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

Archive for the ‘The Word’ Category

Age Of The Church.

This is the age of the church. We live in the church age. We live in the time when God is choosing to bring glory to His name through the church. The church is the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ and more. The universal church of all believers is being built and that church is manifest in all the individual churches which have been created for the honour of our Lord Jesus.

The book of Revelation gives specific messages to this world for the strengthening of God’s people and it gives them to churches. The letters to the seven churches indicate to us that God makes a priority of revealing Himself to and through His church.

All this should remind us of the priority we should give to the church. There seems something amiss when a Christian is casual about church. In doing so they are being casual about something that God sets a high honour to.

We need to think about Him speaking to churches as well. He delights to speak when the people are together in church to hear and consider His Word. So we surely must set a priority on being in church to hear His Word.

Living And Serving.

We have now looked at the necessity for all Christians to consider becoming church members. Following on from this we need to look at how we should live as church members. Interestingly the basis on which we become church members can significantly affect the manner in which we conduct ourselves once we have come to enjoy the privileges of being a member of a church. Someone who drifts into becoming church member seemingly oblivious to what it means is likely to have little commitment to that church. On the other hand someone who makes a determined commitment to be a member of a church fellowship is likely to live as a committed church member, but what does it really mean to be committed to a church?

One helpful image for us in this context which is presented in the Scripture of a local church is that of a body (see 1 Cor 12:12-31). The argument in this passage is that every part of the body is valuable and useful. No-one can argue that they are so insignificant that they have nothing to offer in the church; all have something to give. Moreover, if someone decides that they are not going to support the church and its activities then the church suffers as a result.

The principle that underlies this is that “privilege leads to responsibility”. It is a great privilege to be a part of a local testimony which is established to the glory of God.

This privilege leads to the responsibility to live a life which is appropriate for those who are in church fellowship and to serve to the end that the church will be built up.

We need to be aware therefore that the way we live is vitally important for the life of the church. Not only should we live godly lives in Christ Jesus in the church, but we should also do so in our homes, workplaces and communities. Any failure to do so ultimately reflects detrimentally on the name of the church and more importantly on the name of our God.

One of the sad consequences of David’s sinful acts towards Bathsheba and Uriah was that he had “shown utter contempt for the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:14). How sad it would be if we were to hear the church in Feltham spoken badly of because of the lax ways of one of the members. Let us therefore take heed to how we live. How great it would be if, like Peter and John, people would realise that we “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13b) because of the righteous quality of our lives.

One of the ways in which we display our commitment to the local fellowship is by supporting the services and activities of the church. Obviously some, through certain circumstances, are hindered from physically being present in church life. However, in many cases, those who are limited in this way, show their commitment by their prayerful interest in the church. Notwithstanding this we should endeavor, like that first church in Jerusalem did, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42), and we should take heed to the exhortation to the Hebrews to be not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing (Heb10:25a).

Furthermore we should commit ourselves to the work of the church. We are not here to build mini-empires in the church like Diotrephes in 3 John:9, but rather to labour together for the faith of the gospel. In all our labours in the church let us remember that we are seeking to set forth the great gospel of our God. So whether we are cleaning the toilets, doing some painting, visiting people at home or preaching the Word we all need to focus on the fact that we are assisting in maintaining a testimony for the LORD.

One crucial way in which we support the church is in having a proper attitude towards those whom the LORD has set to have authority in the church.

Paul says “to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12b-13a). In this anti-authoritarian age we must be careful to assist the elders and deacons in their work. In doing this we are supporting the proper ordering in the church which is all to the LORD’S glory.

So to recap on some of the issues we have considered, this week, we note that a Christian should be baptised and a baptised Christian should be a church member. Finally we have come to the issue we have dealt with in this article that all church members have a responsibility to diligently follow the LORD in the church to which they are affiliated.

Public Bible Reading

We have been reading through the Old Testament at our 11.00.a.m. service at Feltham Evangelical Church for, what must be, about 15 years now. We do not read every week, but very often we do. Last Sunday we concluded 2 Samuel. This means that we have read through 28% of the Bible in terms of verses. We initially just read the passage of Scripture. More recently, though, we have had a brief comment upon the reading.

So why is it good to have such a practice:

  1. It honours God. In reading His Word we are saying to the Lord that His Word matters to us. It is a good principle to have in our public gatherings all that honours the Lord. This is of primary importance and the public reading of scripture stands in that strand of thinking.
  2. The people of the church know we take the Bible seriously. We are not just reading a few verses, we are reading good chunks and are happy to do so.
  3. The people start to get familiar with the flow of scripture. They pick up “a little here and a little there”.
  4. We are fulfilling the injunction to Timothy by Paul to Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13). We can be reassured by this verse that we are doing a God-pleasing thing.
  5. It is humbling to hear the scriptures audibly read and to know that you are under the pure Word of Truth. In reading scripture we are acknowledging that God has spoken and we want to humbly listen to what He has said.
  6. People start to understand the Word. This, I think, has been enhanced since we started to give a brief comment along with the reading.

So we are happy to read scripture publicly. One thing we have seen often happen is that the Bible Reading fits in with other aspects of the service. And we think this must be God’s doing and we praise Him.

 

 

 

How Do We Pray About Illness.

We need to be careful and thoughtful about how we pray, and this includes when we are praying about the sicknesses and illnesses of ourselves and others. What so very often happens is that our prayers are formed with a mindset derived from the world around us rather from than the Word of God. We live in a world which is craving for “nice” lives full of lots of “nice” things. Everybody wants a decent about of money, little or no ill health and plenty of pleasures, and our prayers so very often reflect this way of worldly thinking. In view of this inclination, how should we pray and specifically how should we pray about ill health? In answering this question, we assert straight away that we go to the word of God for our guidance so that we can pray in a godly way.

There are three principles which should guide our praying and these should always be reflected in how we pray about sickness.

1)The Glory of God One of the most profound prayers in Scripture is found in John 12:28a. Here our Lord Jesus speaks to His Father and says Father, glorify your name!’ The fact that He, the most important person who ever lived, prayed this as He approached the most important event in the history of the world, His death, indicates the immensity of this prayer. In John 12:23-26 our LORD declares how he is facing the hour of His death. He thereby gives teaching for his followers flowing from that. In the light of his impending death and the trouble of soul He is experiencing we read these words in John 12:27 Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Of course the “worldly” prayer would be to pray to be delivered from suffering and death. However, our Lord operates according to a more elevated principle and that principle is always to desire that which is according to the will of God. The resulting prayer then is simply, but very profoundly Father, glorify your name!’ (John 12:28a). The response of the Father to hearing such a prayer shows His delight in hearing it. We read Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ (John 12:28b).

We can be sure that when a prayer is prayed from the heart which longs for God to be glorified, then such a prayer is delightfully received by our Father and acted upon by Him. We may not be sure how He will act to glorify His Name, but we know He will act. When someone is sick then, the first thing that should come to our minds as we turn to God in prayer is to seek that God would glorify His Name. His will being done as He glorifies His Name is more important than anything else. We need to be aware that the way the LORD works to glorify His Name is according to His agenda. He may work to honour His Name through continuing or even intensifying the illness. He may give healing or relief. That is His choice.

2) Spiritual growth The final words from Peter in the scriptures are that his readers would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever! (2 Pet. 3:18). Spiritual growth is the key longing that Peter has and that is connected in with the desire that our Lord God who is Jesus would be glorified. In reading Paul’s prayers, this similar longing comes through. If you look at the prayers for the different groups of believers he writes to, such as those in Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-14 and Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul’s focus in all these prayers is upon the believers coming to know God and grow in faith and good works. It is as if He says: “I don’t care what you have to go through I just long that you would be growing stronger in the Lord”. So this is our second motivation for our prayers when someone is sick. It is that through this experience they might grow to know God more.

David Powlison puts it like this ‘Is God interested in healing any particular illness? Sometimes, sometimes not. But is He always interested in making us wise, holy, trusting, and loving, even in the context of our pain, disability, and dying? Yes, yes again, and amen’. This principle should again govern our prayers. God is more interested in our sanctification than our health. Our Father loves us too much to leave us to drift along in spiritual indifference and impotence. He will use all means to accomplish this purpose including sickness.

3) Care Prayer is a reflection of care. If you do not care about someone or a situation. then you will not pray. On the other hand when you pray for someone you want the best for them. That means you want the best for them in total and that includes their bodily well-being. John, writing to his dear friend Gaius says Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, just as you are progressing spiritually (3 John 2). Furthermore if you read I Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4 you will see both Elijah and Elisha pray passionately for two widows’ sons to be healed. The Lord graciously granted restoration in both cases. We need to remember when we pray that we are praying to “Our Father”. We are speaking to the best Father who is the most caring being in the universe and He wants the best for His children. So as we care for people we are led to pray, and we pray to the ONE who perfectly cares.

So we conclude by asking the question when you next hear of an illness or suffering how will you respond in prayer? Will you immediately pray “Lord make them better”? Or will you stop and ponder upon the fact that the LORD has a bigger agenda than ours? So here is a prayer to pray when we hear that a brother in the church has cancer. Oh Loving Father, You know how much brother x means to us and we long for his releasing from this terrible disease. However, we submit to your will and pray that you will glorify your Name through this affliction that has come upon our brother, and use it to do good for him that he would grow in You and be stronger in Your grace as a result. Amen

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2015

Grace And Truth.

One of the statements made to describe our Saviour is that He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14b). In all His ways never did he sacrifice truth for love nor love for truth. This reminds us that for ourselves, we should always be seeking to follow His example and uphold these two principles of truth and love at the same time. Paul, in Romans 1-8, gives us something of the pattern for how love and truth should interact in order to produce a God glorifying outcome.

Romans 1:1-3:20; righteousness

In this passage Paul never once refers to the love of God. He is rather setting forth how the truth of God convicts all so that the whole world held accountable to God (3:19). He marshals his material so that all, whether Jew or Gentile, religious or non-religious, would know that they are bankrupt before God with nothing to pay to make themselves right before God. Sin is exposed and all are shown to have fallen short of the glory of God.

We should not be ashamed to call sin for what it is; an abomination before God. We do not do this according to our own likes and dislikes, but rather according to the standards of God’s Word. If God’s Word says that something, whether it be an action or an attitude, is wrong then we are responsible to name it as such ourselves.

In this respect it is so helpful to know the ten commandments as the great summary of God’s Holy requirements. We should all seek to learn them and be regularly checking our lives against them.

Of course, at a time like ours we are increasingly setting ourselves against the standards of society around by standing by the statutes of the word of God. But we are duty bound to do so.

Let us look at one critical area; that of sexual matters. Around us we have liberal anti-God do-as-you-please attitudes to sexual matters. Sex outside of marriage and homosexual activity are seen as modern, normal and acceptable. But God says differently. Adultery/fornication is wrong according to God. Homosexual acts are condemned in the scriptures. In standing on these principles we will very likely make ourselves unpopular, but we must take a stand if we are to please God.

Romans 3:21-5:21; forgiveness

However, we must also remember that after showing people their sin God goes on most wonderfully to show people that there is forgiveness; there is salvation with the LORD. God shows people their sin in order to show them how His Son paid the price for sin so that men might be brought back to Himself. In doing all this He never sacrificed His justice (see 3:21-26). This is God’s wonderful plan.

Part of the problem with the scribes and Pharisees in bringing the woman caught in adultery to the LORD (see John 8:1-12) was that they just wanted her to be condemned. Their theology did not include grace. Whereas for ourselves we should be different. We rightly see men and women standing condemned for their sinful behaviour. However, our desire should always be that they are driven to the salvation in Christ Jesus. Our desire should always be that forgiveness would be known, by all, in Jesus Christ our LORD

As people come among us they should know that our God has laws which is an offence to break. But they should also be aware that there is forgiveness for repentant law breakers. On the contrary, we must also guard against the danger of too lightly dealing with the issues of sin. Jeremiah speaks about healing sin too easily and saying “peace peace” they say when there is no peace (8:11).

Romans 6:1-8:34; sanctification

The woman caught in adultery in John 8 was sent away by our LORD with the command to go and sin no more (v12b). Paul picks up this theme when he answers the question about the possibility of continuing in sin that grace would abound with a resounding ‘by no means’ (6:2).  

It is so important for us to know that God calls those who have been forgiven, to a life of righteousness. Those that have come to know the Righteous One should love righteousness. As those who have been born again into the family of God we should love to please our Father. Common courtesy demands that if someone has done good to us we should seek to please them. How much more should this apply with regard to our heavenly Father.

However, Romans 7 reminds us that we cannot live this life of righteousness in our own strength. Rather we need for the Holy Spirit to have freedom in our lives. It is only when the Spirit is having freedom in our lives that there can be a pleasing character to our lives.

Notwithstanding this, we should remember that many Christians still continue to battle against strong inclinations to sin. In such cases we should be swift to show much care and gentleness. To return to our earlier theme many Christians struggle to live up to the LORD’S standards in regard to sexual behaviour. In such cases we should be careful to be gentle in our handling of each other so that all can be helped to live a righteous life thorough the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Let us then seek to hold the love and righteousness of God in proper balance. Remembering that His way is always the best.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of August 2004)

Apologetics And Evangelism.

Let us define these two terms to start with:-

Apologetics: “That aspect of Christian theology which seeks to set out and demonstrate the credibility and plausibility of the Christian Faith” (Alister McGrath in The J.I. Packer Collection).

Evangelism: The presentation of the Christian Gospel to people with a view to them embracing that message and being saved.

It would be my contention that apologetics is a part of evangelism. When apologetics comes to be divorced from evangelism then it has lost its way. If we are just seeking to prove that the Christian message is credible and plausible then we are just competitors in an intellectual game. If we win the argument then we can pat ourselves on the back. If we lose then it’s a shame, but there are no great consequences.

However, the message of the Bible, and that of how Jesus Christ came into the world, is not a message which is simply to be pitched in among all other theories, philosophies and messages to vie for supremacy. It is rather the message of how God is working in the universe to bring glory to Himself. It is not “a message” – it is “the message”. All other messages are trying to make sense of this world. However, they never will do because they do not argue from the true source which is that of Scripture. But we do have to be aware of the need to seek to engage with people in this culture. If we just do evangelism without any thought of apologetics we are very likely to fail to evangelise. This is because we will not be engaging with people. They will hear this message which has no connection with their lives and thereby dismiss it as utterly irrelevant because it has no traction into their situations.

Listening to messages from Word Alive in 2013 by Dan Strange are helpful. He seems to have got to the heart of this issue. His assertion is that many people are so far away from the knowledge of the gospel, that we really do have to track a long way back as regards to getting them to consider this gospel as relevant. In getting into their situation we are always seeking to come where people are. This is the great truth that is at the heart of our faith. Jesus, being Immanuel which is God with us, tells us of one who has come close. He has come where we were. God has not just shouted from a distance. We need to come where people are. We need to listen to them. And we need to respond. Is this not one of the salutary lessons from the ministry of Francis Schaeffer? He met the people of the 1960’s and 1970’s where they were and accomplished much as a result. In seeking to meet people where they are though, we are not just seeking to sanitise their thinking. Rather we are seeking to show that their thinking is askew.

Accordingly, although we may not be quoting Scripture all the time we need to be declaring biblical truths. We are impotent if we lose the biblical revelation at the basis of our interaction with the world. This is because God has given His revelation of His mind to us as human beings in the Scripture. The Bible is His Word and it is the only place where His mind is revealed. Always Scripture must drive our argumentation. We need to remember in all our argumentation, that we are seeking to bring people to consider the claims of Christ. In every interaction we should always have in mind that we are headed for the cross. If that is not the case we are just the aforementioned intellectual duellists.

In all this though, we should remember that the things of God are not naturally discerned. Ultimately, it is without question that the Christian message is credible and plausible. But people will not grasp this until they have faith and God reveals his mind to them . As Paul says to the Corinthians. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:14).

And so we pray that the Lord would give people understanding. And that is not just understanding that Christianity is true which it is of course. But understanding of the message of the gospel and they would thereby be saved.

(Original post from Venabling on 27/10/2014)

Nailing Certain Issues

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:

  1. Not marrying with the peoples around them (v30).
  2. Not merchandising with neighboring people on the Sabbath (v31)
  3. 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)

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