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

Archive for the ‘Fellowship’ Category

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

Margaret And Her Welcome

Our dear friend and sister in our Lord, Margaret Lee,  went to be with her Lord on April 16th. Myself, May Lin and the family shared much time together over the past eleven years or so.

One thing I want to muse upon here is her welcome. I hear it reverberating around in my mind right now. I would go to the intercom system at Felbridge Court and press the button for her flat, she would answer and ask who it was. I would respond with my name. Whereupon she would say “come on in” or words to that effect. The warmth of her welcome still uplifts me as I write this.

It was tangible that she wanted you to be there. Sadly I won’t hear that again in this world. I wish I had recorded it. Perhaps if you knew Margaret you have heard those same words many times.

This raises the issue of how we welcome people. Do we convey to them a generosity of heart which wants to welcome them into our environment? Margaret did. Often her generosity of welcome was to her harm because she would welcome people when she really needed some rest. But her heart was to welcome and taht was beautiful

Of course this all reminds us that we stand right now in this age of welcome. Because Jesus Christ the Lord came to same us from our signs there is a great welcome sign up in heaven. It is reflected in the words in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

As I mention those words I am left to wonder about the large number of people who had their burdens lifted in Margaret’s home. Perhaps you are one; I certainly had more than a few lifted by the Lord through His servant Margaret.

And as she welcomed people in her own unassuming way she reflected the welcome of her welcoming Saviour.

So often we would interact about how we would be soon home. And now she is home; forever with the Lord.

Oh I will miss her so very much

Project Appreciation

It is a strange curiosity of life that people are very often only appreciated in their deaths. So upon someone’s decease you get obituaries written and eulogies given. What I want to propose is that we take some action today to actually appreciate people right now.

The coronavirus happenings have brought us into a time of much despondency. Can I suggest that taking time today and in the days to come to appreciate someone can be a great means of lifting the spirits.

Moreover, you may feel that you are not appreciated and you feel that very much. Well, why not respond to your own feelings of being taken for granted by taking action to appreciate others. You feel the pain of being unappreciated, why not seek to alleviate that for others.

It can be members of family or friends or work colleagues or fellow church members or someone who helped you much in the past or whoever. Just get involved in appreciating.

And how can you do it? You could call them and speak to them. How about sending a message by text or email or whatever. Or perhaps best of all, send a card or a letter by post. This is best because it has the benefit of being something tangible. As a result it is more permanent and therefore something the recipient can go back to again and again. Thereby, the blessing can be multiplied.

Younger ones in particular think about taking action and sending a card to someone older. I know it is not really a part of your culture, you prefer online stuff, but why not try it?

By the way I am not talking about fakery here. It is not about making things up. It is about genuine ways we can appreciate others.

So why not be a joy bringer today and in the days to come by appreciating someone.

Oh and somebody appreciated me last week and it made such a difference to me when I was wallowing in a bit of a disconsolate pit.

So get involved in project appreciation.

How Many Parties In Luke 15?

There is only one party in Luke 15 and that is the party celebrating restored relationship. So we see in Luke 15:22-24 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The dead and lost son was found and alive again and the father was alive with excitement about the thrill of being able to enjoy being with him again. The impression is that they partied so as to out-party all other parties. What a celebration!. Yet it is significant that this was the only party going on. There was no party for those who wanted to engage in religious observance; there was only one for restored relationship.

The son who had the privilege of always being with the Father had no sense of the privilege and joy of that relationship. He was more set upon the drudgery and misery saying to his father  ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends (Luke 15:29). He should have spent those years enjoying being with the Father. He should have been thrilled that his brother was back so as to enjoy these privileges. But NO! The suspicion is that if only he had had the opportunity he would have preferred being with the prostitutes than with the father (see v30).

Oh how bad this is and yet we so easily go that way. We should be longing for all of our lost brothers to return and enter into the relationship we have with our Father. And when they return we join them in celebration. Alas, we so often have little wonder of our being with the Father and think that the prostitutes might be a happier place. This is a terrible thing.

But remember there is only one party in Luke 15 and that is one about restored relationship. If we do not want to be at that party we may well be more like the second son than we like to think. We may very well be religious, but not converted. The test is whether or not you want to be at the party celebrating restored relationship.

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