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

Archive for the ‘Priorities’ Category

The Work Of God Goes Forward

The book of Acts is a marvellous book to study. it is a book of action. It is the book which presents to us the great establishing of God’s new regime; the church. The church starts in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and spreads as a living organism through the known world.

The first twelve chapters, in many ways, lay the foundations for the work of the Lord’s grace down the ages to the Lord’s return. In these chapters the work of God is established in all groups of people. From starting out as a Jewish entity by the end of chapter twelve the church has well and truly become an entity where all are accepted into the same group. Jews and Gentiles of whatever, race and background come together as one on the basis of being accepted by God through faith in Jesus Christ.

In chapter 13 there is a transition. Paul and Barnabas are set apart (see vv1-3) to be the chief leaders in bringing forward, under God, the spread of this church. I want then briefly to look at what happens in ch 13 vv4-12 as the work of God begins to move forward and outwards:

  • The Holy Spirit works through the church. In v3 we read that “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. the church sent Paul and Barnabas off to their new ministry,” However, in v4a we read “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit. ” So we ask who did the sending? The church and the Holy Spirit did. The Holy Spirit works through the church to move forward his work. It is essential to remember this as we engage in the work of the Lord’s grace. The Holy Spirit works with and through the church. This is the normal way of God’s workings.
  • They preached the Word of God. in v5 we hear that “They proclaimed the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues,” Their priority in starting out in mission was to preach the Word of God. And so it should be for us. The Word of God should have priority.
  • Strange things happen and strange people appear. There is a Jewish man who is a sorcerer. We might say what is he doing there? A Jewish man involved in sorcery; that cannot be! And not only that he was a false prophet as well (see v6). For the Jews, a sorcerer and a false prophet should have had been completely rejected, but there he was. There are many things that are not explainable, Paul and Barnabas are not preoccupied by this strange development; they get on with the work. Yes, they rebuke him (see vv9-11), but this was because they were set on the Word going forward to the proconsul. We need to be fixed on getting on with the work ourselves. Odd things happen and incongruous situations transpire, but these should not divert us. We must continue with the work of getting the Word out.
  • However, there is an intelligent man there who wants to hear the Word (see v7). Truly intelligent men always want to truly hear the Word. People may have a poor intellect, but if they want the Word they are intelligent. Let us be praying that we find them.
  • Barnabas and Saul were together and known to be together. In v7 the pro-consul called for both of them. It is good to work in fellowship with others.

In these verses we see certain patterns set for how the work of God will progress to the nations through the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. In many ways patterns are set that do well to follow today. In our ministry we should have the same priorities of Paul and Barnabas:

  • Fellowship with the Lord’s Church.
  • Dependence on the Holy Spirit working through the church.
  • Preaching the Word.
  • Not being diverted from the ministry.
  • Finding “intelligent” men.
  • Working with other godly believers.

Getting Our Priorities Right.

As we venture into a New Year it is good to ask about ourselves: what is going to be the priority in our lives and in our church? One of the very subtle ways in which we start to get things in the wrong perspective is when we put the work of God before God Himself. Things start to go awry when serving God becomes more important than God Himself. So we ask ourselves “Is God going to take priority or will the work of God take priority?” If the work of God takes priority then you are likely to achieve very little and become bitter and frustrated. If God takes priority you are likely to be fruitful in the work of God. Let us look at some passages of scripture to help us here.

Acts 1 and 2: With his departure for the glory pending, the LORD said to His disciples: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). We might have expected him to say, “Listen guys, I am going away now; so get on with the work, there’s so much to do.” No! He actually said wait.

So they were told to wait, and whilst waiting they were praying (see Acts 1:12-14). And as they prayed they had the phenomenal experience of the Holy Spirit falling on them on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-13). With the giving of the Holy Spirit, they had the necessary empowering to serve God effectively. Accordingly, they now flowed out into effective service for the LORD. Peter led the way as He preached the first sermon of the new age. Many were saved on that day and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

We must not fail to notice the order, though: wait – pray – Holy Spirit energises – effective service. We do well if we emulate this pattern.

Matthew 9:35-38: Here the Lord is moving and ministering among the people. He becomes aware of the vastness of the ministry as he saw crowds who were harassed and helpless. Whereupon he says to His disciples: “Hey! This is an emergency! There are so many people out there in need; there is no time to waste.” So He harangued them and told them to get out there and do something.

No! he did not say that and he did not do that. Rather, he told them to pray. He said to them “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38). The scale of the evangelistic task before us in Feltham is immense. However, the Lord teaches us here that we are not to panic, but to pray. And we must pray.

Isaiah 40:31: This verse reads:

“But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

The idea behind the phrase “hope in the LORD” is that of continually giving yourself over to the Lord for His safe-keeping. Continually putting yourself in His presence. The people who do this are the people who are renewed. They are the people who are spiritually strong and keep going for God.

The indolent who just say “what will be will be” are not renewed; they fade away. The activists who chase around doing this and that are not renewed. Rather they burn out as the energies of the flesh dissipate.

Waiting on / hoping in the LORD brings Holy Spirit refreshment into our lives. As a result of that we live strong lives which are for the glory of God.

Luke 10:38-42: Martha and Mary both were engaged in activity which revolved around the Lord. Martha was in the kitchen for Him, Mary was listening to Him. Amidst her desire to serve, though, Martha was soon becoming bitter. So she blurts out, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ (Luke 10:40b). To which the Lord replies that Martha only needed one thing and that was the thing that Mary was doing. The implication here is that there was much good in what Martha was doing; after all she was serving the Lord. However, her service was bound to be ineffective, engender bitterness and tend towards burn-out if she did not prioritise waiting on the Lord. She could easily justify her refusal to be at Jesus’ feet; after all her family and the Lord and His disciples needed feeding. However, no amount of self-justification could deflect from the fact that she needed to prioritise spending time with Jesus.

It is the same with us. When we cease prioritising sitting at Jesus feet we will soon become ineffective for the Lord, bitter in our hearts and tending towards burn-out.

So as you venture into 2014 where do you stand in respect of these things? Where does Feltham Evangelical Church stand? 2013 has seen us continue with our weeks of prayer and fasting, expand our Tuesday morning prayer times and introduce our Friday evening / Saturday morning “Revive” prayer times. So as we go into 2014, surely it is good to seek to move forward prioritising the “sitting-at-the feet-of-Jesus” aspect of church life. This is because when we are knowing God more through seeking Him then we are likely to be more fruitful in all other aspects of our life.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of Jan 2014)

It’s About Fun.

What’s your reason for living? What is it that causes you to arrange your life in a certain way. Many seem to have reached the conclusion that life is about fun. Maximising “my fun” is the principle that shapes their life. As a result their lives are essentially very self-centred, all about me and my pleasure. The concern of people is not with the effect upon others, and certainly not the effect upon God, rather it is the effect upon me.

This all tends to make life very unstable. This happens because people are always looking to maximize their fun. Commitment and loyalty are seen as archaic values. So if my marriage is no longer fun I can ditch it for a more “fun” one. Relentlessly people operate on the basis that if I see someone else having more fun than me then I must adopt their fun way.

This lifestyle is

  • Frustrating because if my circumstances mean that I cannot have the fun that I want then I feel thwarted.
  • Dis-satisfying because I can never be content in my present situation because something better may there in the next minute.
  • Destabilising because I am always looking for the next thrill.

Of course there is a better way; praise God. When we become God-seekers and not fun-seekers then we can know contentment, satisfaction and stability. These are all in the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

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