Glorify the Lord

Bringing glory to God is, in essence, why we are here on this Earth. I suppose there are many ways in which we can glorify the Lord. In fact, I would be keen to hear your thoughts on that, so do comments below. What does it mean to you to “glorify the Lord?” How do you do it day by day?

We are on the earth to glorify God. How do you do that? #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Looking to the Scripture, I turn to a specific example from Joshua to help us see one way to do this. It may not, as I have found, be immediately intuitive as to how this account fits in with “glorifying the Lord,” but let’s see what we can learn.

The actual words I want to look at appear in Joshua 7, but before I share them, we need to remind ourselves of what happened in Joshua 6. This is the account of how the Israelites, under Joshua’s lead, took the city of Jericho. God instructs the people not to just attack, but instead offers them a rather unorthodox battle plan. For seven days, they are to march around the city walls. Imagine trying to sell that to your generals! On the seventh day, they are to march around not once, but seven times and once complete they are to shout. As they do this, the wall of the city will fall and they can rush in upon the enemy.

Strange as it may sound, this is precisely what happens. They march, they blow trumpets, and then they shout. The walls fall and the enemy is destroyed.

God gave specific instructions through Joshua about the spoils of the attack. They were not to take anything that was devoted to destruction.

On the seventh day, they rose early at the dawning of the day, and marched around the city in the same way seven times. On this day only they marched around the city seven times. 16 At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for Yahweh has given you the city! 17 The city shall be devoted, even it and all that is in it, to Yahweh. Only Rahab the prostitute shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 But as for you, only keep yourselves from what is devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted it, you take of the devoted thing; so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, gold, and vessels of bronze and iron are holy to Yahweh. They shall come into Yahweh’s treasury.”

Joshua 6:15-19 WEB

This is not unclear. There is no room for misunderstanding or negotiation. Take nothing for yourselves. If you do, you will bring a curse and trouble upon the camp of Israel.

Did they all obey this instruction? You can probably guess, but if not, Joshua 7 begins:

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted things; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. Therefore Yahweh’s anger burned against the children of Israel.

Joshua 7:1 WEB

So we see that a man named Achan took some of the spoil for himself, and thus broke God’s command. I recently heard John MacArthur say that you can remember this because Achan was “aching” to take something!

What happens next is that the Israelites go up to spy on the people of Ai, and the spies say (in my own words) “Don’t worry about it, just send up a few thousand men as we won’t need the full army to take the few people of Ai!”

They lose. Around 36 Israelites are slain, and the people of Ai chase the army. The result is tremendous fear among the men of Israel, so much so that the Bible describes their hearts melting and turning like water (see Joshua 7:5). So shocked are they at this loss, that they cry out to God in confusion, unable to fathom how God’s people were defeated. God reveals that there is sin among them and that they must root out the cause.

Joshua assembles the people, and then begins to whittle down the group by tribe, family and household. Achan and his family are brought forwards.

We read:

Joshua said to Achan, “My son, please give glory to Yahweh, the God of Israel, and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done! Don’t hide it from me!”

Joshua 7:19 WEB

Achan is caught. Notice Joshua’s words here “Glorify the Lord.” What does he mean, and why would Achan confessing his sin bring glory to God?

I think that there are two main reasons why this confession would bring God glory.

Firstly, God is holy, and we are not. This is a critical lesson we need to review frequently I believe. Confessing sin admits that God is greater than we are, and so brings Him glory. We are sinful, and He is not, and that makes Him superior. More than this though, He is also the One with the power to forgive and cleanse us. Confessing sin not only recognises our inferiority to God, but also glorifies Him by seeking His favour in forgiveness.

#God is #holy and we are not. Confessing our sin brings Him #glory #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Forgiveness is only available through the cleansing blood of God’s Son – Jesus Christ. To seek forgiveness from God is to acknowledge the sacrifice of His Son. While Achan perhaps had little idea of Jesus’ work at the cross that would one day come, we certainly do. Achan, though, did know that he had fallen far short of obedience before God.

Secondly, God’s reputation is at stake here before all the people. He has brought out the clans, tribes and families and selected Achan. Were Achan to deny it, it would essentially be calling God a liar in front of everyone. “You are quite wrong God! It wasn’t me! I did no such things!” Imagine that! Imagine bearing false witness against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even disobedient Achan did not go that far, and neither should we.

Do you put God’s reputation above your own? It is better to admit when we are wrong than God’s Name be maligned #Bible #Christianity

So, Achan brings God glory by confessing his sin. He admits to taking the items dedicated to destruction, and Joshua sends men to go and find them. There, beneath his tent, the stolen goods are found and brought to Joshua. What happens next may seen harsh to our ears. Achan and his entire family are taken and stoned, and all the people and goods are burned I the valley. This indicates to us how seriously God hates sin, and that we ought not to trifle with it. It is also clear that Achan could not have done this without his family knowing, as it is rather hard to bury the goods in the middle of the tent without those living I the tent noticing. None of them came forward to tell Joshua what had been done, and neither did they give back the goods. They had hoped, like Achan, to get away with it.

So returning to the question we began with, how do we bring glory to God? Was confessing your sin on your list? It probably would not have been on my top ten! There may be many ways to glorify the Lord, and admitting our faults and rejoicing in His forgiveness is certainly one way to do it.

Will you bring Him glory today? Will you stand before Him and be open about your failures? Thank God that He has made a way for us to be forgiven and set free! Thank God that we need not face the same penalty as Achan, but instead can tell the world how great our God is!

The Law is Light (Proverbs 6:20-23a)

We have been working our way through Proverbs 6 over the last week, and there was just too much left to cover in one final post. Instead, I will tackle these few verses today and aim to finish the chapter sometime soon. While this final section should be taken as one, there are some points we can consider separately.

Let’s see what they have to say.

My son, keep your father’s commandment,

    and don’t forsake your mother’s teaching.

21 Bind them continually on your heart.

    Tie them around your neck.

22 When you walk, it will lead you.

    When you sleep, it will watch over you.

    When you awake, it will talk with you.

23 For the commandment is a lamp,

    and the law is light.

Proverbs 6:20-23a WEB

Sound familiar? I hope so. Earlier on in Proverbs, we are told more than once to keep the commands. Why repeat the statement? In fact, Proverbs revisits the same themes over and over, why do we need to hear similar instructions time and again?

Put simply… because we need to! If we could be told once, and then follow the instruction, that would be quite something! Yet that is not my experience either in my own life or in the lives of others. We learn a lesson, put it into practice for a while, then perhaps start to forget or get out of the habit. When this happens, we must re-learn what we heard before. Proverbs is fairly repetitive because it needs to be. There is rich wisdom stored in these pages, and a cursory read one time will not change our hearts and lives. Instead, we must soak in its precepts, hearing them over and over and allowing them to change and shape us.

Verse 20 reminds us to keep our father’s commands and not to forsake the teaching of our mother. Wise parents are truly from God, and yet too frequently the young think they know it all. When I was a teenager growing up at home, I was no different. Having virtually no life experience, I deceived myself into thinking I knew more than the combined wisdom of my mother and father. It is almost embarrassing to admit, but I suspect I am not alone in that admission! If you are young and reading this, do listen to your parents! You may think they do not understand you or what you are going through, but chances are they do. If you are blessed with parents who care about you, then learn from them and take their advice. You may not appreciate it right now, but one day you will look back and be grateful to them and to God!

If you have godly #parents who care for you, then thank #God! #Bible #Jesus #wisdom

Verse 21 instructs us to bind “them” around our heart and tie them about our neck. The “them” here is the commandments of the parents, and include (I believe) the wisdom of the Proverbs and also the entirety of Scripture. How do we bind things around our heart? This is clearly a figure of speech, and means to continually store up wisdom within our inner self. Meditating on the wisdom found in the Bible will renew our minds and change us over time. Studying God’s Word will save your life and your eternity, and is not a one off thing. You must endure, putting in the effort and studying the Bible over and over. Like eating or breathing, it is essential to life and something we must do day and night.

I particularly like verse 22, as it offers us such good incentives to studying the way of wisdom. Firstly, when we walk, wisdom will lead us. So often I find myself not knowing the way to go – and I do not mean literally, as in using a map or GPS! Instead, I mean that I face decisions of varying levels of importance, and it is not always clear which to choose. For instance, a while back I was reviewing the mortgage we have on our home and considering whether to fix the rate or not. It was not clear what would happen to interest rates at the time, and so it looked like a “gamble.” Since then, the interest rates in the UK have increased almost every month. In hindsight, it is easy to see which choice was the right one, but not so easy when the decision is in front of you. Wisdom helps us decide, and even then we must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom also watches over us while we sleep. I interpret this in two ways. Firstly, that wisdom means we can rest peacefully because we have taken necessary precautions. If you lay down in a warm bed, in a safe home, having locked the doors and checked all is well, then you will likely sleep far more easily than if you left the front door wide open or ignored the gaping hole in the roof! Also though, I think wisdom watching over us means that we have turned to God, properly fearing Him and even if we lack physical safety, we can rest easy knowing that He has our spiritual safety in hand. We cannot realistically guard against every potential threat to our physical safety, but even if the worse should happen, we know that we will be ushered into His presence at the end of our lives. That gives us true peace.

Verse 22 thirdly points out that when we are awake, wisdom talks with us. So often the word “wisdom” in Proverbs can be replaced with the word “God.” Wisdom “talks” to us as it instructs us in how to live. As we walk and breathe, we can consider wisdom’s ways and apply them. Likewise, God is willing to speak with us each day and in all situations so that we know how to live to please Him.

If I asked the average person if “commandments” are a good thing, I suspect I would get a mixed set of answers. Our natural flesh is hardly excited at the idea of being commanded what to do, yet verse 23 describes them as a lamp. The Law, which bound many for generations, was in fact “light.” It may feel restrictive to have to follow various laws of the land, yet it also ensures we can live in freedom. In a similar way, we might find God’s law restrictive in our flesh, but it leads to spiritual freedom. This is perhaps better understood in an example. When someone is rude to us, our flesh wants to be rude in return. Yet, God’s law of love requires us to repay evil for good and instead offer kindness instead. This may make our skin crawl! Following the command however, leads (hopefully) to an end to the conflict or at the very least, no way of accusing us of wrongdoing. Being rude back may have caused escalation, and so avoiding that does indeed give us freedom.

The Bible and the wisdom it offers us leads us to light. It is a lamp to our feet, showing us the way to go and helping us avoid the traps of life.

Bind the Bible about yourself. Put Scriptures in your home, your car and in places you will see it often. Follow social media accounts that share the Word of God, and keep it before your eyes night and day. As you do, the wisdom of the Word will change you and lead you to Jesus.

This Sunday at Church: Encourage a Single Parent in the Congregation

I often like to share these posts which come out on a Sunday, so hope you enjoy them.

It can be extremely difficult to be a parent, and this is made even more tough when you face it alone. Stand with single parents today, and support them in whatever way you are able.

Have a great Sunday!

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Pray any pastoral counseling today would be used by God. I have been working all …

This Sunday at Church: Encourage a Single Parent in the Congregation

Carpool Church – #SundaySuggestion

A simple suggestion this week, but one which can make a real difference.

If you have space in your car, why not offer to pick someone up who cannot get to church? Perhaps they do not drive, or perhaps their car is out of action for some reason. Whatever the cause, you can enable them to engage with the fellowship by giving them a lift. While many churches offer online or streaming options for services these days, they are little substitute for being there in person.

Even more radically, what if they choose to car pool even when they don’t need to? Not only is it good for the environment, but it may be an opportunity to fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters before the church service even begins! You could play worship music in the vehicle, pray for one another or share the struggles and triumphs of the week. Such discussion is often limited to a hasty word over a coffee post-church, but you can spend a bit more time by starting early.

#CarPool to #church even when you don’t have to #worship #Jesus #Christianity

A church I attended previously went as far as to set up a rota to ensure that any member who couldn’t get to church was catered for. Such organisation does take some admin, and so perhaps that is a role you can fill (even if you don’t hold a driver’s licence!).

This may not be a “spiritual” suggestion, but it is practical and can offer spiritual encouragement to those who would otherwise miss out on a Sunday morning. It may cost you a little fuel, or mean you have to leave the house a few minutes earlier than planned, but such sacrifices will be appreciated by those you bring together. God, also, will notice your efforts in strengthening the body of Christ.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Saturday Scriptures – 24 September 2022

These words of our Lord should give us pause for thought.

Each of us must ask ourselves if we are on the narrow path.

““Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How do we enter through the narrow gate? Consider this as you ponder these words today.

There is but one way to heaven, and his name is Jesus! it may sound nonsensical, as how can a man be a path to heaven? But Jesus is no me a man, but God in human form.

Our feeble attempt at goodness are not sufficient to overcome the greatness of our sinfulness. Someone must pay the penalty for sin… Either we do, or we look for a substitute.

Thank God for Jesus! Who pays the price of our sin so that we may go free!

Jesus is the only way to heaven. No one comes to the father except through him. as you meditate on these verses today, praise God for Jesus!

Good Seed (RB)

What kind of seeds are you sewing?

This thought-provoking post from brother Alan, reminds us that we may not see the fruit of the seed we sow. We should sow it anyway…

Be it a word of prayer, and uplifting encouragement, or sharing the name of Jesus, let us sow seeds into the lives of those around us.

I hope you enjoy the post, and do check out Allens other writing.

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man“ Matthew 13:37 (NASB) Some weeks ago in midsummer when I was weeding our garden I saw …

Good Seed

These Severn Things (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Turning once again to Proverbs 6 (what a rich chapter this is!), we are now given a list of things that God hates. Let us not underestimate the strength of these words. Verse 16 begins by saying these are things that God “hates”; things that are an “abomination” to Him! I do not know about you, but that makes me sit up and pay attention. I do not want any of these things to be found in me!

So, what are they?

There are six things which Yahweh hates;

    yes, seven which are an abomination to him:

17 arrogant eyes, a lying tongue,

    hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,

    feet that are swift in running to mischief,

19 a false witness who utters lies,

    and he who sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 6:16-19 WEB

The first item on the list is “arrogant eyes.” Arrogance stems from pride, and an overinflated sense of oneself. To have arrogant eyes is to look down on other people, and to believe that we are better, superior and more important than they. Not so! Each of us is made in the image of God, and are equally valuable in His eyes. Looking down on other people and favouring some over others breaks the command to love one another. The arrogant eye sees others’ faults, but not their own. Instead, we must look on ourselves with sober judgement and recognise that we are no more important than anyone else we meet; irrespective of class or position. That is not to say we look down on ourselves either, but merely to be honest and treat others fairly.

God hates a lying tongue. Lying is the devil’s language, and we ought to have no part in it. When talking to Christians, it is rare to find examples of blatant or outright lies. More often, in my experience at least, it is far more subtle. Take the arrogant eye as above, it is far more likely that we might “bend the truth” to make others think better of us or to hide certain truths to please people. Honesty is not the same as rudeness of course, and so we can find ways of being truthful without being blunt or harsh. Our words should be clear and honest, not shrouded in deceit. It sounds simple, yet I wonder how often our words in a typical day are completely truthful? When someone asks how we are, how honest is our response? If someone wants us to sign up to some rota, do we add our names honestly intending to fulfil it? If we have people-pleasing tendencies, do we feel pressure to say what we think they want to hear instead of genuine truth? Something to think about.

#God hates #lies. #SpeakTruth Christians should be #honest. People must be able to #trust our #words #Bible #Christianity

The third item on the list needs little explanation. God hates the hand that sheds innocent blood. To murder is to destroy those who are made in God’s image. From the very first murderer – Cain, who slew his own brother – to the countless murderers we hear of today, the killing of innocent people is abominable to God. To kill another is one of the most serious crimes in most places in the world, and this comes from the fact that life is valuable. You may not be guilty of shedding blood yourself, but do not forget Jesus’ words when He was speaking of the Commandment not to murder.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’[c] shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, [d]‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of [e]hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22 NKJV

Many of us may not be guilty of committing murder, yet how many of us have felt anger toward someone without cause? Both are equally sinful before God.

#Murder is a #sin, yet #Jesus reminds us that #anger toward others is equally bad #Bible

Verse 18 gives us the fourth and fifth items in this list of things God hates. Firstly, we see that a heart that plans wicked schemes is something to avoid. I would hope that, for most of us, when we do cause harm to others, it is done in ignorance or without thinking. It is quite another thing to plan to do harm in one’s heart. If you find yourself lying in bed at night, devising ways of getting back at someone (for example) then you need to carefully consider your ways. Likewise, the second point in this verse, warns against being swift to do evil. Do not be misled by the crowd, jumping into trouble without thinking first. Just because others are doing it, does not mean you have to! Do not be quick to get into mischief, instead learn this lesson and keep well out of it!

Verse 19 seems to repeat something we touched on earlier, namely a lying tongue. Yet there is a slight distinction here. A false witness can indeed lie, but a false witness can also paint a distorted picture of the truth without actually saying something dishonest. For example, when giving a witness statement to the police, you do not have to totally fabricate what you saw to be a “false witness.” You might simply omit certain parts of the account. God hates lies of course, but He equally hates deception and falsity which leads people down the wrong path. “I didn’t actually lie…” is no real defence. Certain politicians I could name have clearly been rather economical with the truth. They cannot be accused of outright lying, but have certainly not been totally open about what really happened. Let us not be like that!

Our final item is a very important one in my opinion. God cannot abide those who would sow discord among the brothers; by this, it means troublemakers who seek to cause mischief and damage relationships. There are those who would infiltrate a group or church, for the sole purpose of disrupting unity. I have sadly seen this in churches in the past, and if left untackled, can lead to entire congregations splitting or breaking apart. Focussing on the church, we are stronger when we stand united, and that is why the enemy may seek to disrupt the fellowship we hold. Guard against this as best you can! And do not forget that even seemingly small things like criticism, gossip or complaining can lead to discord. Watch your words and seek to bring people together, not divide them apart.

This is quite a list, and I am struck at how many of the points correlate with the Ten Commandments. We, Christians, may look at the list and dismiss it thinking, “That doesn’t apply to me…” and hopefully so! But do be sure. It is all too easy to fall into lies or false witness, or to grumble about the leadership team leading to discord, or to waste time thinking about how to get someone back for hurting you. These are all things that the Lord hates, so steer well clear of them!

Thanks for reading and do share your thoughts below.

A Worthless Person (Proverbs 6:12-15)

The next short section of Proverbs 6 describe a worthless person. This sounds a little harsh, but once you read the description, I hope you will understand.

A number of other translations do use the word “worthless” here, but others also use words such as “troublemaker” or “villain.”

The following words are given to us for two reasons, I believe. Firstly, so that we might be on our guard against such people. Should we see someone of this nature heading our way, we would do well to avoid them. Secondly, these words are given that we might not be like this person. If we see traits of our own character in these words, it should give us pause for thought and send us to our knees in prayer asking for God to help us change.

A worthless person, a man of iniquity,

    is he who walks with a perverse mouth,

13 who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,

    who motions with his fingers,

14 in whose heart is perverseness,

    who devises evil continually,

    who always sows discord.

15 Therefore his calamity will come suddenly.

    He will be broken suddenly, and that without remedy.

Proverbs 6:12-15 WEB

This “worthless” person is also described as a man or person of iniquity. This paints a picture of wickedness and evil, and so we must take heed of these warnings.

I am intrigued by the fact that the very first description of such a person, relates to their mouth. Verse 12 tells us that they walk with a perverse mouth. This is not to say that they have something physically amiss with their mouth, but clearly refers to the words they say. Time and time again in Proverbs, we are cautioned to take words extremely seriously. We must take great care with the words we say, but also the words we hear from others.

#Proverbs warns us time and again to take the #words of the mouth extremely seriously #Bible #Christianity

The first way to identify a person of iniquity is to listen carefully to their words. Their words may be blatantly disgraceful, or they may be deceptively flattering. They may promise one thing, and yet deliver another. They may build you up to your face, but tear you down when your back is turned. Beware and listen carefully!

Let your words, in comparison, be positive and uplifting. May our speech be as the Apostle Paul describes:

Do not let any unwholesome #talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph4:29 NIV #Bible

Verse 13 elaborates on the kind of person this is. Not content with speaking out wickedness, they signal the same things with the wink of an eye, or hand gesture. I am not certain how one signals with the feet – perhaps this is a reference to the way they walk or more likely, the direction they walk in i.e. toward evil. Verse 13 may simply be suggesting that everything about them; their words, their gestures, their eyes, all depict their iniquity.

The winking of the eye is probably the most familiar to us. When someone says something, and then winks, it suggests that they are not being entirely honest. I recall a clip from a reality TV show where one of the characters was apologising to another. As they went in for a hug of apology, they winked at the onlookers implying that their apology was nothing but false.

Verse 14 talks of perverseness of the heart, continual devising of evil and one always sowing discord. Note these are not one time things, and in fact, I think that because the heart is “perverse” then the actions are “continually” and “always” of an evil nature. As Jesus taught us, we are to inspect the fruit of our lives and that of those around us. If the tree is bad, it will produce bad fruit. In the same way here, a perverse heart is continually producing evil and always sowing discord.

Jeremiah was right when he said that the heart was deceitful above all things (see Jeremiah 17:9). If the heart is deceitful, full of iniquity, and perverse (to use the words from above) then it is hardly surprising to see this wicked person constantly devising evil schemes.

We cannot become good people by trying. We may be able to manage our behaviour for a short time, but if our hearts are inclined to evil, then sooner or later it will show itself. Hearts cannot be fixed or modified, they can only be changed.

I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; 20 that they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them. They will be my people, and I will be their God

Ezekiel 11:19-20 WEB

When we come to Jesus, He saves us by making us new. We become new creatures in Christ, and our hearts are changed forever. Our flesh may still lead us to do sinful things at times, but that does not change our hearts. To change the person, you must change the heart.

To change the person, you must change the #heart #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

To change our hearts, we must surrender them to Christ. We repent of our sins, asking Him to save us, forgive us and renew us. The prayer asking Him to do this is simple, yet it requires a lifelong commitment to following Him.

To conclude, verse 15 paints a clear picture of what happens if we continue on the path of evil. Sudden calamity! Put simply, not good news!

Verse 15 repeats the word “suddenly” to emphasise that the destruction of the wicked will come out of the blue and completely unexpectedly. The end of the verse points out that such calamity is without remedy. Such is the fate of those who pursue evil and refuse to repent of their sin before God. God is wonderfully loving and full of kindness, yet He will not tolerate wickedness forever. A time will come when He will put an end to iniquity and once His judgement falls, it cannot be undone.

I do not want to end of this rather grim note! God’s judgement is not to be trifled with, and serves as a warning to us to turn to Jesus. God has made a way for us; He has opened up a way for us to be saved. Such is His great love, that He chooses not to leave us in our peril, but instead sacrifices His own Son that we might go free.

Do not be like the “worthless person!” Do not delay, turn to Christ and receive His forgiveness. That is wisdom!

Be Wise… like an ant? (Proverbs 6:6-11)

Having warned us against offering collateral, and of being tied up by our own words, Proverbs 6 moves on to a subject it will return too fairly often – laziness.

Go to the ant, you sluggard.

    Consider her ways, and be wise;

7 which having no chief, overseer, or ruler,

8     provides her bread in the summer,

    and gathers her food in the harvest.

9 How long will you sleep, sluggard?

    When will you arise out of your sleep?

10 A little sleep, a little slumber,

    a little folding of the hands to sleep:

11 so your poverty will come as a robber,

    and your scarcity as an armed man.

Proverbs 6:6-11 WEB

Verses six to eight begin by pointing to the ant as our example. This is, on the surface, a rather strange comparison. What can we – humans created in the image of God – learn from the humble ant? Quite a bit it seems!

Verse 6 is addressed to a lazy man – a sluggard. He is directed to look at the ways of the ant, and to “be wise.” You may not think of yourself as a “sluggard,” but a wise person does indeed look around, consider other ways and learn from them. Even if you are not lazy, do not skip over these words – instead, be wise and learn!

Verse 7 tells us that the ant has no chief, overseer or king. This is important because it shows us that despite this, the collective group of ants  – a “colony” I’m told – appears to operate collaboratively and as one. Take the same number of people, set them a task and don’t elect a leader, and you will have chaos! Somehow, the colony of ants know what needs to be done and they work together to achieve it. it is as astonishing miracle when you think of it. God, as Creator, has given them the ability to work together in this way, and to even plan ahead. These are lessons we can all learn.

Verse 8 is key here. It tells us that he ant provides her food in the summer, and gathers in at harvest time to see herself through winter. Under God’s sovereign control, the ant enjoys the good of the summer and yet plans ahead to see itself through the harder winters.

To be like the ant, we must do the same. I imagine an individual who is self-employed. They may be enjoying a time of abundance right now, with lots of work and good money coming in. a wise person would not just enjoy this time, but would prepare for times when the income may fall.

My father-in-law is a butcher and runs a village shop. He knows that in the run up to Christmas, he will make a lot of sales and be extremely busy. Likewise, in the summer, he knows he will sell much produce for barbeques and parties. He also knows that January and February are quiet months, with little trade. To survive, he must ensure that the summer takings and Christmas abundance see him through the more difficult winter months.

Enjoy the good times of course, but store up in preparation for the bad times #wisdom

Verses 9 and 10 then go on to warn of the dangers of “sleep.” Now, to be clear, these verses are not saying sleep is a bad thing and we should not do it. Clearly, it is right and biblical to get sufficient amounts of rest. The warning here is against sleeping too much – it is about lazing about instead of getting up to work. I reiterate that rest is important, but so is putting in a good day’s work. There is danger in the extremes; too much rest and you fall into the temptation of laziness, too little rest and you risk making yourself ill and unproductive.

Verse 10 does say “a little sleep,” implying that even a little sleep is dangerous. I may be incorrect, but would qualify this as a “little sleep at the wrong time…” is dangerous. If, for example, my boss walks into my office and sees me asleep at my desk, then the argument that I was only asleep for a few minutes probably won’t wash. A good eight hours of sleep in bed at night is a good thing, but even 8 minutes when we should be working is bad.

Verse 11 concludes the section giving quite a stark picture of poverty. Laziness leads to poverty; particularly in a society where you were dependent on working the land for survival. If you do not work, you do not eat, because the land will not yield its fruit to you unaided. To be lazy is to allow poverty to creep up on you like an armed man. When faced with a robber holding a weapon, you have little choice but to do as they say. In a similar way, laziness leads to poverty, and this leaves little choice in life.

For us in the modern world, this danger may not seem so real. Many have access to credit cards and loans, and so if one loses their job, they can rely on debt to see them through. Similarly, if loans and credit are not open to you, then the Government provide benefits to help out. We can debate if use of credit or to rely on benefits is a good thing or not, but clearly these are intended to be temporary measures. You cannot live your life on credit, charging one purchase after the next, without it one day catching up with you.

I write this at a time when interest rates are rising, and energy prices in the UK are skyrocketing. I want to be clear that I am not saying you are lazy if you are struggling to pay your bills! Far from it! Many people are struggling financially right now, and are working extremely hard to make ends meet. The point here is that laziness leads to poverty, but that does not mean that poverty equals laziness.

Let each of us examine our lives in the light of God’s Word. We all have lazy days or times of lower productivity due to a variety of reasons. When laziness becomes a habit however, this is when it becomes a real problem. As I said above, the opposite extreme is just as risky, so we each need to work hard and rest well.

An ant may be a tiny thing, and yet it has much to teach us. Let us open our eyes, and learn from God’s Creation. We must “be wise” just like the ant!

Thanks for reading.

Trapped by our Words (Proverbs 6:1-5)

Proverbs 6 opens with a warning, and one that may not immediately strike a cord with you. When was the last time you acted as collateral for your neighbour? Not recently I’d wager, so does that mean we can ignore these words of warning? Let’s read them and see if there are elements which do apply to us.

My son, if you have become collateral for your neighbor,

    if you have struck your hands in pledge for a stranger,

2 you are trapped by the words of your mouth;

    you are ensnared with the words of your mouth.

3 Do this now, my son, and deliver yourself,

    since you have come into the hand of your neighbor.

Go, humble yourself.

    Press your plea with your neighbor.

4 Give no sleep to your eyes,

    nor slumber to your eyelids.

5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,

    like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Proverbs 6:1-5 WEB

Verses one and two describe a situation where someone has trapped themselves with their words. In our modern day world, we might imagine someone signing up as a guarantor for someone else. For example, when signing a rental agreement, you may need to provide a guarantor who will back you in the event that you cannot pay. The guarantor, like this person in Proverbs, is “trapped” in that contract.

Have you ever been asked to be a guarantor for someone else? If so, then the chances are it was a good friend or family member. In such cases, you may have been rather hesitant to sign up. How so? Usually it is because we do not want to end up footing the bill for someone else when we have our own bills to pay. There may, of course, be situations where it is appropriate to enter into such an agreement – most commonly in my experience, this is when a parent acts as guarantor for their (adult) child.

What about a stranger though? What if someone you had never met before advanced on you, pen and clipboard in hand, seeking your signature on a contract… run my friend, as fast as you can!

Verses one and two describe becoming entangled in a situation with either a neighbour or stranger, and this risking your own situation to do so. In the time these words were first written, there were no bankruptcy courts, and no administrators to mediate between you and your debtors. You paid up what you owed, or could end up becoming enslaved. The warning is clear then, do not jump into such agreements.

Verse two in particular opens out the meaning for us here. It is our words that have ensnared us; our ill thought through commitments have led us into danger. While you may not be at risk of becoming someone’s guarantor any time soon, have you made commitments with your words that you now regret?

Do not be trapped by the #words of your mouth! #Bible #Jesus #Christianity #Wisdom

When I think back, there have been a number of times when I have committed to something in the moment, and later regretted it. “Yes, I can do that…” I say, and then the time comes and the effort, energy or cost is more than I wanted to offer.

I heard someone telling a story about a time they visited a city, met some new friends and casually said to them they should come visit with them “sometime.” Several weeks later, these new friends called up and said, “We’re ready to come.” “Ready to come where?” the individual thought… They had been hung by their tongue. It was simply not convenient, and not really something the person wanted to do. They even prayed for a way out of it, and God told them that they would indeed honour their own words, put these people up and show them around, and perhaps learn a lesson not to be so flippant with their invites in future. What a lesson!

What commitments have you made that you later regretted?

Verses three to five then turn to what we should do if we have entered into something we shouldn’t have.

Firstly, they advise us not to wait! Go now! Do not let yourself sleep, and do not put it off until tomorrow! Go! Resolve it straightaway!

It can be difficult to undo words we have spoken. Yet, it is better to put things right than to let other people down by not meeting our commitments. How often do people sign up for one church rota or another, and yet the tasks go unfulfilled? I know there have been times when I’ve signed up, and not done it. This isn’t the way excellent Christians should live.

It can be difficult to undo #words we have spoken. It is better to put things right than to let other people down #Bible #Christianity #wisdom

It is indeed difficult to admit we are wrong. Two little words in the midst of verse three are key here, “humble yourself.” It does certainly take humility to recognise our faults, and it can hurt our pride to tell someone else. I will let you in on a secret though… it will not surprise anyone else to learn that you are not perfect!

I have no small amount of pride, and am constantly wrestling with it. Admitting my faults is time consuming (he says, somewhat tongue in cheek!) but I must humble myself before God and others. If I trap myself with my words, like a gazelle (as above in verse 5) then it is right that I correct things. If it causes me some small amount of embarrassment, then that is a lesson to learn.

I want to close this post by picking up similar words of instruction from the Lord Jesus Himself.

Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’

Luke 14:27-30 WEB

Jesus’ words here refer to the cost of being a disciple. Of course, they do apply more widely than this, but in context are crucially important. Reflecting on the importance of our words, and not making commitments we cannot fulfil, are you prepared to fulfil the requirements of claiming Jesus as Lord? In my post – Lord, Lord! – I pointed out that it is one thing to call Jesus Lord, and yet quite another to live a life serving Him.

Do not let your words be worthless. Do not sign up to do something unless you are able to fulfil it. This applies to small things in life, but even more so to the commitment to follow Christ.

This Sunday at Church: Pray any pastoral counseling today would be used by God

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Pray any pastoral counseling today would be used by God. During the weekdays …

This Sunday at Church: Pray any pastoral counseling today would be used by God

Volunteer #SundaySuggestion

In a previous Sunday Suggestion entitled – Serving Sunday – I encouraged you to go to church looking for ways to serve. We do need to be built up and encouraged by going to church, but it is also not just about what we get out of it. We go to church to worship God, to meet with fellow believers, and to serve the family of God.

Today’s suggestion is of a similar nature. Why not go to church today and volunteer to help out with something? It need not be a big commitment, like taking on a new home group, but can be something smaller such as serving coffee or stacking chairs.

In particular, go with open eyes looking for opportunities. Where is it that your church needs help? Is there a way in which you can step into that gap and make a difference.

Perhaps your church has a set of rotas to sign up for different jobs such as cleaning, offering lifts or praying before the service. If so, ask the Lord to guide you and add your name if you feel prompted.

If there really isn’t anything more you can do right now, then I understand. Life is generally busy and sometimes the thought of taking on another job, no matter how small, is overwhelming. Instead then, why not recognise the volunteers around you and just give them a word of thanks. It will be appreciated I am sure, and it is right to honour those who freely give their time for the good of the fellowship.

Your church may have a pastor or vicar, it may also have a leadership team or group of elders or deacons, but it is not their role to do everything! The church can only work if we all do our part. Too often, a few people do more than their fair share and end up burning out. If we share the load, we will all be far more effective for God’s kingdom.

Your #church may have a pastor, and may also have a leadership team or group of elders, but it is not their role to do everything! #Christianity

So how can you contribute? Don’t sign up for something you cannot deliver on, but do chip in in whatever way you can.

Have a great Sunday!