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Archive for the ‘Fellowship’ Category

Are You A Refresher?

When the Lord was anticipating the return of His people, Judah, from captivity He promised that, I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint (Jer. 31:25). A part of the blessing that the Lord brings to His people is that of refreshment. As the gospel began to be preached in the New Testament, a similar promise was given to all who respond. Peter in his preaching encouraged his hearers to Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19). God very often uses his servants to bring this refreshment. Let us face then the challenging question: Are you being used as a refresher?

In 1 Corinthians 16:17-18, Paul writes of how “I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition. When we arrive in someone’s presence are they glad as a result or are they dispirited? What is the impact of our presence? From this brief reference we get the clear impression that these three believers, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, were natural refreshers. They not only refreshed Paul, but had a similar impact on the Christians at Corinth. The fact that Paul says that they should be recognised indicates that they were top quality people. It is good to have people like them in our lives and in our churches.. We need refreshers who encourage us to keep going in the walk of faith.

Onesiphorous was a man of similar character. Paul was so grateful for what he had done. Paul says of him that he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains (2 Tim. 1:16b). Onesiphorus put himself out for Paul. Do we do that for our brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul further says of him when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me (2 Tim. 1 v 17b). Here was true “brotherly love” being demonstrated. There seems to have been a consistency about this man, as well, because he had also helped Paul in may ways at Ephesus (see 2 Tim 1:18b). Oh for reliable Christians who are steadfast in their commitment to helping their fellow believers. Such people are true refreshers and a real blessing to the church.

As we ponder upon the character of refreshers let us hear what Solomon says: Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master. (Prov. 25:13). We live in a world where people are increasingly unreliable. “Who can you trust nowadays?” We sometime lament. What a joy it is then to come across reliable people. In the proverb quoted above, we see how refreshment comes from dealing with reliable people. The master is refreshed by a trustworthy messenger. The scripture gives us a very evocative image when it compares the refreshment from a trustworthy messenger to cool snow on a hot harvesting day. That is refreshing! Do we bring such refreshment to others through our trustworthy characters?

The most essential part of our being which needs refreshment in this weary world is our heart. When our hearts are refreshed then we can be strengthened to move forward for our God. It is good to be refreshed in body, but far better to be refreshed in the heart. Philemon was a heart-refresher. Paul writes to him “You, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lords’s people” (Phile. 7b). Through his prayer, care, exhortation and general being, Philemon had put fresh courage and vigour into the inner-most beings of God’s people. Could that be said of us? Such ministry starts when we ourselves have a deep love for the Lord and longing that other believers would walk strongly for Him.

We must ask the question here about how the refresher can be freshened himself. This is important because the danger is that someone who is always giving out refreshment gradually empties their tank and has no more refreshment in them to dispense. The necessary thing is that we are continually taking time out to be refreshed and renewed in the Lord’s presence. The Lord’s Day is a key gift from God to that end. In Exodus 23:12, we read Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. Make good use of your Sundays to refresh your soul. But also embrace the principle of taking daily “time-out” with the Lord to be refreshed. Through our study of the Word and seeking of the LORD in prayer we refresh ourselves so we can refresh others.

It is worth noting though, in the gracious working of our God, that refreshers are also given refreshment. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Prov. 11:25). There is something refreshing about seeing weary souls refreshed. It is such a privilege to be a part of God’s renewing purposes.

Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of  September 2012

(Originally published at Venabling on December 8th 2016)

The Obligation To Pray

I was struck by a conversation I had recently with someone who was obviously feeling pained by the fact that the busyness of life was hindering them from giving time and energy to pray for others.

This leads me to ponder on how the Lord ordains to work out His good plans and purposes through our prayers. Paul would say to Philemon At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you (Phile 23). This is an intriguing statement. It reveals Paul’s understanding that the Lord chooses to move forward His purpose through our prayers.

Similarly Paul would urge the Thessalonians: Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men (2 Thess. 3:1-2a). In writing like this Paul confesses his reliance upon the prayers of others for the prospering of his ministry and the protection of his being.

We need to be stirred to pray for one another and all who are engaged in the Lord’s service. Praying should always come before planning. And all of our planning should be immersed in praying. Hudson Taylor wrote to his fellow missionary, Jonathan Goforth who was seeking to venture forward for Christ into Honan province in China as follows: “We have been trying, unsuccessfully, for ten years, to get into Honan. We’ve been beaten, stoned, and turned back time and again. Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees!

So I am stirred to think about my obligation to pray. There are many friends, fellow believers and servants of the Lord who need my prayers. I deny them so much if I deny them my prayers.

Oh and remember that when we pray we enter into so much blessing for ourselves. I need to remember these words:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:4-7).

And finally, if we love we pray. To say we love someone and not pray for them is hypocrisy. Prayer for someone is saying that you love them so much that you want the blessing of the Lord to be on them and God’s purpose to be worked our through them for good.

Gossip

Got any good juicy gossip for me today?” The world loves it; gossip that is. The newspapers and social media chat spaces thrive on it. And sadly, we so easily succumb to it and we become suppliers and receivers of that “juicy gossip”. What are we to say to this?

Firstly, we need to know what gossip is. It is the passing on of information to others about a person or persons with a view to harming that person and boosting your own self. The information may be false or true, but always it involves information which reveals secrets which put the other person in a bad light.

Immediately, we must suspect there is something wrong here because a Christian is always set on doing good to others. The Christian is set on love. Love does not boast in failure rather, as Peter says, “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8b). We should never retail information about others whether that be fake or true so as to harm that person. There are times when sins have to be exposed, but they are never done so in a vengeful spirit. Rather it is always so that the other person should come to repentance and that those sins should be cleansed away.

It is interesting to observe that a society that has fallen under the judgement of God and is experiencing breakdown in every realm is a society where gossip is one of the attributes. You get a sense of that anarchic society when you read They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil (Rom. 1:29b-30a). The church which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (see 1 Tim. 3:15) should be completely different. Gossip should never be found in the church.

In Proverbs we read of how gossip destroys relationship. A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends (Prov.16:28) indicates immediately how gossip destroys relationships. Further we read Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down (Prov. 26:20). Quarrels inevitably happen as we interact with one another, but gossip adds fuel to any quarrel and makes quarrels into conflagrations.

So how are we to respond to this issue. Of course Christians will never pass on false information. This is lying and it is reprehensible. But if we do have information about someone it is good to ask before we share the information; Is what I am saying accurate, kind and edifying. If we answer “no” to any part of that question we should refrain from speaking. A key way to make sure that we keep away from gossip is to have self-control in our lives. Self-control is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. And that leads us to realize that a Spirit filled person will not be a gossip.

How are we to respond if someone is gossiping with us? We are to be careful to guard our own heart. We read in Proverbs 26:22 that the words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. We can so easily swallow the words and enjoy the digesting. But we should resist this. When we suspect gossiping we should ask the suspected gossiper who is gloating in Mr A’s failure, “have you spoken to Mr A about this?” Such interrogation may take the wind out of their sails!

One thing we need to be on guard about is how we use our time. It is said of the younger widow in 1 Timothy 5:13 who have plenty of time on their hands that they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. Both the gossips and their hearers seem to be at fault here as they go from house-to-house gossiping. We need to be careful to fill our time like Dorcas who was always doing good and helping the poor (Acts 10:36). Lives that are active for the Lord are unlikely be gossipy lives.

So may Feltham Evangelical Church be a gossip free zone in a world of gossip. May there be no unwholesome word that come out of our mouths, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Eph 4:29).

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of November 2017)

Social (And Pastoral) Interaction

Having been challenged helpfully recently about being too private and not sharing enough about myself, I have been led to ponder upon the whole issue of social interaction. This also bears upon how we interact with people from a pastoral point of view; there are lots of cross-overs.

  • We must consider everyone to be more important than ourselves. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Phil. 1:3) is what Paul says to the Philippians. We must view all our interaction with others in this light. You are more important than me should always be our mantra.
  • Listening to the other person is such an important thing. Take a look at Luke 24 and see the Lord listening to the two on the road to Emmaus. I have written about that here.
  • Asking Questions. Good listening also involves asking good questions. In all this we showing that we are interested in the other person.
  • We need to share with each other. Just seeking information from the other person can be seen as manipulative even prying. A readiness to share gives an indication of me trusting, even honouring, the other person. You are doing this because you are committing certain information to them for their stewardship. This can, also, lead to the other person being willing to open up to us.
  • In order for others to care we need to share. In Gal. 6:2 we are called to share  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. If you do not know my burden then you cannot bear it. However, if you make it clear to me that you will not bear my burden then I will be most disinclined to share it.
  • Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith (2 Thess. 3:1-2) is what Paul says to the Thessalonians. One reason to share with others is to give them material so that they can pray for us. Do we want others to be praying for yourself? Then get information to them about yourself.
  • Interaction and sharing lead to flourishing and growing relationships. Relationships grow when there is the obvious willingness to be involved with another person and share time and life with them. By showing keen interest in another person and wanting to spend time with them you indicate that you want them to be a part of your life.
  • If there is a certain activity or work that the other person is doing and you show no interest in it then the message you are giving is that you are not interested them. If the other person perceives this, then they are unlikely to want to share much of their situation with you.
  • If you are in pastoral ministry then you have a calling to care. In fact if there is no desire to care in your heart then you should not be in that position. In caring you take an interest in the other person, and you want to know about them and listen to them. In fact you should always be wanting to be increasingly aware of the sheep under your care. As a result there can be the danger that you don’t reciprocate with sharing about yourself. It can be with the best of intentions. However, the other person can come away feeling short-changed because they have given you a lot and you have given them nothing.
  • Times also change in relationships. There can be seasons when you need to share with another person and they need to share with you.
  • A further perspective here is that leaders create cultures. If the leader is self-obsessed and always vaunting himself above people, then that will creates that kind of culture. If a leader is too quiet and shares nothing then you will end up with a very secretive community.

Lots for me to continue to think about for life and mins try.

 

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for July 2020. It contains an article on how we should interact with each other and listen to each other.

Friendship / Fellowship

Here is an article exploring what friendship and fellowship are. It also shows how they relate to one another.

How Do We Greet?

Oh our social interactions are in state of such flux aren’t they. We were apart from one another for a couple of months at the beginning of and now we are starting to interact together in the flesh. But how are we to do it?

This all meshes in with the varying degrees of sensitivity there are among us to the present exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Some are very wary as they are vulnerable on health grounds
  • Some are very wary because they are frightened of getting the virus.
  • Some are very wary and get angry with those who are not as wary as themselves.
  • Some are careful because the government still gives that message.
  • Some are unbothered about themselves, but thoughtful not to be too lax because of others.
  • Some are completely carefree, but respect others
  • Some are carefree and mock others who are not so.

So in this situation as at June 18th how do we greet people? This is a perplexity. If someone is in the carefree category and happy to shake hands or hug how do they know that you are a wary one? Their attempting a handshake could be at best socially awkward and at worst offensive.

I have to confess amidst all this I completely, without thinking, ended up shaking someone’s hand on Tuesday.

Watching the footballers last night it seems that fist bumps and elbow rubs seems to be de rigeur.

I feel that carrying a sign around with me may well be best to declare what I want in terms of greeting. So, through this, you will know what I am happy with. I am not sure how people would react to that though.

So given what the footballers did last night I will say, all things considered, that I am happy with a fist bump. But if you are not then that is no problem.

This issue is set to be a big one in our social interactions over the next few months and although it has its humorous side it also has the potential to cause much offence. As Christians we need to be very sensitive to each other in all this and certainly not be mocking each other.

Churches Back Together

In the UK there is still indication that churches will be able to meet together again in the flesh from July 4th. This will no, doubt be with restrictions, but it is a date to aim for. As a result of that plans are necessarily going to have to be made. Here is one document with thorough and helpful advice.

One thing that concerns me as I look towards the transpiration of events over the next few weeks is that of priorities. I fear that much attention is going to be given to practically preparing for returning to our building, whilst not much attention will be given to our hearts.

For some this is because they just so long to be back meeting together in a bodily manner. It is all they have longed for since late March and therefor being back is all they think about.

For others the problem is making sure we follow everything to the nth degree of the regulations and advice of the government. And any departure from the requirements is seen as dangerous. This can lead to a kind of mania of regulation investigation and implementation

For others it is the fear that if we do not put all the relevant precautions in place then we are going to put our health and the health of many others in a perilous danger.

For others it is simply that they love to administer and they love to examine the detail.

Now all of the cases just mentioned have redeeming features and a great deal of it is legitimate. We do long to function as churches; we do want to obey the government: we do want to protect our health and we do want to administer things well.

However, in all this we need to make spiritual preparations a priority. In many ways we potentially return as different churches. Over 100 days will have passed. People have changed; relationships have changed. We need to be thoughtful of what the Lord has been teaching us. We want to go back with the reality of knowing the Spirit of the Lord upon us.

Above all we need to be going back as a humbled and broken people. If we are in such a state then all will be well.We will be set to be used by the Lord in future days.

This all reminds me of the Mary and Martha dichotomy in Luke 10:38-42.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was not wrong, but Mary was wiser. And what Maratha was doing would have been transformed if she was Mary-like. This is because we are transformed for living and serving when we are Mary-like.

As we face the next few weeks then let us not forget to be Mary-like. Otherwise we will all be planning and preparing like Martha and there are going to be lots of agitation and argument.

Stop The Spread

The reasoning behind the lockdowns that have been put in place in so many places around the world is that curtailing the movement and gathering of people will stop the spread of the coronavirus. This is because of the way the virus is transmitted. The spread of the coronavirus is primarily through respiratory droplets. These droplets either spread directly or indirectly from infected surfaces.  This message still seems to be unappreciated by many people.

The reasoning of many people is just quite simply self-centred. They reason that they are not bothered about whether they get the disease or not and therefore they are free to continue with their lives. Christians put a spiritual gloss on this and say that they will carry on with their lives because the Lord will protect them. I have reasoned about this issue here

There is a sense that this is not very loving for four reason:

  1. You may actually be infected with the virus without knowing and therefore be passing it on.
  2. You may be a means of transmitting the virus through being in close contact with others. You can transmit the virus through having it on your hands etc.
  3. If you get infected you are likely to infect others.
  4. If you are contributing to the spread through your undisciplined activities then you are holding back the lifting of restrictions for all.

As we are moving forward with the lifting of the lockdown we, as believers, need to be thoughtful of the law of love for our families, churches and communities.

Further, the authorities can reasonably have a wariness of us because of the understanding that Christians do express their closeness through hugs and handshakes etc. and generally being together. In fact our being “church” and being in community together, mitigates against us being allowed to meet freely. There is a sense that the government’s reluctance to allow us to meet freely is a commendation of us; they actually understand that we function properly when there is open and free contact between us.

We are not like a D-I-Y store where people go to undertake a transaction of goods. We are a place where people meet in community and that is how it should be. Alas, though, that can mean that we are seen as a a greater risk for spreading the virus.

Let us be thoughtful of these matters as we seek to move forward.

Peter The Pig

One of the most memorable children’s books I read to the boys when they were young was Fun on the Farm Peter The Pig; The Grand Party. Peter is due to be four years old and he invites all of the farmyard animals to the party. He is looking forward to it and they are looking forward to it. Peter, with enthusiastic zeal, takes upon himself to be chief caterer. With great commitment he produces the food and welcomes his guests. Here upon the narrative reads:-

“Tea is served,” he said very grandly. The animals watched eagerly as he lifted the lids. And then to their horror, they saw what was in the dishes. In one was a huge pile of boiled potato peelings  and cabbage stalks , and in the other………PIGSWILL. Poor Peter looked at their shocked faces. “Don’t you like it?” he asked sadly. “It took me ages to prepare. I thought that, as I like it so much you would too.”

Happily Farmer Pippin and Jeannie step into the breach to provide the necessary apple juice, jelly, ice-cream, chocolate cake and frothy milk and so they all had a grand party.

The sobering part of the story is the enthusiastically sensible and yet flawed logic of Peter. He likes the peelings, stalks and pigswill and so he expects that everyone else will. Alas how many times I have had a Peter the Pig moment when I have realised that everybody does not see the world through the same lens as me. Others have different preferences and different tastes. Others have different ways of doing things, And I, in my naivety, have presumed that everyone is like me.

Oh how I need to be thoughtful about these matters. Surely when love and prayerfulness is characterising my being I will know something of being saved from my self-centred perspective on life. After all love thinks about others and love stops and considers how others see things.

Similar musings appeared here previously concerning the tea issue.

Originally published at Venabling on November 1 2016

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