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

Archive for the ‘The Word’ Category

God Is Speaking.

In my recent travels around different churches consequent to my illness one thing I have picked up is the need to be aware that God is speaking. My emphasis here is on the present tense. We can sometimes offload the God who vocalises himself in the past: He did speak, or into the future: He will speak. But God is the living God who is speaking today.

I fear our conduct after services can betray the attitude that we do not believe God speaks. Generally if we have been in the presence of someone important who has spoken on an issue we will speak among ourselves about what has been said. I fear that is so very often lacking in our churches.

Perhaps we don’t hear God speak because we don’t feel the need for Him to speak. After all I have acquired a certain amount of Biblical information over the years that will be enough for me to keep going in the right direction. Accordingly, we come to church with little expectation of anything happening through the preached Word.

Now in saying what I have I am not arguing for the ongoing gift of prophecy. I believe that this gift terminated at when the Word of God was completed. We now have a more sure Word of prophecy.

However, I think we should be expecting God to come and speak when His Word is accurately declared. Even after services we should be asking about whether there was anything that has particularly affected us from the Lord into our lives.

Do We Have Faith In His Blood?

All of humanity is called to believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. There is, after all, salvation in no other. When we believe in Christ, we place our weight on Him totally as the deliverer from our sins. We rely on Him; we depend on Him.

In believing in Christ we are to believe in the true Christ who is revealed in Scripture and Scripture alone. We are not to believe in concocted misrepresentations of the Christ who are only false Christs. The crucial implication of this is that we believe in the One who was incarnate, born of a virgin, delivered up to death on the cross of Calvary, shedding His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of all who believe. We believe in the One who was buried and rose again on the third day; ascended into heaven and will return again. If we have faith in any other Christ, we are not believing in the true Christ for salvation.

Further, our faith, as Christians, is in a real living being. When we connect with Christ, by faith, we connect with one who is animate with life. furthermore, It is through Him we are brought to the God of life.

Which brings me to the original question do we have faith in the blood of Christ? To which I answer that Scripture teaches that we are to have faith in the Christ who shed He blood on the cross and not faith in the cross itself. To emphasize the matter I ask the question in a slightly different way: Do we have faith in Jesus’ blood or in His cross? The answer is neither. Paul puts it like this when he says in Ephesians 1:7-8a In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. Redemption is in Him who shed His blood and not in His blood itself.

Accordingly, we do not preach the crucifixion, but we preach the crucified One. Again we listen to Paul who says we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

But what of Romans 3:25? There the KJV has the phrase “faith in his blood”. W.E Vine says this. “The rendering “faith in His blood” is incorrect. Faith is never said to be in the blood. Faith is imposed in a living person. Faith is the means of making the pardon ours; the blood is the means of its effect. The preposition of the original is instrumental. The phrase “by His blood” expresses the means of propitiation.” 

Spirit/Bible: The Order.

In Revelation 1:10 we read of the experience of John on the Isle of Patmos as follows: On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. What I want to muse upon what happened to John. In particular I want to note how he had the right state of heart to receive the Word.

We sometimes might think that when we receive the Word we will be brought into the right spiritual state. There is much truth in such a postulation. However, the experience of John gives us a balancing perspective. His experience was that he was in the Spirit and then the Word came. When he had the right attitude of heart then he received the Word.

This makes me start to think about the parable of the sower, or to be more accurate, the parable of the soils. In explaining the parable the Lord clearly declares that the seed is the Word of God (Luke 8:11b). He then recounts three attitudes of heart which lead to fruitless reception of the Word until he finally comes to the good soil which represents the good heart. The Word only is received and fruitful in the heart which is suitably prepared.

And so it is with John. The fact that his heart is right is shown by the fact that he is “in the Spirit”. His heart has been properly prepared by the Lord to be for the Lord. All the preparatory ground work has been done and the heart is ready to receive the Word.

This leads us on to ponder about how we have an “in the Spirit” heart. If we return to the parable of the soils we can establish what the “in the Spirit” heart is not. It is not:

  • the compacted ground of the path that allows nothing of God in.
  • the infertile ground of the rocky soil which allows no Word from God to take root.
  • the chaotic ground of the thorns which snuffs out any establishing of the Word.

We generate a soft heart; a heart worked over by the Spirit when we:

  • do not allow the ways of the world just to walk over our hearts relentlessly, continually and without interruption. This compacts our hearts to make them impermeable to God.
  • allow the boulders of wrong attitudes to develop such as jealousy, bitterness, resentment, grudges, hatred etc.
  • do not allow life’s worries, riches and pleasures (Luke 8:14b), to dominate our lives.

So we return to John in his banishment to the Isle of Patmos, we find the Word comes and it comes loud and clear like a trumpet (Rev. 1:10b) we read. God is transmitting His Word and the reception in his servant is very good. There is no problem with clarity or audibility.

We learn then that the right heart leads to the receiving of the Word. John would then record it and “the rest is history”, In fact it is the book of Revelation and that tells us of eternity.

So how are you getting on preparing your heart for the Word? Are you getting ready for Sunday?

 

 

Sacrifice Then Promise.

When Noah came out of the ark the first thing he did was to make sacrifices; burnt offerings to the Lord. So we read that Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Gen 8:20).

Upon making the sacrifices the pleasure of God is known. This is discerned through the consequent promises.

  • To not curse the ground again: Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood (v21a)
  • To not destroy living creatures again And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (v21b)
  • To make the earth abide fruitful ‘As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’ (v22)
  • to make Noah and his sons fruitful Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. (9v1)

Herein is a principle established that the promises follow on from the offering. This finds its most profound fulfillment ultimately in the giving of our Lord Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. He offered Himself as the ultimate burnt offering. On the basis of that one final sacrifice blessing flows to us as God’s people. Consequent to our Lord offering Himself, our Father has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3b). Through our Lord’s sacrifice we are promised so much and we will enjoy what has been promised. Praise Him.

Finally, I must mention that in our lives the sacrifice must come before the promised blessings. If we have not received the benefits of the Christ who sacrificed Himself then we will not receive the promised blessings. We may covet the blessings which the Lord promises. However, these only flow from Calvary’s cross and the Saviour who gave Himself for all who will believe in Him.

Books and Bible.

One of the things I have noticed during my recent afflictions is that when things have been bad all I have wanted is the Bible. Whereas when there has been an alleviation of symptoms then I have been happy to read books.

When my being has been struggling to move through life it is to the Word that I have turned. I have searched for those morsels of truth that will keep me alive and give me hope.

The danger of this, of course is that the Word of God just operates as an emergency assist. It should obviously be so much more. However, it is wonderful how the Word of the Lord is fully suitable to meet us in our need.

I am certainly not saying the that books are of no value. But we must be aware that they are not of necessary value. They must always be supplementary to the Word. They assist us in understanding the Word and the Lord’s ways revealed therein.

So I will use the books, but I will also be aware that the Word must always be paramount. As the psalmist says. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Ps 119:105) and I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread (Job 23:12b).

So may I learn to use the books, but live by and on the Word.

Your Offering of Worship Matters

Numbers 7 is a long chapter. It is also a portion of scripture which naturally elicits a response from us of: “Why?” Why have teh same list written out in full twelve times? Why not just give a list of the names of the leaders of each tribe and then just once say what they each brought. We view the repetition as needless. And yet it is in God’s Word and therefore can never be considered needless. So here are some thoughts:

  • It matters to God that all bring their offerings. Each leader of each tribe “brought his offering.” That phrase is repeated twelve times. Whether you were responsible for day two or day twelve you bringing your offering mattered. We might consider our offering of lesser importance to someone else’s, but God does not see it that way.
  • It matters to God that each offeror brought the full panoply of what was expected. None skimped on anything. All carefully made sure that they brought everything, So is mine and your church suffering because we are not bringing all that we are required to bring to offer to the Lord for worship?
  • Having His people focussed on the altar matters to God. We read in vv10-11 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.’ Then we read in v88b These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed. The altar is the place of offering, sacrifice and worship. The altar should be a very important place for us. We should delight to offer the sacrifice of praise from worshipful hearts. All of us should consider this so important whether it be in private, in the family or in church.
  • The offerings were for the burnt offering, sin offering and fellowship offering. We should have an appreciation of the variety of the offering. We too easily just focus on the sin offering as regards to the work of Christ. This is understandable because He died to take away our sins; praise Him. But what of the burnt and fellowship offerings. The burnt offering tells us how his sacrifice is all for God. The fellowship offering tells us how through His shed blood we are now brought to God. Let us be intelligent in our worship and bring a fall variety of offerings.
  • When all the people have brought all the offerings in all their fullness and full variety God speaks. When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him is what v89 says. A people prioritizing worship will be hearing the voice of the Lord. How is your Bible Study? How are you getting on with the church services? Perhaps everything has become dull and dry because you are not prioritizing worship.

Get Studying

I am concerned here to dwell upon the need for Christians to be studying the Bible. Growing Christians are Bible studying Christians. Moreover, such people are enjoying what it is to be a Christian. So Bible study is essential and thrilling. Particularly I want to address you:

  • if you are starting out in Christ and therefore you are new to the Christian life.
  • you have drifted in your walk with the Lord and are feeling all is drab and aimless.
  • you have been a Christian for many years and want a fresh surge of progress.
  • you have time on your hands through some providential happenings.

My simple advice is to get stuck in to studying a book of the Bible. I suggest you start with the one chapter books and build up from them. Get some commentaries and Bible helps. Make notes on what you are learning. Memorize all or apart of what you are studying as well. Above all, don’t let time pass away which can be helpfully used for the study of scripture.

Above all be praying before, whilst and after studying the Bible.

And through this and in this, you will be knowing something of the joy of knowing the Lord.

The Air You Breathe

I was watching a TV programme on crisp making last week. It was noted that as a final part of packaging the crisps, the crisp packets are given a blast of nitrogen. The reason for this is so that the freshness of the crisps could be maintained. Apparently, if they are just allowed to be packaged in a packet with normal air then they lose their freshness far more quickly than if the packet has enhanced nitrogen content.

This led me to muse upon the air that we surround ourselves with. If we are relentlessly just breathing the air of this world then we will soon lose our freshness for the Lord. There will be a certain limpness in our charachter and lifestyle.

The only way of counteracting this drift is to breathe the air of another place. We need to be seeking the Lord through His Word and prayer so that we escape from the air of this world and breathe some other air which will freshen us in our gracious Lord and Master. As a result our characters will be transformed; renewal will take place.

It is my observation that the people who spend time in this other air can be distinguished. There is that freshness about them; that aliveness to the ways of God.

Alas for those who do not enter that heavenly air through prayer and the Word there is a “withering on the vine”. Yes they are true believers, but through failure to seek the Lord they have lost that vitality of life which is found in the Spirit. Just breathing the air of this world will not foster freshness and aliveness in the Lord.

So what of you and me what air are we breathing?

 

 

How Interested Are We In The Word?

One of the key indicators of the spiritual state of someone is how they respond to the Word of God. If someone wants to hear, know and act upon the Scriptures then it is an indication that that person is a true believer in Christ who wants to follow the Lord. As for those who are not interested, that is an indication of their lacking of spiritual life towards the Lord. I want to examine this issue in the light of two passages in the Bible:-

Matthew 13:10-17. The Lord has just addressed a large crowd with a parable about the sower, the seed and the soils. A question which is often asked about the parables is, whether they were given to help people in their understanding or to hinder people coming to know more of God. In vv11-17 the Lord gives teaching regarding this issue. This teaching is given in light of how in v10 the disciples come to the Lord and ask Him about His speaking in parables Essentially He will say, in answer to their question, that those who want to come and ask about his teaching in parables will receive an explanation and will receive the blessing of having their understanding enhanced. Whereas, those who don’t ask the questions will be prevented from grasping the teaching and will instead go backward in their understanding .

Let us consider this process in further detail:

  • When a true seeker of God hears a parable with its intriguing images they say “I want to know more about what is involved here.” As a result they go and ask questions to find out the meaning. This is exactly what the disciples do in v10.
  • When an unbeliever hears the same thing, they say “I can’t be bothered about all of that. I don’t understand it and I am not interested.” As a result they do not gain an understanding. In fact their situation is worse because they think that the things of Christ are just too difficult to understand.

This is the background to the Lord’s response to the disciples question. Accordingly, He says the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom has been given to you, but not to them? (v11). We ask: to whom are the secrets given? We go back to v10 and we get our answer: it is to those who come to Him and ask questions about what He is saying (see v12a). As for the unbeliever they simply don’t come and ask. They either ignore the teaching as being of no consequence or dismiss it as all being confusing nonsense (see vv12b-13). Our Lord then goes on to further establish this division. He speaks of the unbelievers who are not interested in the Word in vv14-15. And of the believers who want the Word in vv16-17.

These reflections upon the attitude of people to the Word are most pertinent to ourselves. When we hear the Word and it seems difficult to understand, how do we respond? When people say that they can’t be bothered to seek out its meaning and that it is all irrelevant nonsense they are showing up their own ignorance and unbelief. However, the true believer does seek out the meaning. They do want to know. So when you hear things from God’s Word that you do not understand how do you respond? Do you ask questions of others? Do you look for help in commentaries?

Isaiah 29:11-12. In the opening part of Isaiah 29:1-4 the Lord has set Himself to bring judgement upon Ariel, which is another name for Jerusalem. In vv9-14 He gives something of the reasoning as to why this is happening. There are two reasons why judgement is falling. Namely, they do not want the Word and their worship is empty. It is upon their attitude to the Word that we will focus upon here.

In vv11-12 we have a very similar scenario to that which is described in respect of parables. Here we find a people who can’t be bothered to break the seal of the scroll wherein God’s Word is found. As JA Motyer says of them: “the one will not exert himself to break the seal and read, nor does the other urge him to do so.” If the second group really wanted to hear surely they would encourage the first group to open it and read it. But no, both are equally indifferent. Moreover, we can ponder upon how if they really wanted to know the Word they would set themselves to learn to read.

How sad it is to see people who have the Word presented to them, but cannot be bothered to look into it. We live among people who are just like that. The Word of the living God is available in their language, but they will not open it. However, sadly, this attitude can be true in church. The Word of God is read and preached, but it just passes people by and they cannot be bothered to delve into its contents.

These two passages lead us to consider the whole issue of our interest in God’s Word. Many think they are clever when they reject God’s Word as being confusing and of no relevance. Sadly though, it is in fact themselves who are being judged through their attitude.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2016

Should I Do The Lottery?

The National Lottery is now well embedded within our culture. Millions each week participate in the lottery by choosing their numbers. But should the Christian participate in the National Lottery? Before we get specifically to answering that question let us attend to two matters which bear upon our subject.

The first is a question of definition. Is doing the lottery gambling? The word gamble means “to risk something of value on an outcome that depends on chance.” Given that definition and the fact that the outcome of a lottery “depends on chance” and playing it involves “risk,” we can conclude that playing the lottery is gambling.

The second involves the practice of casting lots in biblical times; was this gambling? Very often in biblical accounts lots would be cast so that the people knew what to do in a certain instance. In Acts 1:21-26, for example, we read of the use of lots so as to help in deciding who would replace Judas as an apostle. Lots, though, were cast simply to make a decision. And the fundamental principle was The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Prov. 16:33). It had nothing to do with risking something on an uncertain outcome. Therefore, it was not gambling.

Having considered these preliminary issues let us examine whether or not Christians should be doing the lottery.

The Way Of This World. The way of this world focuses on money. The general mantra is that the more money you have then the better things are for you. This thinking is expressed in Ecclesiastes 10:19 like this: A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. That is how the world operates. So what better way to get to “the answer” in the fastest and easiest way than by doing the lottery. This is the way of the world; it is not the way of God.

Covetousness. The tenth commandment of our God says that ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’(Ex. 20:17). However, the lottery feeds covetousness and covetousness drives the lottery. The two have an unpleasant union glued together by greed. It is all built on the lie that I will be happy when I have a hefty bank balance and plenty of possessions. This is not the way of God.

Focus On Eternal Riches. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle (Prov. 23:5) is the pertinent observation of Solomon. As Christians we are to be focusing on eternal riches. Our Saviour said: ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20a).

Hard Work. The principle of Scripture is for us to gain our resources through hard work ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ (2 Thess. 3:10). is how Paul expresses it. Our resources come as a legitimate reward for work this is the general principle of Scripture. They do not come through the risk of the lottery.

Love the Poor. The lottery is known to take most money from those who can least afford to spend it. Christians are to love the poor and do good to those in need. There is a sense in which the lottery exploits the longings of the poor. And then you must remember that if you do win that most of that money has come from the poor. The lottery exploits the weakness of the poor.

Stewardship. Proverbs 31:10-31 tells us of the wise woman who takes care of her household well. Her attitude towards her resources is summed up in v 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. There is no thought of bolstering her income through risk and chance. Rather she is working hard, acting shrewdly and giving generously. And in all this she is honouring the Lord.

We Do Not Live By Chance. The Lord’s hostility to us living by chance is seen when he says ‘But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; (Is 65:11-12b). The Lord detests us casting our resources out to the gods of luck and chance. We need to take heed to this because it does not just apply to the lottery.

Misery. Some of the most miserable people are those who have won the lottery. Winners tend to leave their jobs and hence lose structure to their lives. Winners realise that life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15b); they have seen that the possessions of this world do not bring lasting pleasure. All the happiness they envisaged that they would enjoy through a lottery win has not materialised.

Satisfaction. The lottery thrives off dissatisfaction with my lot and estate. The Bible says though that we should cultivate an attitude of contentment. Paul puts it like this. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs ( 1 Tim. 6:9-10).

So let us shun the lottery and get on and live trusting in the Lord who kindly provides for His children. We are not a people who risk our resources to the gods of this world. But we are those who believe and thereby trust our sovereign Lord to work all for the good of His children.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2016

 

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