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

It Will Be A Good New Year

If God is in control things, as He is. And if we truly know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). Then we can know that for the called who love God, that is any true Christian, it will be a good new year.

That does not necesarliy mean:

  • all will go the way you want it to.
  • it will be an easy year.
  • you will have lots of money and good health.
  • you will not suffer.

It has struck me how many people at the end of 2020 and into 2021 have just been expressing a desire that 2021 will be better than 2020. So many people are living for a return to normal. It is easy for us Christians to get caught up in this spirit, which essentially means living for circumstances.

This is foreign to the attitude which is demonstrated by God’s believing people in the New Testament. They lived for the Lord and not for circumstances. I so easily live for circumstances and convince myself I am living for the Lord.

Circumstances MAY turn out to be far worse in 2021 than they were in 2020. We cannot be sure at this point. But what we can be sure of is that those who love God and called by His Name are set for a good year. That is because the true believer experiences the fulness of spiritual experience in looking to the Lord and not to circumstances.

So I quote these astonishing verses from Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Just stop and breathe in the themes of those verses. Habakkuk here is looking to the Lord and not what is going on around him. As a result he can rejoice.

If you are not a Christian you have no guarantee of a good new year. You are cast adrft on a sea of uncertain circumstances.

For the Christians though as we immerse ourselves in our Lord through prayer, the Word and fellowship with others we can anticipate a really good year in knowing our Lord Jesus more and more and growing in Him. Circumstances may be wonderful or they may be dreadful (or anything between), but with Christ as our great Lord it will be a good year.

So the question I face is whether or not I am looking to Christ as I enter this new year or looking to circumstances? Where is the sight of my soul as I enter 2021?

Oh and if in the pursuit of Christ happy circumstances develop in your life don’t despise them in some kind of super-spiritual masochism. Rather receive them as good gifts from Him and be thankful. But make sure your trust is always in your Lord and not your circumstances.

Who Might Get Us Through?

One comment that has haunted me throughout the Covid-19 outbreak as been that of Prince Charles from early April after he had recovered from the illness. You can see the speech here. The particular part to draw your attention to is 3 mins and 40 secs in. In that section he says “we need to have faith in ourselves and in each other.”

Such a statement I found to be somewhat alarming and expressive of where we are at as a nation. As we draw to the end of 2020 we face an uncertain future, but there is optimism that the vaccines for Covid-19, which haven been developed by various sources, will lead to a transformation of the situation and restoration of our “normal” lives.

The alarming prospect is that we are very likely going to emerge out of the outbreak congratulating ourselves on having done so well to get through. It is a source of dismay that there has not been any sense of a turning back to God in the West generally and in our nation in particular. There has been no sense that we need God to help us through and out of our predicament.

I would want to make it clear that the providing of a vaccine, through the wisdom and capabilities of dedicated scientists should be a source of thanksgiving to God. However, I fear that there will be none of that. It will be, to put it in Prince Charles words, because we have had faith in ourselves and each other.

As a result a major opportunity has been missed. God has shaken us over the last nine months and we have refused to listen. We have refused to make any connection between our sinful wanderings and the turbulences of a coronavirus outbreak.

God is not mocked by our ignoring and rejecting of Himself. His grace has been shown in this shaking. We have refused to take heed. Should it be that we get through, it seems we will laud ourselves and not God. So as we venture into 2021:

  • Might it yet be that there might be a turning back to the Lord.
  • Might the church turn back to our God and cry out to Him to revive His work.
  • May the zeal of the Lord fall upon us to passionately reach out to our communities.
  • And in your wrath remember mercy dear Lord.

Are You A Refresher?

When the Lord was anticipating the return of His people, Judah, from captivity He promised that, I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint (Jer. 31:25). A part of the blessing that the Lord brings to His people is that of refreshment. As the gospel began to be preached in the New Testament, a similar promise was given to all who respond. Peter in his preaching encouraged his hearers to Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19). God very often uses his servants to bring this refreshment. Let us face then the challenging question: Are you being used as a refresher?

In 1 Corinthians 16:17-18, Paul writes of how “I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition. When we arrive in someone’s presence are they glad as a result or are they dispirited? What is the impact of our presence? From this brief reference we get the clear impression that these three believers, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, were natural refreshers. They not only refreshed Paul, but had a similar impact on the Christians at Corinth. The fact that Paul says that they should be recognised indicates that they were top quality people. It is good to have people like them in our lives and in our churches.. We need refreshers who encourage us to keep going in the walk of faith.

Onesiphorous was a man of similar character. Paul was so grateful for what he had done. Paul says of him that he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains (2 Tim. 1:16b). Onesiphorus put himself out for Paul. Do we do that for our brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul further says of him when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me (2 Tim. 1 v 17b). Here was true “brotherly love” being demonstrated. There seems to have been a consistency about this man, as well, because he had also helped Paul in may ways at Ephesus (see 2 Tim 1:18b). Oh for reliable Christians who are steadfast in their commitment to helping their fellow believers. Such people are true refreshers and a real blessing to the church.

As we ponder upon the character of refreshers let us hear what Solomon says: Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master. (Prov. 25:13). We live in a world where people are increasingly unreliable. “Who can you trust nowadays?” We sometime lament. What a joy it is then to come across reliable people. In the proverb quoted above, we see how refreshment comes from dealing with reliable people. The master is refreshed by a trustworthy messenger. The scripture gives us a very evocative image when it compares the refreshment from a trustworthy messenger to cool snow on a hot harvesting day. That is refreshing! Do we bring such refreshment to others through our trustworthy characters?

The most essential part of our being which needs refreshment in this weary world is our heart. When our hearts are refreshed then we can be strengthened to move forward for our God. It is good to be refreshed in body, but far better to be refreshed in the heart. Philemon was a heart-refresher. Paul writes to him “You, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lords’s people” (Phile. 7b). Through his prayer, care, exhortation and general being, Philemon had put fresh courage and vigour into the inner-most beings of God’s people. Could that be said of us? Such ministry starts when we ourselves have a deep love for the Lord and longing that other believers would walk strongly for Him.

We must ask the question here about how the refresher can be freshened himself. This is important because the danger is that someone who is always giving out refreshment gradually empties their tank and has no more refreshment in them to dispense. The necessary thing is that we are continually taking time out to be refreshed and renewed in the Lord’s presence. The Lord’s Day is a key gift from God to that end. In Exodus 23:12, we read Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. Make good use of your Sundays to refresh your soul. But also embrace the principle of taking daily “time-out” with the Lord to be refreshed. Through our study of the Word and seeking of the LORD in prayer we refresh ourselves so we can refresh others.

It is worth noting though, in the gracious working of our God, that refreshers are also given refreshment. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Prov. 11:25). There is something refreshing about seeing weary souls refreshed. It is such a privilege to be a part of God’s renewing purposes.

Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of  September 2012

(Originally published at Venabling on December 8th 2016)

Our Christmas

At Feltham Evangelical Church we have shared many blessings this Christmas season. Here are three:

  • A montage of O Little Town of Bethlehem featuring those connected with the church is here
  • A rendering of Infant Holy by Gabby Claude and Laura Henderson is here
  • Our online Christmas Service is here.

…..not the Virgin Birth. The birth of our Lord Jesus was completely normal. The circumstances were somewhat parlous, but the actual delivering of the baby, who is our Lord Jesus Christ, was quite normal. So we read in Luke 2:6-7: And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

So why all the fuss then? It is because the major miracle connected with the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world is the Virgin Conception. The fact that a virgin conceived a child is an unprecedented miracle of outrageous proportions. We read in Matthew 1:18-19 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 

Here is how God could be manifest in the flesh. It is because the seed in Mary’s womb did not originate with a man, but came there through the eternal Holy Spirit putting the eternal Son in the womb of Mary. And so the One appointed to be the Saviour arrived on that day of conception. In that small event in the womb of Mary hung the salvation of a lost world. Miniscule in physical proportions, but on the mega scale in terms of implications

Oh how great are the great ways of our God. Oh praise Him for such a perfect salvation which is ours by His grace. So go big on celebrating the incarnation of Christ tomorrow and always.

And if you are not a believer in the Christ, who was once incarnate in the womb of Mary, what is holding you back?

Well so many plans have had to change over these last few days as restrictions have tightened and so many plans have had to be altered. So what Christmas are you dreamin’ of now? For many it is now just a wasted Christmas. Get it all over with and we can get back on with some happened for normal life. There’s not going to be much to do and so I will just pass the time.

I just want to encourage us all to make sure That we don’t have a wasted Christmas, but rather a worthwhile one. Your arrangements may have changed, but make sure, nevertheless, that you do make it a worthwhile time.

Focus. You perhaps now have time like you have not had before at Christmas, to make sure that you are effected by the wonder of the incarnation. You have less rush this year so stop and soak in the incredible truth that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of The Word;

Invest. Makes sure as much as you can you invest your time in worthwhile activities. Paul encourages us to Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16). So what might we do:

  • Dedicate time to your family. Do activities together.
  • Get in touch with those who are alone. Yes use zoom or whatever to your advantage to contact others.
  • Drop round present to some neighbours or friends. We had the joy today of a family dropping round some homemade biscuits.
  • Write some letters or cards to appreciate some people you know. Perhaps people in church need encouraging for their ministry.
  • Do some reading of some good books.
  • Give time to prayer.

So I wish you a worthwhile Chritsmas time

Parenting And Consistency

Here is a quote who made me sit up and think.

Over the years we have worked with wayward Mks (missionary kids) who had dropped out of school, been sent to jail for drugs, and found themselves in all kinds of trouble. As we began to work with these young men, we noticed a pattern- their parents were not the same people at home as they were in public. They would say one thing in public and live another life. They would say in front of others, “Don’t watch R-rated movies,” but they’d have a whole library of R-rated movies at home —- and sometimes worse than that. They’d say “Love your neighbour” while in public, and then come home and yell and scream at them about everything. There was this dichotomy of public life and private life in the history of everyone of these young Mks. You have to live a life that is absolutely consistent. (Contagious Disciple Making D.L. and P.D. Watson pp73-74).

At the heart of the concern here is that of consistency in the life. Is there an evenness to my life in public and private arenas? Or do I act so spiritual and saintly in public, but as selfish and fleshly in private?

The main issue is that it is our nearest and dearest who see us as we are. As a result they soon spot any flagrant hypocrisy. From the observations of the Watsons, it is that not only are our children observers of our behaviour, but they are also affected by our behaviour.

An inconsistent parent is a barrier to any child in a Christian home coming to know and follow our Saviour. The problem is exacerbated when they are, not just harmed through observation, but actually personally harmed by our behaviour.

Oh how we need the Lord’s help to live out that most consistent of a good and and beautiful life; namely that of our Saviour. May we be enabled of the Spirit to display our Lord in our lives and on our lips. In this context we are led to think of the second of the offerings described in Leviticus 2, the grain offering. This contains no element of shed blood. At the heart of it is the provision of fine flour, every granule evenly fine. Here is the life of our Saviour beautifully on display. May we live out such lives before our children and before everyone.

Love Came Down

Love came down at Christmas Time.

God gave love; He gave His only begotten Son.

He gave Him to the womb of Mary and then to the manger.

Love came down because He, being Christ the Lord, is the Saviour.

He is Jesus; He is the One who saves His people from their sins.

Love came down as promised; for Isaiah had spoken that a virgin would be with child.

For unto us a Son is given unto us a child is born and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus did not begin at Bethlehem; He had been forever and He is forever.

But Love did come down at Bethlehem. The everlasting One stepped into time. The One who upholds all things by the word of His power was found in a womb.

Love came down; pure love, holy love, righteous love, selfless love.

This is true love because it has the best interests of others at heart.

He came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.

So love came down into darkness. The darkness of sin overwhelmed this world. But the light of love has come and has shined. And that light beamed out in the darkness. So that the darkness did not overcome it.

Here at Bethlehem is Love; not that we loved God but that God gave Him to be punished for our sins.

Because the manger at Bethlehem begs a question; why? Why has He come? And the name Jesus gives the answer: He has come on a love mission. A mission to rescue.

And the place Calvary gives the answer. God gave Him up to death. He spared Him NOT from the cross.

But God raised Him from the dead and by doing so He said: “My salvation is complete”: it is now there to be received

So how can we doubt that God loves. Christmas declares that God loves.

So love came down at Christmas time. And who has received it?

Yes we can be the receivers of love if we receive Him who is Christ the LORD.

Love came down at Christmas time and is still around today. The Father and the Son sent the Spirit to tell us that the righteous God is the God of love.

So let us adore the lover of our souls this Christmas time.

For love came down to Christmas time and has never gone away.

Is that love in your heart?

(Originally published at Venabling on December 17 2015)

Don’t Put It Off

You need to realise that if you are putting off coming to Christ and leaving it to a supposedly better time, you are under the power of Satan. He is likely to hold you fast and not let you go until he has brought you to eternal destruction” (John Owen ; The Glory of Christ pp 137/8).

Very sobering words are these, that I read the other day. They are startling in their frankness and we need to take heed to the warning given. Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2b) is the clear statement of God’s Word.

Do not play with your eternal welfare through ignoring or putting off these matters. Christ has come to save sinners. He has achieved salvation for all who will come. By dying, shedding His blood and rising the third day salvation is made.

So come, come now; do not delay. As Paul said to the Philippian jailer “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31b). So go and believe and it will impact others as well.

The Big Project

The Big Project of our God in this age is expressed in the words of our Lord Jesus I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18b). Accordingly, central to our own lives should be an engaging with this project. We should be committed to the project of establishing and building local churches. Critical in our participation in this arrangement is for ourselves to be part of a local church.

However, the ensuing question arises as to how I am to be involved in God’s great kingdom building project? For many the answer is to see a big project established in the church and then to get involved in that. They see their involvement in the moving forward of the church solely in terms of participating in a certain ministry. Or there are others who are just waiting for the arrival of a ministry in the church that they can get involved in. I understand this thinking and I commend the attitude which encourages involvement in church ministries.

And yet I am left wondering if this thinking is not somewhat askew. The truly big project for ourselves, in accord with scripture, is to get on and live a godly life in the midst of a church community. Seeking opportunities to pray for, support, do Bible studies with, get alongside of people in the church is essential church work. And all the while we should be seeking to love them and live out Christ before them.

This essential ministry seems so easily to be missed amidst the fanfares for a big ministry. Part of the danger of a focus and the big project and big ministry is that the Christian life depends upon a continual injection of hype and the hard sell. And people feel bereft when the big project is over or not happening.

I want to make it clear that I am not against the provision of and participation in specific ministries in the life of the church. We, ourselves, at Feltham Evangelical, are considering ministries that we could be committing to. What I do want to make clear though is that there needs to be a proper perspective on these things.

In all this 2020 has been somewhat helpful. So many big meetings and events have been either cancelled, put on hold or scaled down. I trust this has led many of us to healthily realign our Christian lives so as to focus on the simple living of a shared life with our church community. Alas, for many I fear that the curtailment have led to a shutting down of their lives for God because they no longer have the big projects or events to keep themselves pepped up.

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