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

Re-cap

When progressing through material in a verbal presentation, it is good to think about having regular re-caps throughout the message. By a re-cap I mean going over what has been previously presented

A re-cap:

  • gives people a breather. It gives them time to re-group their thoughts amidst ongoing presenting of the material.
  • allows people to reorient themselves in the message. As the presentation moves on there can be a tendency to lose track of where the speaker has got too. A re-cap gives opportunity for the hearer to know where they are.
  • reminds the audience of what has been presented. This aids memory and therefore the possibility of the retention of the material in the mind.
  • should tie the message in with what you stated in your introduction and so shows that the message has a coherent thread.
  • stirs people up for the rest of the message. Rather, than leaving people to drift into a comatose state through behind unsure about where the speaker has got to, the speaker through a re-cap shows his audience where everything is at and sets the people to to listen attentively to the rest of the message.

The number of re-caps in a message will depend upon its length and complexity, but they are surely most helpful in assisting the conveyance of materiel into the minds and hearts of the hearers.

A Christian who is not a Church Member is like a bird without a nest, or a squirrel without a drey, or a rabbit without a hole. Such people can be likened to those those living rough, out on the streets, whilst there is a home available to them. Every Christian should have a home of which they are a part; they should be members of a church. They should be in the home that the LORD has ordained for them. Now each of us may have to work hard and pray hard in order to decide which church to settle in, but we all must settle, commit and be a member of a church and that will our home. This is God’s pattern.

Right at the beginning of the church age, we see the pattern set for how people should be committed to a church. We read in Acts 2v42 concerning the first Christians that, after they had confessed Christ and been baptised, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Here we see how the first believers of the church age came together as a living testimony to the LORD. Church membership was not something they deliberated upon. Rather, a commitment to a church was the natural flow-out from them coming to Christ and following Him.

But can it not just be the case that you go to a church and if you attend regularly enough then you are considered a church member? It appears looking at the situation of the church in Corinth, that there was a clear understanding of who was a member of the church. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 Paul writes to them concerning a man who was having an affair with his step-mother. He writes Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? To put someone out of your fellowship, you need to know who is in the fellowship. There seems to have been a clear knowledge of who was a member of the church in Corinth.

If we dwell a little further concerning the functioning of the church at Corinth we will see that the person who was no longer considered to be a church member was to be delivered unto Satan (see 1 Cor. 5:5a). This dramatic act demonstrated that he was now deemed to be out in the world, which is the realm where the evil one, Satan, has sway. This again alerts us to the big issues appertaining to a Christian choosing not to commit to a church. In doing this they are, in a sense, aligning themselves with the world. The way that this whole issue is developed in the New Testament indicates that someone is either a church member and blessed in the fellowship of God’s people or they are not church members and therefore out in the world; out in Satan’s domain.

The fact that it is known who is actually in a fellowship is also seen by looking at the issue of church leadership. Church leaders are given responsibility to look after a flock of God’s sheep. In Hebrews 13v17 we read Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. The clear inference here is that there are a group of Christians who know who their leaders are. Accordingly it is to these men that they have a responsibility to submit. This whole theme is hinted at when we look at Paul’s observation of the elders being recognised in Ephesus. He says of them that 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 20v28). The elders in Ephesus knew that there was a flock and they knew who was in it because they were to care for all the flock.

The above mentioned themes also alert us to the fact that church membership is restricted to one church. Although fellowship can be enjoyed and shared with other churches, our commitment is to one church and to be submitted to the leadership of that church.

The celebration of the Lord’s Supper also adds a certain poignancy in respect of these issues. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Paul writes Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we declare our oneness as the people of God. Whenever we eat and drink together at the feast we declare that we are a part of each other and we are together in the local representation of His body. There is then an inherent contradiction if someone is celebrating the Lord’s Supper and is still refusing to commit to that fellowship. The Lord’s Supper is not just declaring a commitment to the LORD, it is also declaring a commitment to one another.

Finally, for those of you who are Christians and are church members, remember to live out what you are. When you commit to a church you become an insider to that church. The sad thing is that many who have committed to a church then choose to live as outsiders to that church. They live a contradiction. So fellow Christians when you have committed to a church make sure your live out that commitment by being steadfast in supporting the leadership, activities and fellow believers in Christ in that church.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of May 2015

Life is full of mistakes.

Some of the mistakes we make are because of willful stiff-neckedness. Whereas others happen because we are badly advised, caught up in unfortunate circumstance or simply through our frailty in understanding matters. Whatever the cause mistakes still happen, and will happen, in our lives.

In considering how we respond to mistakes in our lives we need to be aware that mistakes are not good. If we greet our mistakes with indifference then we are set for lives which accomplish little, are of little honour to God and of little help to others.

We need to commit ourselves therefore to responding well to our mistakes.  Here are some thoughts.

  • The source of many of our mistakes is sin. It is that selfish willfulness to reject God’s way and choose our way. In a sense these are not mistakes they are sins. Such sins need to be confessed. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Moreover, true repentance means we “never want to go there again”. We forsake those sins.
  • When we fall into mistakes, through our own ignorance or weakness, the main response should be to learn. We are fools if we do not learn from our mistakes. If we fail to learn we are likely to repeat those mistakes. And if we continue to repeat our lives will be a total disaster.
  • Some times the learning will mean training. This may be low-key training such as just speaking with somebody to gain insight into what went wrong. Or it may be more formal such gaining a new skill seek to avoid repeating the mistake.

So we want to eradicate mistakes from our lives as much as possible. But in this world with all its fallen-ness, with our own fallen-ness and weakness mixed in, mistakes are inevitable. The key to life, in the end, is not endlessly strategising to avoid mistakes, but rather learning from our mistakes.

As a footnote I would be suspicious of someone who makes no mistakes. Such people are very likely not fully living. This is because true living involves pushing on and pushing out. That means risk and where there is risk there is a likelihood of mistakes being made.

In Deuteronomy 17:2-7 we read of how justice needs to be undertaken in respect of those who have forsaken the Lord in committing idolatry. One important part of this process is to make sure that a careful investigation is undertaken so we read these words of how the judges and officers respond to an accusation: if this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly (Deut. 17:4).

This is such an important principle for all who are in positions of authority to have in mind. Parents, bosses, church elders, school teachers, prosecuting authorities should all bear this in mind. It is so easy to reach swift judgements without a careful investigation. So if we are lacking in wisdom as parents, we will hear a shouting voice clammerimg for attention and immediately will respond to dish out our summary judgement so as to deal with the matter. But if there has been no proper investigation then the outcome can be worse than the beginning. The wrong punished innocent feel aggrieved and the wrongly excused villains think they can get away with it next time with similar tactics.

So we must make sure that we investigate properly. Stop and listen and find out and ponder. Then decide what to do. and then we must act. In Deuteronomy 17:4b-5 we read If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. This reminds us that the investigation must end and that a judgement has to be passed and appropriate punishment carried out. In this instance it was the stoning of the one guilty of idolatry. The important thing I want to concentrate on here is not the punishment but the fact that punishment was undertaken.

So if you are in authority make sure that you thoroughly investigate every accusation you have to deal with, reach a decision and then implement the relevant judgement.

More on this is at the sermon here

It Cannot Be Done.

When confronted by the Reubenites and Gadites saying that they wanted to stay east of the Jordan, Moses told them of the discouragement that could come to the people of God through their action. To reinforce his point he reminded them of the discouragement which came to the nation of Israel through the report of the ten spies (see Num 32:6-15). As we look at this example of discouragement caused by the ten spies, we can learn how much damage can be done as a result of us taking an “it cannot be done” attitude.

We will start with the passage in Numbers 32:6-15 which gives a revealing review of what is recorded in Numbers 13-14. The details are this:-

  • God has promised to give the nation of Israel the land of Canaan.
  • Twelve spies went in to spy out the land. Ten came back and said the land was good, but it was impossible for the Israelites to go in and posses it.
  • They thereby discouraged the people who did not go in and possess the land.
  • God was displeased with the faithlessness of the people.
  • God’s judgement fell so that they wandered aimlessly in the wilderness until all of the faithless who would not go in had died.

So what was it that hindered the Israelites from moving forward to take the land? It was the ten faithless spies and their discouragement of the rest of the people. They said “it cannot be done”, even though God had said it should be done because He had given them the land.

So are you an “it cannot be done” kind of person? In answering that question it has to initially be made clear that there always needs to be a proper assessment any situation when considering moving forward with a project. A proper full assessment has to be made of the pros-and-cons of moving ahead with a venture for God. We are not to be reckless and rash in our approach to the ways of the Lord. There should be a sense of sitting down first and considering a situation. The Lord commends this approach in the context of the demands of discipleship (see Luke 14:25-33).

What is at issue here though is the inclination that many have to always be opposing initiatives which advance the cause of Christ. There is a difference between realism and faithlessness. To oppose a movement of God is very serious. You may have lots of justifiable reasons for saying “it cannot be done”. The ten spies, for example, saw that there were giants in the land (see Num. 13:33) but remember it is God’s call to take on a certain initiative then to oppose it is to be with the ten spies. And when the people went with the ten spies they fell under the judgement of God.

You may think you are being clever to see deficiencies in a plan, but be very careful before opposing something which is clearly of the Lord. Perhaps we can think here of initiatives in evangelism. You discern an issue which will be a difficulty and you think you are clever in opposing the proposal. If this is the case, don’t forget to be aware of the impact that you can have upon others. Your negativity and discouraging spirit can prompt a malaise which spreads to others. Everyone is soon feeling that it cannot be done. “No point evangelising today nobody listens” becomes the general view, “no point going into that area; no one has ever been saved there.” With all the talk of “it cannot be done” around, evangelism and a desire for church planting is squashed and the church loses all energy. Everyone is discouraged, and progress for God is thwarted.

Rather, what we need is people like Caleb, who after proper assessment and most importantly with their eye on the Lord, says “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numb. 13:30b). Let us be careful to encourage any development which is of the Lord and for the Lord.

This principle of encouragement also applies generally in the life of the church. It is interesting to observe what Paul did after the tumultuous events in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He travelled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months (Acts 20:1-3a). Paul always wanted to encourage believers in the ways of the LORD.

Let us be careful to think about our own behaviour and influence. As church members we all have influence on one another. Are you a discourager? Through your behaviour are you discouraging others in the pursuit of the Lord and fulfilment of His purposes in their lives? Perhaps you think what you say and do is irrelevant to the cause of Christ in Feltham. It most certainly is not! You can be a force for good or ill. Remember even the great apostle Peter was once discerned by the Lord to be an instrument of the devil. The Lord said to him “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt 16:23).

Let us then be an encourager. Always let us be on the look out as to how we can encourage forward the cause of Christ. And finally, let us heed the exhortation to the Hebrew Christians let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of July 2015)

Reaching Conclusions.

A couple of times recently I expressed a viewpoint during conversations about two different issues. It was intriguing and perplexing to observe what followed. As the conversation developed I mentioned something else which appertained to the issue and the immediate response was to conclude that my point of view on the issue was because of the certain experience I had related.

This was all quite perplexing because in both instances the conclusion was wrongly made. I did not hold the point of view because of the connected experience. This made me think of two things;

  • We need to be careful not to be too swift to draw conclusions about why someone holds a certain point of view. If you want to know ask them. Don’t just leap to conclusions.
  • Be careful about a ‘one cause’ conclusion. In virtually every point of view that someone has on a matter, there have been more than one contributing factor to them reaching their conclusion. So we need to be careful about looking for simplistic answers to why someone holds a certain position.

Above all in these matters stop and listen.

Our Great Interest.

How interested are we in our Lord Jesus Christ? We are so easily diverted from focusing on the One who is at the heart of our faith. It is through Christ that we are brought to God (see 1 Pet. 3:18). It is in Him that we have eternal life (see John 3:36). Through coming into the wonderful “in Christ” position we now have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (see Eph. 1:3)

The book of Song of Solomon reveals to us a beautiful relationship between the lover and the beloved. At one point the lover is challenged by her friends How is your beloved better than others, that you so charge us? (Song of Songs 5:9b). The lover then proceeds, without hesitation, to describe her absent beloved from head to toe (see Song of Songs 5:10-17). This gives a profound illustration of how we should be regarding our beloved, our great Lord and Saviour, Jesus. Could you or I give a full description of him or would we be struggling? The lover can describe her beloved in such a way because her heart and mind are devoted to Him. So should we be as regards to our Saviour. We show our devotion by continually learning of our LORD through studying the Word of God.

The problem that we so often have is that we start to focus on the blessings rather than the source of the blessings. Of course it is good to be thanking God for all that He has given us; we should never neglect to do that. However, we do need to go back to the source of the blessings. It reminds us of the ten lepers who were healed in Luke 17:11-19. All of them were clearly healed from the detestable disease of leprosy; yet nine just drifted away appreciating the blessing but ignoring the fact that there was a man who had bestowed the blessing. There was only one who came back to give thanks. It is recorded of him that when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:15b-16). Moreover as a result of his returning to appreciate the One who blessed him he got a further special blessing of a fuller wellness (see v19). The clear implication that he was spiritually healed in his soul. By our regular failing to appreciate our Saviour, we miss out on so much of entering into His gracious kindness.

It is interesting that our tendency towards forgetfulness is anticipated by God and He takes action to prevent us being so neglectful. He gives us the Lord’s Supper to celebrate. We are thereby given a weekly means of reminding ourselves of Jesus and all that he has done for us. The significance of the feast is summed up in the words “do this in remembrance of me.” God knows our weakness and He gives us this special feast; this special time to remember our Lord Jesus.

Integral to our participating in the Lord’s Supper is the reminder of how much Jesus has loved us. The Son of God loved Me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20b) is how Paul expresses such love. Love is at the heart of our faith because we are blessed in and through such a self-sacrificing Saviour. And our response should be, as we sing, in the words of Isaac Watts; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

One of the ways we express our love is in seeking to fulfil the first commandment which is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37). This leads us to ponder that when you love someone you take an interest in that which they love; that is a natural connection. So we are now, as His children, lovers of God. And who is the centre of God’s affections? That one is Jesus; His special Son. In Colossians 1:13-14 we read that For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the Son that the Father loves. There is something wrong when the Son is not capturing our attention as well.

Everything about our faith revolves around this One who is our LORD Jesus. He is the One who saves us, He is the one who keeps us and He is the One who will return to take us to His home. And so shall we ever be with who? With the Lord of course! And if we have the liberty to go back in eternity our choosing to salvation is a choosing in Christ. Oh how thrilling these things are!

When you turn to the book of Revelation you see relentlessly there that the LORD Jesus is the centre of all God’s purposes. He is the One revealed to John in Chapter 1, He is the One moving among the churches in ch. 2-3. He is the all glorious lion-lamb in Revelation 5. He is the all conquering One coming from heaven in ch. 19. He is the One for whose return the people of God yearn for in ch 22.

And finally let us ponder upon the cost of us being eternally blessed. Let us think of the eternally blessed One who gave Himself for us. There is salvation in no other and there is no other way to be saved and so we rejoice in such great salvation.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of November 2015

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