In Nehemiah 10:1-27 we read a long list of those who bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord (Neh. 10:29b). This general commitment sealed the direction they were determined to take from now on.
However, they then went on to make definite statements on special issues. There were essentially three:
- Not marrying with the peoples around them (v30).
- Not merchandising with neighboring people on the Sabbath (v31)
- Providing for the house of the Lord (v32-39a)
In doing this they nailed certain issues so as to make a clear point about what their actions would be in respect of these issues. It appears all three of these were matters of pressing importance to the people of God at that time. It was important to make clear what their attitude would be to these things.
This raises an important principle for us. We generally, as God’s people commit ourselves to following the Lord and His ways. But there are particular issues which are important at any given time and we need to be careful to declare our position on them. One of them, at the present time, I suggest would be that of ‘divorce and remarriage’. This seems to be an issue which each church should determine where they take their stand so as all know where we are at in this matter. Other issues may vary from congregation to congregation. But I do believe that it is appropriate to consider the way that the people of Nehemiah’s day handled these matters.
It is certainly a challenge to leadership to discern what the issues are and then reach a view of them in the light of God’s Word. But it does seem to be something that every eldership needs to be continuously thoughtful about.
(Originally posted at Venabling on 01/07/2015)
We read from Joshua 9 on Sunday. The passage is about how the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites in order to preserve themselves. They accomplished this through an elaborate scam to convince the Israelites that they came from a far distance. Regrettably the Israelites fell for this and made a covenant with the Gibeonites to the guarantee their preservation.
There is a key statement reflecting upon the Israelites decision. It reads: The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not enquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath (Josh 9:14-15). Their telling non-action, was to not enquire of the Lord. Thereby, they set themselves up for ending up in a mess.
How we need to learn this. How I need to learn this! In all my decisions I need to enquire of the Lord. Prayer must be involved. Due consideration of the Lord’s mind revealed in Scripture must be involved.
Remember the principle if we do not enquire of the Lord we will end in a mess.
(Originally posted at venabling on 31/07/2014)
It is good to get used to your own Bible. In these days of the extensive use of technology, this is getting to be less and less common. However, I still think there is something good about having your own Bible. In doing this, you get used to where certain things are in you Bible. You get used to what part of the page you saw something. How many times have I been looking for something in my Bible and not quite sure what reference it was, but knowing that it was in a certain location.
There is something encouraging to see people bringing their own Bibles to church with them. We have a church Bible at Feltham, which for practical purposes is good. However, to see people getting familiar with the Word through using their own Bible, as Scripture is read and preached in church is encouraging. There is just something good communicated by someone bringing and using their own B Bible in church and getting familiar with it.
(Originally posted at Venabling on 22/07/2014)
Its is a shame that “theology” seems to get a bad press among Christians. The study of theology is something that most Christians resist engaging in. This seems to be wrong.
To start to get to grips with this matter we need a definition. A basic definition is that theology is the study of the nature of God. So on the basis of that definition stop and think who should the study of theology be for. And whilst thinking ponder upon the words of our Lord Jesus who said to His Father: Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3). At the heart of our existence is this priority to know God and His Son Jesus. Implicitly then we should all be theologians because our calling is to be studiers of God.Our calling is to know God.
Moreover the logic of love gives full justification for the study of theology. When we love someone we are impulsively driven to find out more about the one we love, As Christians we are brought into a situation whereby we are structured to love God. Our whole default heart position is to have a passionate desire for our God. God’s intervening grace in our lives drives us to respond with love for him. Out of this love we become theologians because we are driven to find out more of the God we love. And then when we learn of how glorious our God is we are drawn to love Him. Out of this love we become studiers of God. It is a virtuous circle. It is those who are true theologians who grow in the love and worship of God.
When we get this perspective on theology we start to think differently. We start to think that every devotional time with the Lord should be a theology time. Every sermon should be a theology sermon. And as we discover more and more of our God we will want to know more of our glorious God. And thereby theology becomes a passion and not a drudgery.
Oh may I love theology!
(Originally posted on Venabling on 5/8/2014)
In Mark 6 we find the Lord and His disciples busy in serving the Lord. Amidst such busyness the Lord counselled that they should go to a place of quiet to rest and be refreshed. Many saw what was happening though, and followed them to where they would alight. Whereupon we read these words. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things (Mark 6:34).
The next verse reads By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late (Mark 6:35). This would indicate that time was getting on and that it would be best to disperse the crowd as soon as possible. Being aware of this brings the Lord’s approach into sharper relief. Rather than send them away, he chose to teach them. His priority was getting the Word into their lives.
It is as if he saw them wandering through life without true knowledge of how to live. Accordingly, they were, in His sight, sheep without a Shepherd. But how could they find a shepherd? It was through the teaching of God’s Word that they would find out about the Shepherd and the way to find life and live life.
It is further interesting that He taught them many things. He was prepared to stretch them with much from the Word so as to maximise the benefit into their lives.
It would have been so easy to have prioritised getting them home or getting them food, but his priority was getting the Word to them. We must remember this. People need the Words of life that are in Scripture. The world is filled with harassed sheep wandering through life with no shepherd. And we need to teach them.
When the Lord was resisting the devil in the desert He said that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4). Man lives by the Word of the Lord and not by slogans. This is a principle which so important for church leaders to be cognisant of. Their responsibility is not to devise pithy statements which galvanise the church. Rather, their responsibility is to teach the Word.
A church will not grow through slogans, but there will be growth when the wholesome Word of truth is declared accurately, faithfully and in the power of the Spirit. Accordingly, we must be aware that the Word should be presented in a way that the truth comes in a digestible form for people. So in declaring the Word we can carefully craft our words so the Word impacts lives. Philippians 2:5-11 would be an example of this, i suggest.
This all leads us on to consider that the church does not prosper through the contrived schemes of man. This may give the appearance of progress, but in the end it is an empty shell. True progress comes when the church has been built on the true foundation of the Christ who is revealed in the Word.
Without contradicting what I have said, I do feel though, that having “focus phrases” which help give direction to the church can be used acceptably by church leaderships. however, they must make sure taht the congregation knows that such statements emerge from God’s thoughts not man’s thoughts. William Carey’s dictum Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God would be an example of this.
(This post follows-on from my post of June 20th about Mrs May and Leadership – see here)
Here is our church newsletter for May 2017.