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

Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

Praying And Preaching.

Am I better at praying or preaching? If you are a better preacher than you are a prayer then be careful. If you excel in your preaching over your praying then your preaching may not what it should be. Your preaching in such a case, rather than emerging from the energy of the Spirit, may well be being carried off because of the impressive oratorical skills that you possess.

Prayer gives the fuel for the exercise of our gifts. This is because prayer brings us to know and experience God. If there is no fellowship with God in prayer then everything will shrivel and perish in our ministry. That may not be visible to human eyes, but it will be visible to the unseen eye of our all-seeing God. We may be able to carry things off and show ourselves to be very impressive, but it will all be show.

This reminds me to mention the frightening assessment of our Lord who warns in Matthew 7:21-23:

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

Impressive activity does not mean spiritual acceptability. Dare I say, many impressive preachers may well ultimately be in the “I never knew you” camp. And that is very sobering!

O Lord may I excel in knowing you through prayer.

Annoying Street Preachers

Oh to have more Spirit anointed suitable gifted servants of the Lord out in our town centres declaring the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus. The mandating of this ministry by the Lord is clear in  Proverbs 1:20-21 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square;  on top of the wall[d] she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech.

What I want to address here though is the way in which this ministry is undertaken. The matter has recently garnered some publicity through the arrest of a preacher outside Southgate Tube Station . One report of the incident is here.

Immediately I want to make clear that I commend and admire street preachers for their courage in declaring the Word in the public square. However, it is the conduct of the preachers that I want to muse upon.

In watching the arrest of this man I am struck by the fact that there is plenty of truth, but little grace, I admire the truthfulness, but recoil from the gracelessness. We need to remember that the Saviour we serve was full of grace and truth (John 1:14b). Furthermore, the call of the Lord through Paul in Colossians 4:6 to us (including all street preachers) is Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

It is one of my concerns in respect of street preachers who have been arrested or taken to court, to consider in what way have they conducted themselves. It is easy for the Christian media and twitterverse to make headlines out of the arrest of a Christian preacher, but we should want to know what actually happened to lead to the arrest. Of course there can be times when police officers can be vindictive and wanting to humiliate the Christian preacher. However, very often they are responding to a complaint and seeking to reasonably investigate a situation.

The gospel is not recommended when we deliberately are offensive or conduct ourselves in a way that is just simply annoying.

A final point I would want to make is that as Christians we are called to be those who respect those in authority (see Romans 13:1-7. I feel the gentleman arrested in Southgate was less than respectful. To gently interact with a police officer about what he is doing and your “rights” is very different from his finger-wagging intimidatory approach.  Further, in this anti-authoritarian age we do the Lord’s cause no service when we brazenly display little respect for those in authority ourselves.

Prayer In Preparation.

What of prayer in preparing for preaching? I was struck recently at a seminar by Jonty Alcock of Globe Church, London mentioning about prayer being a continual thing in preparation.

It should not be that we prepare and then pray or pray and then prepare. Rather, praying should be a ongoing response to the engagement with God’s Word in preparation. As we study we pray:

  • For our understanding of the Word.
  • The suitable arranging of a message to declare to the people.
  • The clarity of the presenting of the Word.
  • The enabling of the Spirit in declaring the Word.
  • People to be there to hear the Word.
  • For individuals you know will be there
  • For receiving of the Word and a responding to the Word.
  • For this Word from the Lord to mould the people to effective godliness.

And as I pray the Word is being understood by myself and the message is being formed. Moreover I am being formed in the Word and with a heart for the people. So I am a messenger of the Word to bless His people.

The Prosperity Gospel.

The Prosperity Gospel holds sway in a vast number of churches. It can also easily hold sway in our churches and our hearts as well. The Prosperity Gospel is very attractive and very popular, but it is a false teaching which is very harmful to those who fall under its influence.

What is the Prosperity Gospel? It is the message which declares that if you become a Christian then you will have health, wealth and happiness. Moreover, if you become a really good Christian then you will have lots and lots of health wealth and happiness. Accordingly, in order to seek to prove its truth the leaders of church and ministries, where this message declared, must be very wealthy, very healthy and very happy.

What underlies the message? Three issues cause the message to deviate from the truth of the Bible. These are wrong perspectives on God, His blessings and His desires or His people.

  • God is seen as a nice God who always brings nice things into the lives of His children. So if you have unpleasant things in your life then that proves God is not happy with you.
  • His blessings are viewed in a worldly way. The way of the world is that I am happy and I get what I want. So God’s blessings are viewed in terms of a healthy bank account a fit an healthy body and happy circumstances.
  • God is interested in me having a happy and comfortable life

Whereupon we must ask if these perspectives are not right then what should be the proper view of God, His blessings and His desire for his people.

  • God is the true god I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord (Jer. 9:24b). God is not focussed on exercising niceness. He is focussed on exercising grace and truth. So we notice of our Lord Jesus as He entered this world that he was full of grace and truth (see John 1:14).
  • Our blessings are not to be measured according to the measure of this world. Our blessings are connected to another world. Our blessings are not in ourselves, but in Christ (see Eph. 1:3)
  • God is interested in me being holy and having all my satisfaction in Himself.

The agenda of the Prosperity Gospel is based on the agenda of this world, whilst the agenda of the true gospel is focussed on the world to come. In working out His agenda, so very often God gives His people very painful circumstances in this world. God’s people do suffer. The Book of Job in the Old Testament with all of its 1070 verses, is devoted to this theme. The question that underlies this book is: Does Job trust God for what he can get from Him (the worldly way) or does he trust Him because of who He is (the godly way)?

In the New Testament we immediately see how God’s agenda is different with the beginning of the ministry of our Lord Jesus. At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him (Mark 1:12-13). The Spirit of God sent the Lord to a hard place with hard experiences. But note that angels came from another world to sustain Him in the hardship.

And then we see with Paul how God sent a thorn in the flesh. Whatever that was, it was not nice. Let us read Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 as he looks back on this experience:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul suffered so that he would know the power of God.

We need to have these things rammed into our beings. We so easily think that God is being good to me only when I have good things and He is only answering my prayers when I get what I want. Yes thank the Lord when you do have blessings from him. Every meal you receive, for example, is an indication of His blessing. But remember you may have far more to thank God for through Him giving you a broken leg or him giving you a difficult colleague at work. This is because we learn far more when circumstances drive us to God than when everything is comfortable and we trust in our situations.

In the light of these things. I raise three concerns:

  • So many people are thinking they believe in Christ, but they do not believe in the true Christ. Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins so that we might be like him. To believe that Christ died to bring great things to me is a lie and takes people to eternal hell.
  • When bad things come into their lives so many (so-called?) Christians treat it as a blip in life and can say nothing about it. But when good things they are gushing with happiness. The true Christian knows that God is good in both and can worship Him in and through both.
  • The false gospel of prosperity promises you contentment in what you have and fails. The true gospel offers you acceptance in Christ and eternal blessing in Him and succeeds.

So be finished with the teachings of the likes of Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, David Oyedepo and Enoch Adeboye. But more subtly be finished with any thought that God is only working good when I am passing exams or earning lots of money or achieving lots of things.

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

 

Preaching For Eternity.

What are we doing when we bring the Word of the Lord before people? What response are we wanting from the people? The ministry motivation of the apostle Paul is instructive in seeking to answer those questions. In Colossians 1:28-29 we read:-

He (Christ) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Paul is thinking of a day when everyone he has ministered to appears before God. His desire on that day is that all will be perfect, or fully mature, in Christ. So Paul is not preaching for popularity or temporal results; he is preaching, labouring and ministering for eternal results. He sees people as eternal beings and their value to God, others, and even themselves, will be found when they are growing in Christ Jesus and for His glory.

Paul would, therefore, be preaching to root out all that would hinder growth in Christ, Accordingly, he would deal with sin; he would have a sin exposing and repentance urging ministry; and so should we. Moreover, he would have a Christ directing ministry. He would be preaching to people so as they would have faith in Christ and to rely on Him and Him alone.

So Paul would not be preaching to get lifestyle change or outward conformity. He would be preaching to get lives which matter for eternity. And so should we.

How We Preach.

I want to reflect here on the manner of our preaching. A preacher informed me recently that he was more concerned about the message he presented rather than the manner in which he presented it. Superficially that seems to be a reasonable assertion. However, I feel on deeper consideration that it is just not good enough.

The fact is that the manner in which we present / preach a message critically affects the way in which it is received.

Of course. I do not want to downplay the importance of the message itself. To properly preach we need to properly prepare. We need to be thorough in making sure that what we say is accurate coherent wisdom and recommends the God of all truth and grace who is known through Jesus Christ our Lord.

However, to present a message in the name of the Lord as His messenger and speak in a cold and dispassionate way is a travesty.

This came into focus at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel which I have written about here. The contrasts between Mr Connor and Mr Curry were stark. Mr Connor opening the service read great things from his liturgical piece, but could have put us all to sleep. Whilst Mr Curry could stir us and invigorate us whilst leading us in a not so helpful direction.

For me to calmly treat the gospel of Jesus in a detached and cold way is a disservice to my calling. 

False Teachers

I preached yesterday at Feltham Evangelical Church (see here) about the need for us to have the Word faithfully and accurately brought to us. I particularity mentioned about my concern regarding what people imbibe outside of church whether it be online, in books or whatever means.

I specifically did not mention yesterday names of those to be kept away from. However, I take the liberty today to refer you to this list. I do not know all these people and I would not dismiss all of them in totality. Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, for example I suggest can be the means of benefit through their teaching if it is carefully consumed.

Nevertheless I feel that the list gives indication of those to be kept away from.

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