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

Taking On Responsibility

To a greater or lesser extent all of us come to junctures in our lives when we have to take on responsibility. That may be in the family, in the workplace, in the community, in the church or wherever. Alas, many of us drift into these situation with little thought or preparation.

Joshua was faced with taking on responsibility as leaders of the nation of Israel. Moses, in Deuteronomy 31:7-13 being aware of this focuses on toe things which will be necessary for Him to have if He is to effectively carry out his responsibility.

The Right Attitude. Joshua is called to Be strong and courageous (v7b). With responsibility come challenges, struggles, opposition and difficulties. If we do not set ourselves to persevere through these then we will soon go the way of the snowflake in a heatwave. We will soon disappear from the scene of our responsibility. We may still have the office thereof, but we will cease to function effectively.

So we need those of courage in all different realms. Elders of churches need to be displayers of this.

The Right Dependence. We are not just to be those of courage in a stoic kind of way. We are those of courage because we have a God who we can depend upon in all the struggles of life. Moses tells Joshua It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (v8). Such a God is worthy of our trust. To survive and prosper in any position of responsibility we need to trust in Him.

The Right Guide.     Having commissioned Joshua, Moses in vv9-13 delivers the Word of the Lord to the priests and the elders of Israel. They are to have custody of the law and make sure it is read every seven years. Implicit in this is that all the people including Joshua will have the Word of God to guide them. Jesus must lead according to the Word that all the people know. Otherwise His leadership will be of no account and should be rejected.

So fellow leaders, have courage, depend on the Lord and follow His Word. Then you will be a blessing in your sphere of responsibility.

How Can I Help?

We serve a Saviour who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 28:20b). We are called by Him to be servants ourselves. He gives this great teaching through his own example in John 13:1-20. He says If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15)

The Christian has a bias towards serving others. If there is not that bias in the heart and attitude of servant we can rightly question whether they are a true servant of the greatest master of all.

Accordingly a question that should be in our hearts always and on our lips frequently, is “How can I help?” We ask this question because in a Christlike manner we want to use all our energies to help others.

So in the church, and any situation in fact, don’t just wait to be asked, be asking others about how you can help. If you are such a person then you will be a delight to have around. And you will be a living demonstration of the life of your Lord and Saviour.

Awareness

One of the key monikers of a church leader is “overseer”. The person called to lead among God’s peoples is to be a person with an in-built inclination to oversee the church. Crucial in this is to have an awareness of what is going on in the church.

One of the striking things about the account of the slaying of Goliath by David is the complete lack of awareness that Saul had of what was going on. In particularly I note in 1 Samuel 15:55-58

As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” And the king said, “Enquire whose son the boy is.” And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

The lack of awareness displayed by Saul is breathtaking given that in the previous chapter we see recorded how Saul had gotten David brought from his father Jesse to play soothing music to him (see 1 Samuel 16:14-23.) And then he had actually spoken to the same David before David went to defeat Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17: 31-40).

All this shows us a man who was not fit for leadership. And in saying that we are reflecting what had happened. He had been deprived of leadership capacities because of his prior unfaithfulness the Lord.

I have come across able end even good men in church, but they do not have this characteristic of awareness. People and happenings just seem to pass them by. They may be great assets to the church, but they would be great liabilities if considered as elders.

To have this inclination to watch over the fellowship of God’s people is one indication that a a younger brother is being raised up to leadership. Existing elders there by should be looking out for this as they pray for the raising up of elders in the fellowship.

Personal Appearances

Generally in church, and particularly as an elder, there is need to be great wisdom exercised about how we speak about each other’s personal appearance. Great damage can be done by needless throw away comments which can cause frustration and distress to people.

Humour, in particular, can be particularly destructive. By way of example it is best to steer clear of joking about someone’s summery clothing. You may think that their appearance provokes a response, but is it called for for you to joke about it? The person may have issues of health or personal comfort. If you think their clothing is immodest then you need to speak to the person about it seriously.

Men making comments on the clothing of women, particularly those who are younger to them, should be a completely embargoed. If such is done it can arouse all kinds of feelings in the woman about the man being interested in her.

However, when the clothing of a woman is unseemly and not fulfilling the call of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to be discrete. The Word there says: likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. In such a situation an elder or older sister should approach the lady involved.

In all this husbands should encourage their wives as regards to appreciating them and treasuring them. They should tell them of how they appreciate their appearance.

I just feel it is area where great care be exercised. In everything we say we need to think about whether this is contributing to building someone up.

Who Are The Elders

Upon coming to a church, the newly arrived christian asked; who are the elders in this church? The response given was, that the believer who was coming into the fellowship should come back in a month ( I believe that was the time period) and say who they thought the elders of the church were!

Now, the degree of reliability of the feedback from this suggestion will depend upon the wisdom and spiritual maturity of the person concerned. However, it does raise certain issues:

  1. It is the church who have to own the recognition of people to eldership. Imposition, whether it be from an outside body or the present elders, is not acceptable.  In the same way that the church at Jerusalem selected and trusted those selected into deacon service (see Acts 6:2-7) so it is with elders.
  2. The appointment of someone to eldership does not make them an elder. The church, under the guiding of the present elders, has a responsibility to recognize those whom the LORD has already made elders. So Paul says to the Ephesian elders Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28). It is the Holy Spirit who makes overseers not the church.
  3. The concomitant truth to this, is that the church cannot prevent someone operating as an elder. If they fail to formally recognize him, he will still operate as an elder.
  4. In seeking out elders the present elders should keep a keen ear open to what the church is saying about certain men in the church. A groundswell of conviction in the church, about a brother may be the Holy Spirit leading the church to recognize that brother as an elder.
  5. As shepherds tend to the sheep in their flock so spiritual shepherds tend to the sheep in their flock. Eldership is a calling to and within a local church. So Paul writes to  the Thessalonians and says Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12). Those who are doing the shepherding are among the Thessalonians.

We have a great need for true elders in the church of God. May the LORD be gracious to raise them up among us. And may we be given wisdom to recognize whom the LORD has raised up.

(Originally published at Venabling on July 31st 2013)

Got To Leave It Behind

It happened about approximately 9.10 am on Thursday July 4th. I was travelling northwards on the A312 and approaching the A4 Waggoners Junction. And then this white car just cut across from the inside lane. There was no need for it. Absolutely no need; seeing he could go in the direction he wanted to in the lane he was in. And I wanted to know why? Why did he do it? Alas the chances of me ever finding out are infinitely small.

Such situations could be multiplied many times over in the general maelstrom of life. Perplexities come and conundrums go and there is no way of ever obtaining closure through understanding. Someone cutting me up on the road is, in the grand scheme of things, a puny event. However, there are events of a greater magnitude wherein there is so much emotional turmoil and distress embroiled. But what are we to do.?

We have to leave these things behind. As Paul said to the Philippians  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil.3:13-14). To not leave these things behind leads to us never moving on. 

We must be clear this does not refer to those matters where we have to properly face up to the prevailing issues and deal with them. This very likely will mean discussion , explanation, repentance and forgiveness. Perhaps it may means resorting to a court of law. Although i do note that scripture’s injunction is that Christians should never take other Christians to court (see 1 Cor. 6:1-18).

But we do need to leave what needs to be left behind. I could start my investigation as regards to who was in that car that cut me up. but where does it lead? I may get answers i may not, but where does it leave me. So many waste their lives away seeking justice. And yet to what end? Very likely the only life that is wrecked in their process is their own life.

So I can my life and see there are so many issues I would like answers to. But I see no way of achieving that. and in may cases if I could get answers i would not be benefited at all. So I must press forward leaving behind what is behind.

The Lord says to us in Hebrews 12:1-12: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Let us not allow the past to entangle us. Let us lay it aside and press on.

Eldership Test

We had a leadership seminar at Feltham on June 15th. One of the exercises which we were given was to score ourselves out of ten for the various characteristics which should be being displayed  by an elder. The list was taken from those revealed in scripture. We were then instructed to go away and ask others who know us well, whether that be in family or in whatever realm, to similarly mark us out of ten. We could then compare our self-awareness with how others perceive us. The list is this:

  1. Above reproach
  2. Faithful to his wife
  3. Temperate
  4. Not overbearing
  5. Loves what is good
  6. Upright
  7. Holy
  8. Disciplined
  9. Self controlled
  10. Hospitable
  11. Able to teach
  12. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught
  13. Not given to drunkenness
  14. Not violent but gentle
  15. Not quick tempered
  16. Not quarrelsome
  17. Not a lover of money
  18. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect
  19. He must not be a recent convert
  20. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders

If you are an elder it will provide a good exercise, if not perhaps a little painful. So why not try doing it? And when you have got a spread of responses make a point of working on the characteristic which you scored worst on.

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