mistake.

So we want to eradicate mistakes from our lives as much as possible. But in this world with all its fallen-ness, with our own fallen-ness and weakness mixed in, mistakes are inevitable. The key to life, in the end, is not endlessly strategising to avoid mistakes, but rather learning from our mistakes.

As a footnote I would be suspicious of someone who makes no mistakes. Such people are very likely not fully living. This is because true living involves pushing on and pushing out. That means risk and where there is risk there is a likelihood of mistakes being made.

Application.

Chris Wright says this: “We should not seek to apply the Bible to our lives (as if our lives were the centre of reality), but rather apply our lives to the truth and story of the Bible.” (Evangelicals Now, Jan 2018, p15). This, to me, is quite a revolutionary statement as regards to how we live before God. It has big implications for our preaching as well.

So when I come to bring the Word of God to people what am I seeking to do? Am I a spiritual masseur seeking to bring God’s message into the lives of the stressed and hard-pressed people in front of me? Such an approach may help people to continue in their ways. However, it will not be transforming people to align their ways to the flow of God’s purpose. Real direction and purpose comes when we realign people into the great ways of the kingdom of God. When people see the greatness of God and His saving purposes in Christ Jesus then we start to get them moving into a true life enhancing pattern.

As we start to work out the implications of these truths for the lives of the people before us about God’s saving purposes then we get minds hearts and hands moving in a healthy direction.

This is all in contrast to the aforementioned approach whereby we seek to align God with people’s lives. When I bring God to the people as One who will pep them up with some extra finances, better health and even calmness of soul: have I actually helped them? In fact could I have positively harmed them, because I have brought them into their own saving purposes which actually lead to death and not into God’s saving purposes in Christ which lead to life!

What we all need to do is to realise we start to be fully human not when God mollycoddles us, but when we submit to Him as Lord. And when we use the Word in this way we will be seeing healthy transformation under God.

Enjoy Life

How do you enjoy life? We enjoy life when we please our Maker who is the living God.

How do we know what please Him? We know what pleases Him through His law. His law tells us what he loves and hates.

So when we follow His law we are on the way into enjoying life.

God’s law is condensed into two core commandments by our Lord Jesus as follows in Matthew 22:37-39:

 ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

So stop now for five minutes and before God consider:

  • How can love God with all my heart soul and mind? Perhaps that means responding to God with thankfulness for some blessing from God or dwelling upon some beautiful characteristic of the Lord.
  • How can I love my naighbour? That might lead you to thank about a kindness you can do, or a thankfulness you can offer or an encouragement you can give.

And then seek to do this every day. The outcome might be more drastic than you expect. This is because when you obey God’s law you please Him and that is when we enjoy life.

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for March 2018. It contains a further article on forgiveness

Absentees

I want to muse here upon church members who absent themselves from church. Now there are many reasons why church members can be legitimately, even properly, absent from church. Ill health, work commitments, holidays and child care would be among these. However, there are times when people absent themselves from church and the reasons are not so substantial. Wanting a lie-in, wanting a day-off, watching something “special” on TV would be among these.

What I want to say is that if you are absent is that the church misses you. Paul makes the comparison of the church to a body in 1 Corinthians 12. In vv 18-20 of that chapter he writes: But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. When someone chooses unnecessarily to absent themselves from the activities of God’s people then the body is found to be not fully constituted. There is a deformity thereby. It is not good to be an absent “eye” or “foot” (or whatever) because you render the body to be less than what it should be. 

Moreover, there is a sense of the people of God being yoked together in the church for the progress for God. When someone throws off the yoke and decides not to put their shoulder into the cause it is felt. Church members missing at the prayer meeting affect the prayer meeting, for example.

As believers we love one another and we love to see each others’ faces. We love to be stirred by others being together with us in church. Worshiping together, serving together, and praying together are beautiful things.

When people are not there, and we know not why, we are concerned. We love them and we want to know that all is well; their unnecessary absence causes us concern.

So just remember, fellow church member your absence matters.

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