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By Andy Constable

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged that worship isn’t simply a Sunday activity while we sing songs but involves our heart attitude in all of life (see: http://niddriepastor.com/2012/04/06/dont-just-sing-about-it-start-worshipping-god-today-everyday/) The question that necessarily flows from this conclusion is – what is the point of meeting on a Sunday? If worship is an activity that happens in all of life then why do we need to meet corporately on a Sunday to worship God? Does anything particularly different happen on a Sunday compared to the rest of the week? Is there any point?

I want to argue that our corporate worship is distinct from, and supportive of, the worship of Christians in all of life. It is distinct because it is time when we gather together and hear God’s Word preached to us in a special way. And it also supports our worship because it is a time when we remind ourselves of God’s truth, receive correction and see the beauty of who God is corporately so that we can then go and worship him with all of life. I want to argue that there are 2 particular reasons why its important to meet corporately on a Sunday.

Firstly Sunday is important for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then, brothers? When you come together, everyone  has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church..” The word strengthening here is from the Greek work oikodome and means “edifying, edification, building up.” Paul instructs the Corinthians that the Lord’s people need strengthening when they meet together.

The writer to the Hebrews backs this verse up in 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The writer to the Hebrews commands the church to meet together regularly to encourage and stir one another up. The Sunday is therefore supportive of our worship during the week. The meeting up on a Sunday is to be used to instruct people in God’s word and strengthen them towards glorifying God all the more.  In more modern, emotional centred churches the strengthening of God’s people is cast to the side. They say that the primary reason we meet is to “meet with God”. But Paul is very clear that the reason we meet together is to be built up for service. Teaching God’s Word correctly and simply must be an emphasis of our Sunday services.

However many churches would stop there. They would say that edification is the only reason we meet up. I would argue that there is a second reason to meet on a Sunday. The second reason we meet on a Sunday is to meet with God. Worship, as Carson writes: “is ascribing all honour and worth to…God because he is worthy, delightfully so.” We are therefore only truly worshipping God with our entire beings, including our hearts, when we are ‘affected’ by God’s glory because we see his worth. As Tim Keller writes worship is “obedient action motivated by the beauty of who God is in himself.” The second purpose of meeting on a Sunday then is to see the worth of God in all his fullness.

We see this in the Bible time and again. David writes this in Psalm 41:16: “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, The LORD be exalted!” The Psalmist says those who follow the Lord are to rejoice, be glad and love the salvation of the Lord and result is that we want the Lord to be exalted. If our services are simply geared towards edification and our heads then we miss out the rejoicing in and being glad in and loving the Lord, which is geared towards our affections.

This is what the reformer Calvin believed deeply. Calvin believed that the goal of gathered worship was to bring people face to face with God. Calvin’s aim was not that people would simply learn information about God, but that they would truly hear God speak and know his presence in the service. Jonathon Edwards argued along the same lines when he said that worship had not occurred unless our “hearts are affected, and our love captivated by the free grace of God” and when “the great, spiritual, mysterious, and invisible things of the gospel…have the weight and power of real things in their hearts.” Thus, the goal of gathered worship is to make God “spiritually real” to our hearts. That is where truths by the Spirit’s influence become fiery, powerful, and profoundly affecting. It is not enough to be told about grace. But you need to be amazed by it.

The goal of Sundays is edification and meeting with God. Our heads and hearts are to be instructed and affected by the beauty and truth of God. This is what we want to see in Niddrie! A church that meets on a Sunday to support our worship during the week and that instructs our minds and affects the heart. We want to be set on fire by the fame of God’s name and his renown. Please pray for us as leaders that we would prayerfully apply the gospel and allow the Spirit to do his work in the life of the church!

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By Andy Constable

Recently, I have been doing a series in the evenings on the subject of Biblical Worship. It is an important subject to think about in a culture where worship is simply seen as what we sing on a Sunday and/or, perhaps, connected with having an emotional experience. Because of the many nuances concerning the topic, it is difficult to define the term with the precision required for universal acceptance.

The word, “worship” is an old English word that is concerned with the “worthiness” or “worship” of the person or thing that is reverenced. We worship that to which we ascribe honour, praise, love and thanks. Of course, from a Christian perspective, only God is to be treasured. He alone is worthy of our praise. Only God is to be worshipped and anything else is an idol. Exodus 34:14 reminds us:

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

What we ascribe worth to in the Bible is closely connected to the heart. The heart in the Bible does not mean our emotions, as in modern, soppy love songs but, rather, our whole wills!  It’s about what we give our full attention to. It’s about what we hold dear. For example, Isaiah 29:13:

The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

In these verses God is clear that the Israelites honoured God with their outward worship, but not truly in their hearts. Their wills, their attention and their love was focused on other things. In reality, they were not worshipping God at all.

We were created to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls and all our strength. This is worship. Harold Best says,

In the most basic terms, worship consists of someone acknowledging that someone or something else is greater – worth more – and, by consequence, to be obeyed, feared and adored.” 

However, the problem is that we love things other than God. Romans 1:24:

Therefore God gave them up to their lusts…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator…”

Instead of worshipping the creator, we worship his creation. Instead of loving God first, we love ourselves first. We replace God with idols. We love sex, family, money, comfort, security and control more than we love God. We ascribe worth to these things rather than to God.

The battle for every Christian is therefore to love God in every moment of their lives. Paul Tripp writes:

“As worshiping beings, human beings always worship someone or something. This is not a situation where some people worship and some people don’t. If God isn’t ruling my heart, someone or something else will.”

If God isn’t the centre of our lives then we are worshipping something else. This is the same on a Sunday as well as on a Monday morning. Paul writes to the Corinthians and says this: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.” In every activity we are called to bring glory to God.

Therefore, worship is not simply a time on a Sunday when we sing songs but a heart attitude that shows off what we ascribe worth to. Worship involves our everyday life. It involves what we do and what we think about. It involves the way we treat people and the way we do our jobs. It involves how we look after our families and how we serve our friends. It involves what we do in the morning when no-one is looking as well as when we come to gather on a Sunday morning.

It is key that worship is seen in this way. This is crucial for (1) the new converts that are coming through our doors. They are not called to come on a Sunday, look presentable, and then do whatever they want when no one is watching. We are called as Christians to be ambassadors for Christ at all times. This is also important for (2) mature believers so that their spiritual lives don’t stagnate and they constantly allow the Spirit to root out idols in order that they love the gospel more. This is key for (3) young Christians who often jump from one ‘worship’ event to another to get an emotional high. Worship happens in the everyday as we seek to bring glory to God in every moment.

Let me end with Romans 12:1:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

After spending 12 chapters describing the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, Paul applies it in this verse. We are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Worship is more than singing songs (but definitely includes this) but all of life. The question is: are you ascribing all worth, all honour, all love to our good, perfect and holy heavenly Father?

By Andy Constable

The most important decision for any man who wants to work in schemes, after professing Christ, is choosing a suitable wife (if you plan to get married). This ministry is tough and tiring and if your wife isn’t on board and supportive then you will flag very quickly. The last thing a male leader needs in this gig is a wife who drags him down and tires him out after a hard day of stressful ministry. To have longevity in this type of gospel ministry, (or any for that matter) it’s necessary to have a wife who loves the gospel and the work that you are involved with. If your wife isn’t fully supportive then your ministry simply won’t last. Here are a couple of things to think about when choosing a wife.

Firstly, and most importantly, is she a woman who loves the Lord? As the famous Proverb goes: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” There are plenty of ladies in the church but the woman you want to marry is someone who fears the Lord. Do they love the gospel and do you see that working out in their lives? This will be so important for your work and ministry. When you are tired, or stressed, or feeling down, you will need a wife who will pray for you and point you to Christ.

Secondly, is she a woman who loves schemes? I am very blessed to have a wife who was brought up on a housing scheme in Birmingham and who has had a heart to live and work in schemes since she was a young girl. As a couple you will be getting involved in this work together. It’s not a case of the husband working away leaving his wife to tend to the dishes. As a couple you will be counselling other couples, you will be inviting people into your home and you will be in the thick of things together. Therefore, your wife needs to be happy living in a scheme and facing the difficulties that life brings. If she hasn’t got a vision for schemes then, again, you will struggle as she will not be interested in the work and getting stuck in herself. She will complain about where you live. She will complain about the people you spend time with. She will complain when your hours are long or your plans change at the last-minute. If she loves the scheme and has a vision for the work then she will be able to support you well in the work.

Thirdly, is she a woman who invests in relationships? Working in schemes involves discipling and mentoring people. This doesn’t mean meeting up with someone once a month but persistently and consistently investing in local people. Those we work with will often have chaotic lives and have no gospel background. If your potential wife isn’t already involved in discipling girls around her then she will struggle to do the same in a scheme context. The last person you need is what I call a ‘clinger’. Clingers are girls who don’t have many friends, who want to spend all their time with you and don’t release you to invest in others! This is a fatal blow to any ministry. Look out for a girl who loves serving other people and has some friends.

I am very thankful to God for the wife that I have. She supports me and points me to Christ. I wouldn’t last long in this work without her. Is the same true of your potential/current wife? Is she a woman who loves the Lord? Is she a woman who loves the work you are involved in? Is she a woman who disciples other girls? These are all important questions to ask because if your wife’s heart isn’t in this work with you then you will not last long in this ministry. Choose carefully, choose prayerfully and choose wisely.

By Andy Constable

The last couple of weeks have been particularly tough and tiring in Niddrie. One of our “pre-interns” who was getting his life together in Christ made a very unwise decision to leave the structure of our tailored discipleship programme/life to go back to his home town. The decision was not prayerfully considered, biblically based or with the Lord in mind. The young man in question simply got bored with following God’s will. This was heartbreaking to watch as we had heavily invested the last 6 months into his life. We had prayed with him, walked with him, and taught him the gospel as faithfully as we could. We had him stay in our house and he had become part of the family. The whole process was demoralising and spiritually draining. It felt like we had been punched in the stomach and left winded on the ground. How do we pick up the pieces when this happens?

Firstly, we need to rest in God. The week after the person had left to go back to his sinful lifestyle, I was absolutely shattered. I walked around like a zombie and found it difficult to engage with people. There was a need for sleep on one level but also my soul needed to find rest in God. Investing in any person is a tiring experience and I needed God’s grace to strengthen me.

Secondly, we need to root out any idols. After the person left, I felt like my hopes and dreams had been robbed and that there was no way forward. You see I had put my trust in the wrong things. This time of unrest brought forward the idols of my heart. I had trusted in the ramifications on my ministry of this person getting their life together. I had wanted recognition, respect and glory for the part that I had played in investing in this person’s life. A day after the person had left I read Psalm 62 and verse 6 challenged my heart attitudes. It says this: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” This just wasn’t true in my life at this time and I needed to repent. God was not my rock and my salvation. When difficult things happen we see where our hopes and dreams really are. And if it’s not on God then we need to repent and put our trust in him and him alone.

Thirdly, we need to remember that God is in control. When the person left I was left wondering what God was up to. This was of course an arrogant thought but one that crossed my mind. How could he let this person go? How could all that hard work come to absolutely nothing? Does God know what he is doing? My very wise wife reminded me of this verse from Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” The Lord always knows what he is doing and is always in control. His ways are not our ways and we need to always trust that he is working out his good and perfect will. When people walk away from the Lord we need to trust that God is sovereign and that his plan is perfect. He is just and gracious and far above our understanding.

Finally, we need to continue to invest in others. As Mez said to me several times during that week: “you need to get back on the horse, and get back on quickly.” Even though 5 new people professed faith the same week he walked away, I still wanted to remove myself from investing in anybody else because I was tired and honestly couldn’t be bothered. However, when someone walks away we need to invest our attention elsewhere. Jesus was clear through the Parable of the Sower that many seeds will be planted but only the ones who remain are saved. This is how we need to view ministry. We need to keep spreading the seeds of gospel, discipling people and pray that some seed will fall on the good soil because God will produce a great crop through them.

Ministry in schemes is tiring. We invest our lives in people and when they walk away from God it’s heartbreaking. But we need to keep putting our hope in Christ, remind ourselves constantly of God’s sovereign hand and keep sharing the gospel with people! Please pray as we continue to work in this area.

By Andy Constable

Last week I was able to have a meeting with Kenny Macaskill who is the MSP for Eastern Edinburgh. We were meeting to discuss the possibility of opening a drop in centre up at Greendykes flats. As a church we are desperate to start a ministry up there because the area is filled with many difficulties. The flats are known as heartbreak hotel in Niddrie. This is because the housing policy for a number of years was to only accept men over the age of 25 who were single. As you can imagine flats filled with lots of single men who are lonely and isolated means lots of suicides and drug overdose’s. The flats are also a dumping ground for people who haven’t got anywhere else to go. They stick offenders, drug addicts, and people with mental illnesses up at these flats. In the last year I’ve had 3 referrals from the doctors and Mez has conducted a funeral of a young man who died after a drug overdose.

The meeting went well with Kenny and we are hopefully going to start a work up there in a couple of months. But the question that people often ask is: “why do you want to start a work up there with these people? Why do you want to go to a place which is so disturbed? I mean surely these people are not worth the energy. Why not focus on the young and leave these people who have made their life decisions.” Here are a few thoughts on why we want to start a work up at Greendykes.

Firstly, we believe that God cares for the soul of every person in the world. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul writes: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” Every soul in the world will one day come before the judgment seat of Christ. It doesn’t matter if you are a banker or a drug addict. Every person has a soul and those souls will be judged equally, fairly and righteously by God Almighty This means that every soul counts for God. He doesn’t’ want to see anyone condemned to hell. And so we should show the same care no matter who the person is. They are made in the image of God despite how screwed up their lives seem to be from the surface. And so with each soul bound for hell we want to preach the good news of the gospel, that there is salvation available to anyone who repents of their sin and puts their faith in Christ.

Secondly, we believe the gospel can change any heart. Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” The gospel is power. It can change any life inside out. And that is what we hold out to people. We don’t come along with social plans, or psychological techniques but the good news of the Jesus Christ. These people who live in Greendykes don’t need a counsellor but a Saviour. We have all rebelled against God and have a disease in us called sin. It is eating up in us like a black plague. But the cross sets us free from the love of sin, as we die with Christ, so that we can live for his glory. Only the cross can change someone’s heart. This is the good news we are going to proclaim and we believe deep down that it changes lives.

Thirdly, no one else is doing this work. These are forgotten people up at Greendykes. If we don’t go to share the good news of salvation with them then no one else will. They are unchurched lacking in any spiritual direction. As Paul writes” “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heart?” If no one preaches, then no one hears the good news. There are very few people planting in these difficult areas. These people really are the forgotten generation and we want to at least make an attempt, so that every person in this scheme has a chance to hear the gospel. We have no other choice because Christ love compels us.

Heartbreak Hotel sounds like a daunting task and it is. But it’s by no means a wasted task. Those souls need the gospel like any other people. God cares for them even if society has largely shoved them to one side. The gospel can change any heart. And they need to have a chance to hear this wonderful news of Christ. Pray for this work as we go forward and pray that God would bring many souls to salvation!

By Andy Constable

Four weeks ago, at 11pm on a Friday night, our door bell rang. My wife and I were asleep and we ignored it because we thought it was kids messing about. But it rang again and so I got up and opened the door to find our neighbour at there. She apologised for waking us up but thought we would like to know that our car windows had been smashed. I peered out at our car and saw the glass all over the floor!  All four windows had been smashed. I looked up and down the street to see if anyone else had been affected but no other cars had been touched! Working in housing schemes can be tough. We face vandalism, threats and people laughing at us for our faith. But how are we to react? What should we do when people are against us?

Well, I believe that Psalm 59 gives us some answers. King David is in a far worse predicament. Saul, the king of Israel, has sent men to kill him and they are waiting outside his house! What does he do? He could go out and kill them or hide in his house and hope they don’t find him, or run (which he eventually does). We read that the first thing he does is pray. This psalm gives us 5 steps that should direct our prayers when we are facing hardship.

The very first thing that David prays is to be delivered. Verse 1: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me…” When we are facing opposition the first thing we want to do is sort out things ourselves. We want to get our family to safety or confront those who are attacking us or do our own thing. But David prays before he does anything else and asks to be delivered from his troubles! The first thing my wife and I did, when we found out our windows had been broken, is to pray. This is not because we are super spiritual but because we had nowhere else to turn! We need to commit things into God’s hand when enemies are against us. We need to ask for God’s help. He is our deliverer from troubles and the one we must turn to.

The second thing that David does is pray through the problem. In verse 3 he writes: “For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord…” David articulates to God what the problem is. We know that God knows exactly what’s going on because he is omniscient. But it’s important to communicate with God what’s going on for our own soul. The worst thing we can do when we are going through difficult problems is to keep it to ourselves. We need to share with God what is happening. David has men after him even though he has committed no sin and so he speaks to God. Tell God what your difficulty is. Share with him what is going on in your life. Be specific.

Thirdly, David reminds himself of who God is. He writes in verse 8: “But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. O my strength, I will watch for you, for you, O GOD, are me fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me…” It’s so easy when the world is against us to forget who our God is. When the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we often look inwards and diminish the size of God. But when we are being attacked we need to look outwards to God and remind our souls of His attributes. He is our strength, He watches over us, He is our fortress, and He is a God of steadfast love. These truths help us trust in Him and brings peace to our souls in the midst of distress.

Fourthly, David prays that his enemies would be consumed. He writes in verse 12b-13: “For the cursing and the lies that they utter, consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth.” Now this doesn’t sound very Christian does it? Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek and forgive people who sin against us? This is a ‘both and‘ answer. Yes, we are to pray for our enemies, but I think that it’s biblical and right to pray that God would judge people according to His will. David is not going out to murder his enemies but is leaving judgment in God’s hands. And the reason he wants judgment is so that they would know that God rules. When we are attacked by people we can pray that people would know God’s judgment so that they would know who really rules the joint. This is not a bitter prayer but a righteous prayer with the right heart attitude.

Finally, David worships God. In the final verse David writes: “O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.” David ends his prayer by singing praises to God. In verse 8 he is reminding himself of who God is but by verse 17 he is praising and singing to the Lord his God. This is surely the ultimate purpose of any kind of suffering that we face: worship. We go through difficult times to appreciate who God is all the more. When we suffer our hearts are challenged, changed, and transformed from the reliance of our worldly idols and back toward the one, true God. David doesn’t end with bitterness. His heart is right and he is singing to Him! This should be the same for us all.

If you are working in a housing scheme then difficult times are ahead. You will be reviled, laughed at and even physically threatened and/or even assaulted. But, remember this Psalm, remind yourself of who God is and pray that your enemies would know God’s righteous judgment and turn to worship Him all the more! Let me end with these words from James 1:2-4: “Count it ALL joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” 

By Andy Constable

Like most men, I love sport. It is something that has always been part of my life from an early age. I especially enjoy playing or watching football! Sport is a great creation by God and is something we should enjoy. However, many men, including myself, need to watch that sport doesn’t become an idol. When we think of idols we usually think of Hindu or Buddhist Temples. But in the Bible an idol is anything that we place higher than God. It is anything that we love more than him. At the end of 1 John 4:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” As men we need to watch that sport hasn’t become an idol that has replaced God. How can we tell if sport has become an idol? Here are three tests.

Firstly, is sport your future hope? What do I mean by that? What we hope for in the future, always directs our current actions. This can be in a big area like getting a job. For example, if you want to become a doctor then you have to work hard at science in school and then do 7 years in medicine at university. Your future hope of becoming a doctor becomes the focus and drives your life choices. The same happens in the small-scale, day-to-day decisions as well. If my future hope is to be respected and liked, then the way I interact with people will reflect that hope. I will be polite to people, I will try to look good in front of them and I will seek to please them. These future hopes become idols when we direct our whole lives around them and cut out God. Do you organise your week and, in particular, your weekends around the football fixtures? Do you cut out relationships to make time to watch or play sport? Do you spend more time thinking about what your football team is doing then reading and talking about God’s Word? This is a question we all need to ask ourselves: what hopes and goals give direction to your life? If sport is the driving force then it has replaced God and we need to readdress the balance. I’m not saying don’t enjoy sport, but watch that it hasn’t become ultimate. In Philippians 1:6 Paul writes: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” When Paul looked at the future he thought of the day of Jesus Christ. He thought of the day when he returns to be united with his people. And his focus was on running the race to this end. At the end of the day (to use a sporting pun), the Lord is not looking for men who can recite every fact about Premier League football, but men who serve his kingdom.

Secondly, does sport direct your mood? Sport is an emotional event! Watching England play rugby can be very emotionally draining. The next way to tell if sport has become an idol is if it directs your emotions. Let’s go back to the example of respect or being liked being our hope. If that is what drives your life decisions then when people don’t affirm you or respect you, you will get very depressed, angry, despondent and frustrated. The same can happen when sport becomes our main priority. Do you get angry when your team lose and huff for hours after? Do you get despondent when you don’t get to play or watch all the sport you planned to? Do you get frustrated with your kids and family when Match of the Day is on and they are making a noise? We can tell that we love something by the way we react when it is taken away from us. When Jesus asks the rich young ruler in Mark 10 to give up all his riches and follow him, he walks away, down heartened and sorrowful. Why? Because the greatest love in his life was money and he didn’t want to give it up. If you get upset when you lose your sport time then you know you have a problem. It has become an idol.

Thirdly, does sport direct all your conversations? What comes out of our mouths reflects what’s in our hearts. We talk about the things that we love most. Jesus said this clearly in Matthew 12:34: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” When you meet up with your mates, is sport the main thing you talk about? I know many Christian men who spend more time talking about sport then they do discussing their spiritual life. Isn’t this a shame? If the most important person in our life is God then shouldn’t we be spending time talking about our walk with him. We should be asking questions like: What are we learning? What are we struggling with? What has God been challenging us about? How are we sharing the gospel with our non-Christian friends? This should take up the majority of our conversation time and not how your favourite football team is doing!  If your heart is loving God then naturally you will talk about him first and foremost and sport will fade into the background.

In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gives his disciples one last and very important command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Our time as Christian men should be spent spreading the fame of our glorious God. This should direct our prayers, thoughts, emotions and wills. Lets spend time enjoying sport but using it as a means to share the gospel and love our Lord and Saviour more than anything else!

By Andy Constable

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:23-24: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.” Paul is very clear here that in the marriage, the husband is to be the head in the relationship. In other words he is to lead his wife spiritually in the home. This is not a dictatorship, where the man runs around mad on his own power, but a loving leadership where the husband lays down his life to serve his wife. In a generation that moves towards honouring the independent woman, there has been a downplaying of the man’s role in leading his family. This is compounded by lazy men who would rather watch sport than look after the spiritual welfare of their families. The marriage is, of course, completely equal and based on mutual submission. However, the man is to be the spiritual head. Here are three things that I’ve found helpful as I’ve thought through this subject.

Firstly, as men we need to be looking after our own spiritual lives carefully. In Paul’s final speech to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:28 he says this: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained for his own blood.” Paul charges the elders here to first and foremost to pay attention to their souls. This is so important. No man can lead anybody if he is not firstly tending to his own soul. We need to be investing quality time in reading God’s Word and applying the gospel to our own lives. Otherwise, our hearts become hardened, we become lazy, and we lose sight of the glory of the gospel. A leader looks after his soul because he prizes his walk with Christ more than anything else. We won’t be able to lead our families if we are not first looking after ourselves.

Secondly, as men we need to be reading God’s Word with our wives and children (if we have them). Paul says, ‘pay attention to yourselves and then to all the flock’. Although he is talking specifically to the elders of Ephesus, I think this verse can be applied to every man in the church. Are we taking time to read God’s Word with our wives? Is the Bible visible in the home? Is it the thing that directs our relationships? The reality, sadly, is that in most homes the television is the guiding tool rather then God’s Holy Word. In our sin and apathy we would rather put the footie on or watch our favourite soap than read God’s Word as a family. But, the Psalmist says, in Psalm 19:7,10: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…More to be desired are they than gold…sweeter also than honey.” God’s Word is precious and to be desired. It is sweeter than honey. My wife and I have a little book called Daily Light that we read before bed each night. It is a daily reading with a collection of scriptures under a theme and although short, it can be very powerful. It’s a rhythm that we have installed from the first day we got married. Is there something that you can place in your day to make sure you are reading God’s Word? It doesn’t have to be long but it does have to be regular. Maybe you need to get up a little earlier and read the Bible together or read God’s Word while you eat dinner together. It needs to be a priority in the home. We make time for what we think is our greatest need and as Christians one of our greatest needs is to have God’s Word spoken into our lives. We need to spend time reading and feeding on it.

Thirdly, we need to be asking each other good questions. It can be easy to spend time with your wife and not talk about the deeper issues of each other lives. We will go through life and talk about work, the weather, our friends and cut out the spiritual chat. How are you doing spiritually? How is your soul? These are questions we need to be asking each other. This is more time consuming because we have to explain how you are really doing, yet it is so important in order to challenge sin and apply the gospel. Too many couples have a date night and go to the cinema, or watch a film and don’t actually communicate properly. There are always things going on in our hearts and we must endeavour to share that with each other in order to have a healthy relationship. As the man are you taking time to ask questions of your wife? Are you being honest in how you are doing spiritually? Lead this and model it in your family. Don’t cut the corners so that you can selfishly watch the sport or your favourite movie. Be diligent and ask good, penetrating, spiritual questions.

Do you love your wife? Then listen to these words from Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…” Christ died to set us free from the bondage of sin and to begin to make us pure from sin. Men are you aiding in this process or being a hindrance? The most loving thing you can do for your wife is get yourself right with the Lord and lead your family sacrificially and biblically. Let God’s Word be a treasure in the home and make sure you are taking time to communicate with each other on a deeper level. Then you will be loving your wife as Christ loved the church.

by Andy Constable

We live in a highly sexualised culture with a multi billion pound sex industry. In the USA, 3000 dollars per second  is spent on pornography. Sadly, this is a problem that many Christian men struggle with. They try to escape the reality of their lives through sexual fantasising. They give in to their lusts and seek fulfillment through sexual satisfaction. As a teenager, and a young adult, I struggled with pornography and I would like to share a few things that really challenged me and helped me in my battle with sexual immorality.

The first thing that jarred me was Ephesians 5:3: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Paul commands Christians not to have even a hint of sexual immorality. This means that we are to be completely pure in our thoughts and actions. Any wayward look at a billboard with a sexy girl on it, any glance at a woman that is not your wife, any view of pornography or any sexual contact outside of marriage is sinful. Now, you may be thinking, ‘how does browbeating me with the law help? It only make me feel worse.’ That may well be, but the reality is that many who struggle with sexual sin don’t take the holiness of God seriously enough. Too often sexual immorality is viewed as a small sin, a private sin, something that isn’t very important. But that is a lie from Satan – the father of lies. God takes all sin very seriously. He is holy and just in all His ways and hates sin of any kind. The battle for our hearts begins by seeing that we have a big problem that we need to war with. God is the reason that we need to battle. It is improper for God’s people to be involved with impurity.

Secondly, as men we need to look to the future. One of the things that terrified me as a man of 20 was continuing to struggle with pornography into old age and turning into a dirty, old man. If we don’t battle with these habits at a young age then we will continue to have the same problem throughout our lives. We don’t grow out of pornography when we “grow up” or get married. That is another lie from Satan. The future involves, for a lot of young men, getting married and having children. If you don’t cut out porn before marriage then you will take all sorts of baggage into your marriage. Sex will be fuelled by lust and not love. Sex will be unfulfilling because your wife doesn’t ‘match up’ to the things you are watching. This will leave your wife feeling lonely and feeling like she isn’t good enough. This is heartbreaking when you think about it. The woman who you are supposed to love the most, feeling like she’s worth nothing to you. What about the impact this will have on your children? How will we raise our children with integrity if we are not matching our thoughts and actions with what we say and do? If we cannot be pure now, then how can we raise our children up into godliness?

This poem by a young woman shows the impact our addictions have on those around us:

I saved my best for you.

Other girls may have given themselves away,

But I believed in the dream.

A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

I saved my best for you.

Other girls may have given themselves away,

But I believed in the dream.

A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,

I looked for it in your eyes

Mere inches from mine.

But what I saw made my soul run and hide….

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know

I saw a stranger, cold and hard

Distant, evil, revolting.

I looked for love in your eyes

And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?

Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?

I don’t matter.

I’m a prop in a filthy play.

Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass

But the hardness in your eyes does not.

You think I’m cold

But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else

Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.

I’ve seen the pictures.

I know now what it takes to turn you on.

Women…people like me

Tortured, humiliated, hated, used

Discarded.

Images burned into your brain.

How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,

The first time you picked up a dirty picture

That you were dooming all intimacy between us

Shipwrecking your marriage

Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth

When hatred rules in your heart.

Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man

I thought I was marrying.

Did you ever dream it would so consume you

That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become

Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.

But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?

These are questions that we have to take into consideration as men! We need to stop looking to instant gratification and think about the future and how our addictions affect, now and in the future, those around us.

Thirdly, we need to begin to put practical steps in place in order to battle our sexual immorality. As with any war, we need plans, objectives and strategies. One of the things that really helped me was a book called Every Man’s Battle. The book refers toc the technique of ‘bouncing the eyes’. Instead of fixating on billboards, websites, and other women at work and in our neighbourhoods and churches, we need to learn to ‘bounce our eyes’ elsewhere. The battle for our minds starts with what we look at. We need to stop ogling, staring, and processing thoughts about other women. Other practical steps can be taken as well – cut out films that have sexually explicit material in, go to a newsagent where there isn’t an extensive porn section, and stop talking to that certain girl at church or at work. Get serious – plan, strategize, and battle!

Finally, and most importantly, we need to run to the cross. We need to confess our sinfulness. Without the help of the Holy Spirit any and all strategies are useless. We need outside help. Once we have run to Jesus then we need to know His amazing forgiveness and grace. The best sermon I have ever heard on this subject is by John Piper.

How to deal with the guilt of sexual failure for the glory of Christ and his global cause (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/how-to-deal-with-the-guilt-of-sexual-failure-for-the-glory-of-christ-and-his-global-cause).

In this sermon Piper reminds us that God takes our sin so seriously that he made a way to deal with it by sending his Son. He says that the most difficult time for someone who falls into sexual sin is the day after. Many men live in a world of guilt and shame and so do not live wholeheartedly for Jesus. He says theology trumps biology. He quotes Colossians 2:13-14: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” On the cross a great substitution happens. Our sins are nailed to the cross and we receive forgiveness. Notice that Paul says that “He forgave us all our sins.” This is what we need to remind ourselves every time we fail in any area. Every time we fall we need to genuinely repent and remember the forgiveness we have in Christ. All of our guilt, and all our shame are nailed to the cross!

Men, if you have an addiction, then for the glory of Christ, the good of your soul and the future of all your relationships, begin to battle with it! Remember, this is a serious problem but also remember that we have a great redeemer who has given us His Spirit so that we can battle with our old nature. I pray that a generation of men would rise up who are filled with purity. Let me end with Paul’s words to the Philippian church: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

by Andy Constable

One of the biggest struggles for Christian Men is the sin of laziness. It is a difficult term to pin down because it comes out in so many different forms. The dictionary gives us characteristics of laziness, such as ‘unwilling to work or use energy’. In the New Testament laziness is defined as a failure to use the gifts that God has given us to serve his kingdom. Laziness is a by-product of selfishness where we look to serve ourselves first and foremost above anybody else. It is characterized by wasting time and being involved in activities that don’t involve sacrifice.

Jesus gives us a clear picture of laziness in the parable of the talents (Matthew 20:14-30). In this parable a master goes on a long journey and gives out a number of talents to his 3 servants. Two of the servants go away immediately and trade their talents and make more. But the third servant digs a hole and sticks his talent in the ground. The master comes home and is very pleased with the trading of the first 2 servants because they had used their time wisely. But the master is very angry with the 3rd servant and says this in verse 26:”You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” The truth is that the servant was wicked and lazy and so wasted the talent that the master had given him.

I think that this is a small picture of many men in the church. We have all been given talents – gifts that have been loaned to us by God which are to be used for His glory. But what many men are doing is wasting those gifts by being slothful. They are wasting their time. They are not spending time in God’s Word. They are not serving the church.  Instead they are wasting all their time playing computer games, watching football and looking at pornography. All because they can’t be bothered to get off their backsides and serve. Men are serving their own purposes and not that of God’s.

Now a lot of the time laziness isn’t as full-blown as that of the servants. It’s a bit subtler than that. We do a little bit of ministry, or read our Bibles occasionally, or even have a full-time job. We feel like we are doing stuff during our week and so we don’t feel like we are lazy. However, I think we can identify laziness by a constant entitlement to want to avoid difficult tasks in order to do things that we enjoy.  So, for instance, we feel like we are entitled to watch a film, to play our favourite computer game, or to spend time watching football on a regular basis. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy rest or even do many of these things that we like. But, if there are things that you regularly avoid so that you can have your rest time, then I think you have a problem. Once again, laziness is an avoidance of things that we don’t really want to do.

So, how can we tackle laziness? I think there are 2 things I would say to a man struggling with laziness. First, and foremost, we need to refocus on the gospel and see God’s gracious character. If we go back to our parable, it’s interesting to note the differing reactions to the masters return. The first 2 servants come and find the master with joy and receive their reward. They carry out their master’s duties faithfully because they love him! Their actions show where their hearts are. However, the third servant shows what he thinks of the master in verse 24: ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” This servant speaks badly of his master. He accuses him of being a hard man. He basically charges his owner with being unmerciful and dishonest! The servant clearly does not know or love his master. His heart is bitter, hard and deceitful. He excused his laziness with a lie about God. This is what lazy people do. They forget that God is generous, merciful and kind, even though we can see God’s generosity most gloriously in Jesus. God loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us on the cross. This is ultimate grace. If we are struggling with laziness then we need to remember the Son of God who laid down his life for us.

Secondly, a lazy man needs to cut things out that are distracting them from serving Christ. Some men need to cut off their Internet, smash their televisions and stop watching every football game that comes on the television. The writer to the Hebrews says we need to throw off every hindrance and run with perseverance the race that is before us! In other words, if something is bogging you down and is an excuse for laziness then axe it and focus on Christ.

As men we need to stop serving our own needs above others and stop looking for excuses to get away with doing the least amount possible. Rather, we should be looking for ways to use our gifts, talents and energies to serve the Lord so that when we meet with him on judgment days we will hear those precious words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”