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

Archive for the ‘Fellowship’ Category

Not Many Listeners.

One thing that has struck me during my recent struggles with depression, is that there are not many listeners around. The ministry of listening seems to be much undervalued and little practiced. I have written about this previously here. I want to encourage you as regards to the value of this ministry. I want to encourage you to the ministry of listening. I want you to think about the blessing that you can bring as a listener.

So many think that they cannot help other people because they will not be able to say the right thing to help someone with their problem. But that is not the best way to think about speaking with people who have issues in their lives. Rather, it is through being a listener to someone recounting their struggles and difficulties that you can be such a help. So very often it is in the speaking out of a matter that someone is helped. Your listening, not your speaking will be the key to helping someone. When someone talks something out they can very often sort something out. This is because the talking leads to sifting through the issue in their hearts and minds.

Moreover, the fact of having someone to listen to you can be such blessing because you realise that someone is out there who cares; I am not isolated and on my own.

In engaging in listening ministry the key is to be willing to be quiet; not to feel that you have got to interject and make your point. It is also important to be able to ask relevant questions. I suggest there needs to be a mixture of open-ended questions, which help people to work through their situation, and specific questions, which make people focus on the issues. Such questions as “What led to your problem?” or “How are you understanding matters now?” would be open-ended questions. Such questions as “When did that happen?” or Who said that?” would be direct questions.

Above all meditate and learn from the example of our Lord in Luke 24. I have written here previously on this. On the road to Emmaus we see our Saviour as the perfect listener.

So please please think about how you can be of much service to the church and people generally through the ministry of being a listener. And dare i say, any engagers in this ministry will be so valuable to the Lord.

How We Sing

Ken Morey, a former pastor at Feltham Evangelical Church, used to say how he wished all had the privilege of seeing Timi Fayomi’s face when he was singing the Lords’ praise. Timi was so delighting in singing praise to God that it was reflected in his appearance.

And I memorably remember seeing Sue Legg’s demeanour when she was singing “Immortal Honours” at Feltham on April 13th 2006, and her evident total engagement with savouring the blessings of God into her life. In fact, I often remember this when I sing the hymn.

These are both reminders of the impact that can be made through how people sing. And surely there is an appropriateness here. Our faith should affect our emotions. When we are singing we should be engaging our emotions with great realities of our God and all that has been revealed to us of Him. And in the midst of it all, there is an awareness of what our LORD is to us and what he has done. Which all leads to the stirring to our beings.

It is interesting what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 concerning the manner of our singing: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Our singing should be having an impact in teaching and admonishing one another.

Moreover, whether we like it or not, we do have an impact on one another. If I am slovenly and give the impression of being bored whilst singing then I am negatively impacting those around me. On the contrary, when I am vigorously engaged in the worship of God through song then this can encourage those around me to fervency in their worship.

We must note, though, that the singing must be from the heart. It’s no good just seeking to act the part. Such thespian activity will soon be exposed for what it is; NOT genuine. We need hearts that are singing gratefully to the Lord because they have been moved by the Lord.

So when I am singing the Lords’s praise and engaging in song with Him concerning His ways and concerning my way before Him and others, is there an obvious  impact in my being? And is this impact being demonstrated through my singing?

Originally published at Venabling on November 21 2014

Growth contd.

Last month we started a study focusing upon how we need to grow as Christians. This is not an optional extra; Christians need to be growing. Having considered the need for food last month, let us this month look at the issues of exercise and getting the right assistance.

Exercise In order to grow properly we not only need good food, we also need to exercise. The food of course must come first, but to have muscles which properly develop, exercise must take place. What are we to say on this matter then as we consider the spiritual realities involved?

One thing we need to do is to make sure we live out our faith. As James says, faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26b). To be living the true life of faith we need to be using the Word of God to impact our lives. We need to be walking in the light of what we have been taught. We need to work out what has been fed in! We must be making sure that our lives harmonise with our confession. Paul in 1 Timothy 6 is presenting various ways in which a believer can get taken away from following God (see 1 Tim. 6:9-10). He then goes on to say in verse 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

We need to realise that there are times when we need to fight so as to progress in the walk of faith. Paul urges Timothy to Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Tim. 6:12a). The Christian needs to step up and fight the battles of the Lord against sin and unrighteousness. Paul says to Timothy that he needs to be be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1). We need to be strong so as to fight. However, as is true of a boxer so it is true of a Christian, the fighting actually makes us strong; it builds up our muscles. We must note here though that we need to choose our battles. In the spiritual realm fighting the wrong battles weakens us. So Paul again warns Timothy to Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith (1 Tim.6:20b-21).

Exercise also needs to be happening in respect of our gifts. Gifts are given to us to be exercised. We are not to hide our gifts away, but to exercise them. Paul tells Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2. Tim. 1:6b). As we exercise our gifts, we grow. We learn from mistakes and we learn from others how we can best fulfil our ministry for the glory of God and the benefit of others. So as we grow, the church grows. Oh the beauty of these things!

Fellow Christian, is your gift lying dormant or are you exercising the ministry God has called you into? In the church there are too many sleepers. And we know that if someone sleeps all day and does not get out of bed then their muscles will atrophy and become weak. The church needs your ministry and so make sure you get up and work for the Lord. If you are struggling to know where and how you can get involved in the church then speak to the elders of the church and they will seek to help you.

Getting the Right Help Many fail to grow because they feel that they can grow on their own. One of the principles of animal life is that the young always need help to get established. Without that help they are unlikely to get growing and will be very weak. This is also seen in the realm of vegetation where protection and nurturing is often given to young plants. This is done through a stake being placed alongside them to keep them growing in the right direction and cages placed around them to protect them from that which would harm them.

This indicates that in order to grow we need others to help. There is a sense that this is always the case. If someone has concluded that they do not need the help of others then that one is in danger of stopping growing. But for those in the fellowship who are young in the faith, it is essential that they gain help from others. God has placed spiritual leaders in the church to help. Elders are there to protect and guide the church so that they make good progress in the right direction. This is particularly so for those who are young in the faith.

However it is not just true for the young, it is true for all of us. Let us hear God speak to us, in this matter through this proverbs: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise (Prov. 19.20). We can be opening ourselves to so much blessing when we seek out others to help us.

This raises the question about having those around us who are willing to help us and nurture us. This is an ongoing need in every church and every Christian needs to face up to their responsibility in this. We read in Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Every Christian should be praying about and working towards the growth of others.

We must note that elders have a particular responsibility in this. As Paul says elders should be those who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12b). If an elder is not assisting the believers in the church through his care and admonition then he is not an elder. We need elders, real elders among us.

So we conclude and say that, if you are a Christian you should be growing in the Lord and for the Lord. You will grow through consuming good food, engaging in exercise and drawing upon the assistance of others.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of February 2016)

 

Growth.

Peter urges us as Christians to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Every Christian should be growing. If a Christian is not growing there is something wrong. Furthermore, if someone is not interested in growing in grace and knowing Jesus then it is unlikely that they are a Christian. So what about you as we enter 2016? Are you wanting to grow? In this study, which is due to continue into the February newsletter, we intend to consider: “What Do We Need In Order To Grow?”

Food 

As a priority, in order to grow we need food. For a child to grow physically, he needs to eat food, and so it is with a child of God. For a Christian to grow spiritually he needs to be eating the food of the Word of God. The first concern that every parent has for their child is that they are getting good food. Fellow Christian, you need good food! Without good food, you will not be healthy. Peter used the imagery of the need for healthy bodily nourishment, when he says that Christians should crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1 Pet. 2:2b). Oh, how Christians should be desiring the pure spiritual milk of the Word for the nourishment of their souls? To re-inforce this point we observe that Our Saviour answered the devil by quoting from Deuteronomy in Matt 4:4 ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is the food we need.

There are three particular realms in which we can feed on the Word of God.

  1. Personally.

You must read the Word of God on your own. As we need food for our bodies everyday, so we need food for our souls even more. We must get before God every day, and read and study his Word. We read for the feeding of our souls that we might grow. The Feltham Journey (see Notes) is one means of doing this, but there are many other ways. As you move into 2016, think about continually keeping your personal reading of scripture fresh.

  1. With Others.

When you meet with other Christians, open up the Word of God, read it and discuss it. Alternatively, if there is something on your mind from your personal studies, talk about it with others you meet with. Share with them what God has been teaching you. What do you put on Facebook? Why not put there what God has taught you? The Feltham Journey WhatsApp group provides a forum for this as well.

Are there any issues that you are wanting to resolve or find out more about? Then why not be asking other Christians about their understanding of the issue from the Bible. Through such a means you can be finding out what the mind of the Lord is on such matters and you will be growing.

  1. In Church.

Perhaps this is the most important arena in which to be hearing God’s Word. Here the sheep of God come together to be fed by hearing the Word preached and taught by those who have been raised up as teachers of God’s Word. One of the gifts God gives to His Church is that of pastor-teacher. They are gifted so that all may be benefited by the food they provide. So make sure you are there often so as to be fed on God’s Word. And as we, as a church, feed to together; we learn together.

An observation concerning those who separate themselves off from the flock is that they do not grow in a rounded and wholesome way. “Isolationist Christians” are generally malnourished and also malformed because they have an impoverished diet. They have not been using God’s means, provided in the church, through gifted preachers and teachers, for their strengthening in the Lord. Therefore, they have not been having their beings formed through a balanced diet of God’s Word. One consequence of malnourishment is malformation. One way of spotting that a Christian is malformed is when they have an obsession with certain doctrines which is out of all proper proportion. Minor issues are majored upon, whilst the keys issues of our faith are given little attention. This is not good.

As and attender of Feltham Evangelical Church why not make a point in 2016, of getting to the meetings/services where the Word of God is taught. Read through the newsletter and see when they are. If you want guidance speak to the elders, Zach and Philip. Oh, for the good of your soul make sure you are fed well! True shepherds have the best welfare of the sheep at heart and want to make sure that you are being fed well.

However, ultimately each individual is responsible for his/her soul before God. So each must makes sure they are receiving nourishing food. Accordingly, you must be continually checking as to whether the spiritual food being brought before you is nutritious. Remember, much poison looks attractive and nutritious, but is still poison. So be like the Bereans who received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Act 17:11b). One simple way to do the examination is to ask how much of Christ is in this teaching. The Word of our Lord Jesus is that ‘I am the bread of life. (John 6:35b). When the Word is being brought so that it leads to Christ, focusses us on Christ and exalts Christ, you can be sure it is being preached and taught in a healthy way. When there is a continual emphasising that God works out and fulfils His purposes in Christ, then we can believe that all is well in our feeding and we will grow thereby.

Oh, as you move into 2016 make sure that you get yourself fed! Get yourself well fed with nourishing spiritual food. Food lacking in nutrition leads to stunted growth. Even worse, it could mean that you shrivel, and perhaps losing all spiritual vigour.

(Next month we plan to look at “exercise” and “getting the right help” as two further factors in making sure we grow well.)

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Newsletter of January 2016.)

 

God Left Him.

In 2 Chronicles 32:31 we read these words concerning Hezekiah. But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.

These are sobering words concerning the sovereign works of our God. Two things we need to remember as we consider these words are that:

  • The Lord loves us as His people and is working everything so that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Saviour.
  • The Lord has promised never to leave us or forsake us. (see Hebrews 13:5 quoting from Deuteronomy 31:6)

But what do these words mean concerning Hezekiah? He obviously went through a time of not feeling anything of God. He had no felt awareness of the Lord working.

In all this God was working to give him a clear examination. Was Hezekiah only doing the Lord’s will because of the evidence of the Lord in his life. Or was Hezekiah doing God’s will because it was God’s will and that is all that matters. We must obey our kind heavenly father not because He is with us, but because of who He is.

How do I respond when I am not feeling the presence of God? How do I respond when there seems to be a barrenness and a coldness in my soul. Do I still seek to please Him even when I have no feelings for such?

 

 

Quiet Time.

One thing I have dwelt upon recently is why it is that people drift away from the Lord. Not only have such people lost their fire for their Lord, they seem to have lost their very life itself. Whether it be backsliding or proving that they have never had the Lord’s grace-given life, they fade away into oblivion.

One tentative conclusion I have reached is that a lack of attention to daily personal devotions has contributed to this disastrous outcome. Without the kindling of our hearts in His presence through the study of the Word and seeking Him in prayer we die; our life fades away. Without coming before the face of our God we lose our interest in His ways. The life of God is only experienced when we are knowing that glow from His presence into our lives through being in his presence.

When our souls are weary and the Lord seems distant, the remedy of spending time with the Lord comes and refreshes us in the walk of grace.

So we must have our quiet time. We need daily fellowship with our God. If we do not have this we risk fading away; we put our lives in peril. We set ourselves on a slippery slope to spiritual deadness.

And so how is your Quiet Time? And please feel free to challenge me about mine when you next see me. Our lives depend upon regular fellowship with the Lord in the quiet place. So let us not neglect this.

Praying With Others.

In my early days at Feltham I spent many happy times praying with just me and brother, Julio Alverio. Sadly, Julio now has his mental faculties significantly denuded and is in a care home. The happy memories still stand though.

It is interesting how praying with other believers can vary some much. To be able to pray with a small number of brothers, even just one, who are prepared to just to “go for it” and seek the Lord in praise, worship and supplication can be so very special. The sense of togetherness and freedom and lack of inhibition is so good.

Alas, this is not the case with everyone. Some seem to think that if you have verbally prayed once or twice then you have completed your roster. In such situations there is an awkwardness.

Writing this gives rise to memories of many happy times when prayer has been made to the Lord. Foretastes of heaven these are, might I say. And if you read this and are one of those brothers, then thanks to you for your fellowship and joyous unity in the gospel.

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