More To Learn

No matter how long we have been a Christian there is always more to learn for each of us. No one can ever say that they know everything and there is nothing further to learn. In fact I sometimes feel that the older I get the more I need to learn!

With this in mind it is good to ask ourselves what steps are we taking to learn more of God? It’s all very well knowing we have more to learn but what should we do about this? There are many different ways we can do this including:

Making Time To Learn from Others
There are so many resources which are available to help us. We can listen to preachers, teachers and scholars, learning from their experiences of God. The internet provides us with access to a huge amount of Christian material which can benefit us spiritually. We may not be able to attend a conference for various reasons but there is a good chance that material from it will be freely available on-line for us to consume.

In addition to listening to God’s Word being preached from sermons we can also feast on the rich variety of spiritual books that are available to us. Not only can we purchase books from our local Christian bookshop we can find free books available on-line for us to read too.

Christian blogs can also be a source of blessing and edification to us and many offer the option to subscribe to them so we can read their latest postings.

Making Time to Read Scripture
It is important that we make time each day to read and study the scriptures and deepen our knowledge of God. If we neglect reading the bible we will find it difficult to grow as Christians.

Although we live such busy lives it is worth deliberately setting aside a time each day, this could be morning or evening depending on your personal circumstances, to read the scripture. Even if you find it difficult to do this it is an essential habit to develop. I have found it personally helpful to set aside a period of time in the mornings to read the bible after I have had my shower.

Some people find it helpful to have a notebook with them when they are reading the bible so they can write down what God might be saying to them through the scriptures.

To assist us in our reading and studying of the bible it can sometimes be useful to use a commentary to assist us. There are a number of bible commentaries that can be found on-line for free that we can use.

Making Time to take a Theology course
This will not be appropriate for everyone but another possibility is to consider making the time to take a theology course. Anyone interested in this has various different options which they could consider.

There are theological colleges that offer residential courses of varying lengths. Some churches run short theology courses that might be another possibility if a residential one is not practical. Additionally there are a number of courses that are offered for on-line studying.

If this is something that interests you it’s probably best to have a chat with one of your church leaders who will be able to advise you on this.

Conclusion
Hopefully the above has given you some ideas of how you can continue to learn. There is always more to learn, no matter how young or old you might be. Let us strive to continue to learn for as long as we are on this earth.

 

What did I give to the Church Service today?

If I am being honest I admit that on occasions in the past I have had a completely wrong attitude when attending church services. This has resulted in me thinking and actually saying “I didn’t get much out of the service today.” However, instead of making that statement I should have asked myself the following question: “What did I give to the church service today?”

I’m not talking about how much money I might have placed in the collection bag. Instead I’m referring to how much of myself did I actually give to God in the service. Did I worship God wholeheartedly during the service? Did I fix my eyes on Him as I joined in the singing or was I inwardly criticising the musicians or singers?

When the sermon was being preached was I praying for the preacher or wishing they would hurry up and finish? Did I have my ears open to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice through the sermon or did I switch off because I disagreed with one small minor point of their theology?

After the service did I go home and moan about the fact that no-one spoke to me at church or did I make the effort to speak to others after the service finished?

Obviously no church is perfect because it contains humans and none of us are perfect. However if we all, (and especially me) approached church with the attitude of “What can I give to the church service today?” we might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!

Forgiveness

One of the most astonishing and liberating truths we can embrace is that God totally forgives our sins. However do we actually believe this truth? I guess many Christians would say that intellectually they agree with this. Do we though really truly believe this in our hearts?

I don’t know about you but sometimes I have wrestled with doubts of whether or not God’s forgiveness applied to me. Strangely, I don’t doubt that God can forgive others! I enjoy reading and hearing testimonies of how in the depths of sin people have met with God and received his forgiveness. Yet for some reason it’s my own forgiveness that I have struggled with.

Nevertheless, despite doubts and struggles the truth is God has forgiven my sins in Christ Jesus. There is nothing that I can do to earn forgiveness. God has offered me this most wonderful, liberating and life changing gift. It is freely given to me if I will accept it. Who would not want this gift: the forgiveness of sins and the promise of new life in Christ.

It does not matter if you think you are not good enough. None of us are! If salvation was based on our own goodness then there is no hope for anyone. God’s forgiveness is available. Are you going to ask Him for it?

Ordinary People

Most of us are normal ordinary people. We come from ordinary families and spend our time with similar people. There will be no statues made of us or books written about us. The majority of people in the world will not know of us. That does not though lessen us as people or make us inferior to those who are famous.

These days though, for some reason, it’s not unusual for people to want to be famous. We can observe this from some who may achieve fame through a reality TV programme. Sometimes sadly some base their self-worth on their fame. There are others who might gauge their importance on the number of social media followers they have. They are not content to be ordinary people.

I have recently been reading a biography of Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century preacher. One of the lessons from Spurgeon’s life is the important role three ordinary people played in his conversion and early part of his Christian experience.

Spurgeon became a Christian in January 1850. Due to the bad weather on that day he was unable to reach the church he had intended to attend but instead went to a small chapel. No-one knows who the preacher was that Sunday. Spurgeon himself in later years, when recalling that day, was not very complimentary about the preacher’s style of speaking. However God used this unknown person to make Himself known to Spurgeon. An ordinary person had faithfully preached God’s word and the young Spurgeon was changed forever.

William Cantlow, an unknown baptist pastor baptised Spurgeon later the same year. The only reason anyone has ever heard of this man is because he baptised Spurgeon. Once again an ordinary person who was faithfully serving God.

The third ordinary person who played an important part in Spurgeon’s life was a cook called Mary King, who he spent time with whilst at Newmarket school. She spent several hours with him sharing the truths of the Christian faith and helped him grow in his theological understanding. Mary was just an ordinary person. She never preached or was a church leader. However, she played an important role in the development of Spurgeon’s faith.

All three of these individuals were just ordinary people who served God faithfully. Yet they played an important part in the development of a man who became a famous preacher known and loved all over the world. It’s impossible to know the number of people over the years who have been effected by the preaching of Spurgeon. However, without the three people mentioned above, the numerous people who have been blessed by Spurgeon may not have been reached.

The important lesson we can learn here is that God uses ordinary people, like you and me, who are faithful to Him.

 

Reading a Biography

This year I am endeavouring to vary the genre of the books that I read. I think one of the most interesting genres can be reading a biography.

At the time of writing this posting, about 25% of the books that I have read in 2019 would be classified as a biography. The subject matters come from a different number of fields e.g. sport, Christian leaders, spies, writers, political leaders. No matter what field the person is in there are a number of recurring themes that interest me.

How did the person become well known?
Although it may not be true of every single person for the majority of them there was a time when they were not very well known. You could even call them a nobody. Then they became famous and well known. How did they make this transition from a nobody to a somebody? Was it years of hard work that eventually paid off or did they suddenly appear from absolutely nowhere? Maybe they were in the right place at the right time and things just worked out for them?

What were they like before they became famous?
It can be interesting and enlightening to read comments from their contemporaries before they became famous. That might be from their school teachers, school friends, people they grew up with, their coach at the local sports club etc. Did they display obvious talent at an early age or were others better then them?

What are they really like as a person?
Most of us have only seen the public face of the person in the biography we are reading. However what are they like in real life? We may be reading about a famous Christian leader but what is he / she like away from the pulpit? Are they a good family person? Do they always make time for their children? Are they known for their humilty or do they have a high opinion of themselves? What do the neighbours say about them?

What did it take for them to be successful in their field?
It’s likely that the majority of us do not appreciate the hard work and commitment it takes to be successful in a field. Whilst we need to have a talent in that field, hard work is also needed to make the most of that gifting. I may be the most naturally talented tennis player in the world but without a lot of training I will not reach my full potential. This will no doubt involve sacrifices which may include me not seeing my children for weeks on end because I am at an overseas training camp. Am I willingly to to make that commitment? Do I want success at any price? The person we are reading about has had to make these difficult decisions.

What about their failures?
Unless the person writing the book is very selective in the biography then at some stage in their life the subject matter will have encountered failures and setbacks. We all encounter these but the important question is how did they respond to them? Did they just give up or did they persevere? How did they cope with their failure? Did they learn from it or was it repeated constantly? This part of the biography has the potential to be a great source of encouragement to us. We often put people on a pedestal and don’t expect that they will fail. However, when you read that someone that is well known has made mistakes and come out of the other end you realise that you can too!

If you have never read a biography why not visit your local library and have a look at what they have available to borrow. You can always start with a short one to get you in the habit of reading a biography. Alternatively your local Christian bookshop should have some biographies, if you wish to discover more about well known church leaders. Whatever one you select they are an interesting genre to read,

 

Do not Worry

A few days ago I came home from work and I was very worried about some upcoming deadlines for two tasks that I needed to complete at work. I found myself in panic mode about the situation facing me and not really sure what to do about it.

Whilst running my eyes over my bookshelf I saw the devotional book “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers and decided to read the reading for the day. The piece was called “Careful Unbelief” and really spoke to me in the midst of my worrying. In fact it was so helpful that I stopped thinking about the work situation and experienced a real peace about it.

I thought it might be useful to post the article below so that it might help others who may be worried or anxious about a situation at the moment.

do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. (Matthew 6:25)

Jesus summed up commonsense carefulness in the life of a disciple as unbelief. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will squeeze right through our lives, as if to ask, “Now where do I come into this relationship, this vacation you have planned, or these new books you want to read?” And He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.

…do not worry about your life….” Don’t take the pressure of your provision upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything but those details that worry us. Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the devil? No— “the cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22). It is always our little worries. We say, “I will not trust when I cannot see”— and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the Spirit.

The greatest word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.

The Words of the Wise bring Healing

One of the themes running throughout the book of Proverbs is the importance of the words that we speak. Whilst reading Proverbs chapter 12 last Sunday I came across the following verse:

Some people making cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” (Proverbs 12:18 – NLT)

What a wonderful verse! Just think that the words we speak to others can bring healing. We can be a vessel through which God brings healing to others. This is indeed good news.

However, this verse has two parts to it and I expect many of us have been guilty of the first part of it, making cutting remarks. The part of the verse is even more hard hitting in the NIV:

Reckless words pierce like a sword

Our words are very powerful. They can bring both damage and healing to others. It’s so important to remember this before we open our mouths. In Proverbs 13v3 we are told:

Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”

There have been so many times in my life when I have opened my mouth and said something that has ruined situations. Sadly more times than I would care to remember. Once the words leave my mouth I cannot bring them back. It’s not possible to delete or recall them. They have been said and heard by others. One can apologise but unfortunately the damage may already have been done.

However, it does not have to be like that. Instead of using words that can ruin everything we can use words that bring healing to others. What a privilege and honour it is to say something that brings healing to others. Who would not want to be the person who can bring healing to others though our words?

We need to learn to think before we speak. The apostle James tells us:

My dear brothers, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Just think of how much of a blessing we might be to others if we actually did this!