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

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Ah The Sadness: A Pastor Dies

Here is an article reporting the passing of Darrin Patrick. It cuts me up to read it. I would have known of him from a distance; being aware of him and possibly listening to an interview with him at sometime.

The article refers to a friend of Patrick’s by the name of Robbie Gallaty and records as follows:

Gallaty said pastors are great at helping other people but often don’t know what to do when they struggle. They try to keep up appearances, he said, and try to handle their struggles on their own.

This raises general issues appertaining to the caring for the carers principle. How easy it is to forget those who are expending all their energies to secure the welfare of another person. They are so easily overlooked because the focus is on the sufferer they are caring for. And all the while the carer can be slipping into burnout, trauma and despair. We must be alive to this and make sure that the welfare of the carer is secured. Accordingly, we must ask them how they are and make sure they are provided for with necessary support. And when I say to ask how they are, I do not just mean the superficial enquiry of social interaction, I mean the lovingly probing question of one who cares. There is a big difference!

It also raises the specific issue of caring for those in pastoral ministry. Gallaty’s observation should make us stop and ponder upon how we care for the ones whose unique ministry is to care for others under their pastoral care.

From the point of view of everyone who knows someone in pastoral ministry be alert to their welfare. Don’t take them for granted and assume that they are doing well because it looks like they are doing well. Behind the facade of someone who is being strong for others may well be someone who is breaking down inside.

For those in pastoral ministry you must know yourself. You must know what recreates you so that you are mentally, emotionally and above all spiritually, fresh, alive and prospering. For many this will mean that they need someone to turn to who can be their mentor, counsellor and support. Simply having someone you can talk things through with or dump your load on can be a vital life-support arrangement. This may be your wife or it may be someone else. Perhaps you have two or three who provide this. I would say it would be very rare to find a pastor who does not need someone.

The super-spiritual counter-claim to all this is that “the Lord is enough”. They quote Isaiah 40:31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. And of course that is true and is a reality we must work out. But very often the Lord uses others to be the means of bringing the strengthening to our souls. This is fellowship.

I remember reading sometime ago of a pastor who in his suicide note recorded that he had found himself with nowhere to go. He felt that if he revealed his struggles he would lose his job. So he put on a front and took his own life. How sad.

So churches remember that your pastor is a man of like passions as you. They have a calling, but they are not super-human. So ask the lovingly probing questions that I mentioned above as regards to their welfare.

Finally, I record five ways that have been a blessing to me:

  • a good wife who has supported me and listened to me and above all prayed for me.
  • a church where there is openness to share weaknesses.
  • a godly pastoral friend who I meet with from time to time. We set up this relationship with me having no obligation to ask him about his welfare.
  • the ministry of John Benton at the Pastor’s Academy (see here) for details, has been most helpful.
  • writing about my experiences gives an outlet so that things are not bottled up.
  • asking friends and those who I know care and will pray, for prayer at certain times.

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for April 2020. It contains an article on how we can function as a church at this time.

Coronavirus (6)

I last wrote some two weeks ago. Since then I have not been well. May well have had a mild dose of COVID 19. However, it has not been possible to get a test. I am now feeling stronger.

It has been a bizarre time with all the hiatus around appertaining to the transformation of our society through the restrictions that have gradually, but swiftly, changed how we interact with one another. This has had a significant impact upon us as a church.

As churches we are left with something of a tension. We do not want to give the impression that a virtual church conducted online is how it should be. It certainly is not. Church is meant to be lived out with real face-to-face community. However, neither do we want to give up in despair and say that there cannot be anything of church at this time. We do want to engage best with what is technologically available to facilitate fellowship and the functioning of the church.

We have been using ZOOM thus far as our main means of gathering. The advantage of this platform is that there can be interaction and there is a sense of us being together. Live-stream facilities seem to have a far better presentation, but less sense of community.

This is all a new voyage and there should be understanding within churches and between churches. I suggest that as long as four main guidelines are operative then, although we may be doing things differently, we will be on the right lines:

  • we are seeking to operate according to the principles of scripture.
  • we are seeking to do all to edify the people.
  • we are seeking all for the glory of God.
  • we are zealous in prayer.

It is good to feel somewhat brighter again. The last two weeks have been somewhat bewildering and a struggle. However, I look back to the keeping power of our God and thank Him for how He has led us as a church and family.

 

 

Coronavirus (4)

So we are being shaken; the coronavirus is shaking the world. In James 4:13-16 we read:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” –  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 

The self-sufficiency that prevails in the opening statement of this passage reflects very much the society in which we live. We are a self-dependant society who believe our times are in our hands. We are the captains of our own destinies. So we are so very easily involved in a relentless pursuit of self-engineered security.

And then God steps in and shakes us. This can be through a multitude of means and ways. At the moment it is happening on a global scale. The coronavirus, which on March 11th was declared to be a pandemic has disrupted so many lives. in fact it is likely that 99% of the population of the world have been impacted to some degree. For some it may be slight such as not being about to watch a football match on TV or obtain a product in a shop or the simple uncertainty about the unknown which is happening in another country. For others it is more severe such as the cancelling of holidays, the alteration of works schedules. For others it is very severe even to the losing of livelihoods and lives.

Our lives which we thought were set on a serene course are disrupted. God steps in to shake us. The question then comes: how do we respond?

If you are an unbeliever this shaking is a mercy from God and you should trace through all the logic derived from this shaking. This goes as follows.

I am not in control. All those things that I have set in place to being stability to my life, such as relationships money, status, achievement are all ultimately insufficient to stabilise me. Left to myself I am adrift on a sea of uncertainty and I don’t know how things will work out. And ultimately I am headed for the reality death and I have nothing to give me certainty and security in that day. I need help. In such a state you begin to realise that there is a God who does control all things. As you push further in to the awareness of that God you realise your instability is caused by your sinful rejection of Him. This God, though, has not left us to self-inflicted extermination because of our sin. Wonderfully He has sent a Saviour to rescue us. Acts 4:12 reads  there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He bears the Name Jesus which means He has come to save us from our sins (see Matt. 1:21). And when we embrace Him as the One who has died for our sins we become part of an unshakeable kingdom with and everlasting King.

Oh may the giving of the coronavirus and all the consequent shaking lead you and many others to stability, security and unshakeability in Christ.

For us who are believers. We need to afresh enter into all the the glorious certainties that we have because we are in Christ and a part of this unshakeable kingdom. We are not exempt from the shakings of the world in terms of our health and our wealth and our general circumstances and situations. However, we believe in the God who is creator and sustainer of all. We are the ones who can live in the reality of the beginning of Psalm 40 which goes as follows:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord (Ps. 40:1-3).

This is our position in the God of our salvation. May we be a people who are continually putting our trust in the Lord now and forevermore.

As we finally return to the teaching in James 4:13-16 let us realise that we need to acknowledge that all our plans and activities need to be made and undertaken with an “if the Lord wills” attitude.

If the coronavirus leads to a diminishing of our arrogance then much good will have been accomplished through it.

He Became Poor

(Here are some thoughts based on the study of Luke 2:21-24)

  • He who made the people of God, identified with the people of God.
  • He who shed his blood to make the people of God, shed his blood to be part of the people of God.
  • He who created the first man was named as the second man.
  • He who was from eternity came into time.
  • He who was pure was purified.
  • He who gave the law kept the law.
  • He who is the centre of all things came to Jerusalem; the centre of this world.
  • He who is the Lord was dedicated to the Lord.
  • He who was eternally holy, and the Lord of all, was declared holy to the Lord.
  • He who always served was committed to serve.
  • He who is the sacrifice for all others offered a sacrifice.
  • He who brought salvation from sins through His sacrifice had a sacrifice made for His sins, although He had none.
  • He who is rich beyond all measure lived in a poor home (see Leviticus 1; not the cattle nor the sheep / goat as the offering, but the birds of the poor).
  • He who gave the law was born under the law.

And having considered all this we marvel and worship:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9)

Praying The News

I have a desire, most of which is wholesome to keep-up-to-date with the news. My habit, for better or worse, is to go to the BBC website for this.

I have recently pondered upon how much I just obtain news information for information and/or entertainment. There is nothing essentially harmful in that. However, I am left wondering about the issue of actually praying the news. Would it not be far more wholesome to use my acquired news information to pray to the Lord about those items. To pray:

  • For people in need.
  • For crisis situations around the world.
  • For the extension of the gospel in different parts of the world.
  • For many to be converted to the Lord in these situations mentioned in the news.

And as we pray we can weep and rejoice over the situations we observe.

I am going to seek to do this. I trust it will revolutionise my approach to the news and make following the news it a far more beneficial activity.

Are You Ok, Meghan?

Please see this video here at approximately 1.56 in. It is a fascinating interaction. It shows how the Duchess of Sussex obviously had a heart-cry that people would really take a interest in her welfare. This had particularly been the case subsequent to the birth of Archie, her son.

So I want to ask you; will people leave your church tomorrow with a heart-cry that no-one had shown an interest in them? I want to challenge you (and me) to be the ones who make sure that does not happen. So to the person:

  • Whose spouse has turned from the Lord, ask them how the situation is now.
  • Who has been out-of-work, ask about the job applications and their prospects.
  • With a difficult marriage, ask about the present situation.
  • who is struggling with depression, ask how they finding help to get through the situation.
  • With health difficulties, enquire about their health.
  • Recently diagnosed with serious illness, express your concern for them and ask whether they need any help.
  • With young children, ask how they are coping with all the demands of full -on parenting.
  • Who is a full-time, carer ask how they are coping with the relentless demands of that situation.
  • In work, ask how they are coping with the demands laid on them.
  • At school, ask them about their studies and the pressures they are experiencing
  • Who is a parent ask how their children are getting on spiritually.

Overall right now get your heart in tune with God’s and go and care for your brothers and sisters tomorrow in church. If such is the case you will be engaging in a big, big ministry. And that ministry will be even bigger if you pray with and for those people.

And if you are the person with that heart-cry yearning for others to take interest in you Can I say four things:

  1. It may be best you find someone who you know well, who you are sure will show interest in you and listen.
  2. You go up to others ask them about their difficulties and situations. An outward loving interest in others can be the means the Lord uses to help you through your perplexities.
  3. If no-one shows interest in you; remember that you have a Father in heaven who will always care for you and take an interest in you.
  4. Don’t berate the state of your church if no-one takes an interest in you. We do not always get everything right for each other. Sometimes we fail each other. Your best response to such failure is to be a loving example yourself.

Some Pieces Of Gold

I have written about the hymn “Count your many blessings” here. Yesterday, I had several blessings to count, each one portraying the observable workings of the Lord. Here are eight pieces of gold I want to treasure:

  • A sister delighting in how, after many years; many wild and rebellious years, a lady (the daughter of a friend) in her thirties had, the previous day, confessed Jesus as her Lord and Saviour.
  • A sister, who had kept in touch with a younger sister in the Lord after she had long-moved on from Feltham, was being used to counsel the younger sister through some hard times.
  • A younger sister, was rejoicing in how she had been rebuked by a brother in the church concerning an issue. Yes, she was rejoining and thankful. Rejoicing because the man had loved her enough to want to speak to her about the issue.
  • A group of sisters getting together to study the Word.
  • A lady who had never been to a prayer meeting attending the morning prayer meeting
  • A younger brother from church spent the day involved in an apologetic ministry in central London
  • I faced a situation with calmness and peace. This was something to treasure because it was a situation I had previously felt prone to go into with anger and frustration. The Lord does answer prayer.
  • I received a sweet email telling me how i had misunderstood a matter. It was presented in such a gracious and encouraging way. A model for good email communication.

And I am led to praise the Lord and consider that the Lord is alive and working. And so i give Him all the praise. I want to pick up each piece of gold and treasure it and admire the Lord’s working in each.

Faith Brightens Everything

In the Book of Ruth Naomi is a key figure. It she that Ruth returns with from Moab in ch1. Naomi’s demeanour initially is very negative. She can only speak of God being against her as she says: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1:20).

When she and Ruth do start to settle, she is of little help to Ruth who seems to have some initiative about getting things sorted out for them (see Ruth 2:2). Alas, Naomi does not seem to advise or assist.

Everything changes though, in Ruth 2:20 when we read And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” Previously she had been speaking negatively of the Lord, now she is positive. Previously she was negative and miserable. Suddenly she is transformed into a bright and active lady.

So we see the lady who previously had been of no help to Ruth is making plans to secure Ruth’s future. Ruth 3:1-4 reveal an active mind presenting plans to Ruth for the rescuing of their case.

The problem for Naomi and Ruth had been their destitute condition. They were both widows and were looking at a life of penury. However, there had been a deeper problem in Naomi; there was absolutely no faith in the living God. She had lost all sense that the Lord had a good purpose for them. So the early part of the book sees Ruth wallowing in faithless misery.

But suddenly in 2:20 faith arises. She sees that in Boaz there is a kinsman-redeemer who is fully equipped and suitably placed to rescue their situation. Suddenly she sees what could be, rather than what was not. Faith transforms the whole situation.

Eventually we see Ruth cradling in her arms the One who would be the forbear of Messiah. We read these beautiful words in Ruth 4:14-17:

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. 

Oh what a difference faith makes. So have faith in the God of good purpose in 2020.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Our society is full of them; excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour abound. It was my upbringing; it is my circumstances; it is my spouse who drives me to do this; it is my health situation. And of course, the one used perhaps most prolifically; I was provoked. All of these and many others are brought forward to excuse actions which harm others and are reprehensible in the sight of God. In making these excuses we expect a free pass from any examination of our actions.

Moses in Numbers 20:1-13 had a ready made set of excuses. In this passage he loses his temper and disobeys the Lord’s command striking the rock twice rather than speaking to the rock (see Num. 20:8-11). As a result the Lord’s judgement falls. We read  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Num. 20:12).

Moses had plenty of excuses that could have been brought forward to excuse his action:

  1. His sister had just died
  2. The people had no water again.
  3. The people he was called to lead were complaining again
  4. The people were blaming him and Aaron, his brother, for their problems.

Each one could have been a valid excuse we might deem. However, not so with the Lord. Sin is sin and Moses as a leader of God’s people should have known better. To his credit Moses never marshalled any of these excuses in his defence. He simply accepted what was a great disappointment to him; he was not going to be able to lead the people into the land.

Alas, in the church of our Lord Jesus, we can be quick to get our excuses in rather than repent of our sin. Such an approach is ungodly. Let us be quick repenters rather than quick excuse finders. Of course, it is better to go one better and that is not to sin. And in that case we remember that when we are feeling under strain amidst the circumstances of life: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

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