Just a reminder that from tomorrow we will start to look at the book of Proverbs. I look forward to studying it with you!￼￼
This coming Monday, I will be starting a new series on the book of Proverbs. it is an amazing book, with much to wrestle with. Throughout next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the first chapter, and felt I should give you a bit of a heads up in advance! If you have…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/01/06/preparing-for-proverbs/
Today’s Sunday Suggestion may seem an obvious one, but your pastor/minister/vicar needs your prayer support! I am not a pastor, but have been in church leadership for many years, and let me tell you it is no easy task! You know the phrase, “You can’t please everyone all of the time…”? Well that is sadly apt for church leaders!
If you have a faithful pastor or group of leaders over your church, then you ought to be eternally grateful. I know so many church leaders who have worked themselves sick for the sake of their flock, and now more than ever, pastors and leaders need our help and support.
The Bible encourages us to pray for those in authority over us. Scriptures such as Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2 direct us to pray for kings and ruling governments, and I do not think it a stretch to include those in church leadership over us also.
A passage I return to when thinking of my own leaders is found in Exodus:
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Exodus 17:10-13 (NIV)
Now your pastor may not be facing a physical battle as the Israelites were (although I bet it feels like that sometimes!) but they need just as much support. Can you be an Aaron or a Hur for them, come alongside and hold up their hands for a time?
How can you pray for them right now? If you are not sure, why not ask them, or send them an email?
Most leaders or pastors would probably like the following to be prayed over them:
Prayers for strength, energy and good sleeping patterns
Prayers for protection for them and their family; physically, mentally and spiritually
Prayers for wisdom and discernment
Prayers to help them manage their workload and prioritise
Prayers for their own relationship with Jesus
Prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their life and ministry
The list could go on and on. If you have other good ideas of how to pray for church leaders, do share them below.
One final suggestion – you might like to set aside a specific day or time to pray for them each week. If your life is like mine, then it can get rather hectic at times. Set a reminder or put a weekly appointment in your diary or calendar so it does not get missed.
Your pastor will be ever thankful for your prayers and support!
WordPress helpfully keeps a total of the words you have written on your blog each year. Although we are only about a week into 2022, I am reliably informed that I have written nearly 4500 words so far.
This is good for me to know, because I really do want to make good progress on some unfinished books I am writing this year.
One project has around 10,000 words written, and another approximately 17,000 words completed.
Knowing that I’ve already written 4500 words on the blog this year, helps me to believe that it may even be possible to complete both projects in the coming 12 months!
why am I telling you this? Simply for accountability!
I want to try to post regular updates on how the books are progressing, as a way of keeping myself honest! Do pull me up dear reader, if I do not do this!
I also ask for your prayers, and that my writing would be fruitful. Please ask the Lord to help me complete these projects this year, but more importantly that they will be a vehicle for him to bless those who read them.
Word count is not the best way to measure the quality of a book… But in this stage of the project, it sure does help me keep track!
I was reading Philippians 4 the other morning, and this particular verse caught my attention.
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Philippians 4:5 (WEB)
I was struck by the idea that our gentleness as Christians was somehow connected to the Lord being “at hand,” that is, that His coming was near. Setting aside what it means for the Lord’s return to be “near,” why would our gentleness be a factor?
Looking up verse 5 in other translations revealed something interesting. The word translated as “gentleness” in the World English Bible (above) is rendered in a number of different ways.
For example, it is:
“Reasonableness” in the ESV
“patient mind” in the Geneva Bible
“Gentle attitude” in the Good News translation
“Gracious attitude” in the ISV
“Moderation” in the KJV
“Considerate in all you do” in the NLT
“forbearance” in the RSV
So you see there is something of a range here. It likely means that this word is rather difficult to translate, and the translators had a few different ideas of how it could be rendered in the context of Philippians 4.
Gentle or gentleness comes up fairly frequently, but that is somewhat distinct from reasonable, moderate, considerate or gracious.
What are the lessons for us then, and what is it we think Paul is getting at?
Well, firstly, it shows the value in having different translations to hand or decent Bible software. While we may have a favourite translation for reading or studying, there is clear benefit in looking at other versions to get a fuller picture of what the original text was saying.
Crucially though, Paul is making a point we must not ignore. I think we can sum it up by saying that we are to be very aware of Christ’s return sooner or later, and so, we must live in a way that encourages others to seek and to find Him.
Why would gentleness be important for our witness? We might think of the word gentle to mean delicate, soft or to treat carefully. While it may not be much of a compliment to say that a Christian is “soft” in our modern vernacular, think of it more as the opposite of being hard, harsh or sharp. If in your normal, everyday setting, you are known for giving sharp answers or harsh words, then that could certainly damage your witness for Christ.
Remember the proverb:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 (WEB)
I wonder how many arguments (in the world and my own life) that could have been avoided if answers were given gently, and not harshly. What damage have harsh words, spoken in anger, done that can never be reversed? What relationships might have been restored had gentleness been displayed by one side or the other?
Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness shows restraint and care for others. Lord, make me a gentle man!
Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness shows restraint and care for others. Lord, make me a gentle man!
How about patience? How might that strengthen our case for Christ?
If it is not obvious, then look at the opposite once again. Being impatient with people is no way to win them over.
I recall a recent incident where we dropped off an item at a business and arranged for them to call when they had completed the work they were doing. They sent a message when they were ready, but we did not see it until a little while later. They were quickly on the phone demanding to know where we were and why we had not picked up said item. The business had other appointments arranged, and were impatient despite it not really being our fault at all. The opportunity did not arise, but had it done, I might have reminded them who the customer was in this scenario! Needless to say, I would be reluctant to spend my money with them again!
Impatience does not make a good impression. It does not value the person on the other end, and instead shows that you care far more about your own situation or schedule. Patience on the other hand shows that you value the effort of the person, and that although it may be taking longer than you would like, you are trying to see the best in that person and recognising their own circumstances.
I have said it before, but patience is not just waiting, but waitingwell. Showing a good attitude while you are having to wait is a Fruit of the Spirit, and often can only be achieved with the Spirit’s help. When all others are erupting in impatient fury, you can be steadfast and stable, drawing on Christ’s strength, and others will ask what is different about you.
Consideration is, as you might expect, not dissimilar to patience or gentleness. That is why it is connected and translated in those other Bible versions we looked at above.
To be considerate of someone, is to think of them first. Rather than thinking only of ourselves and what we want, we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
He sat down, and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
Mark 9:35 (WEB)
Putting ourselves last is not the world’s way of doing things. The world says that if you put yourself last, you’ll never get ahead! It encourages us to go for what we want, beat everyone else to the punch, and don’t worry about who you trample on along the way.
That is not Jesus’ way.
We are to put others ahead of ourselves. We must prefer others’ needs to our own, and by doing so, we are being considerate. Considerate does not mean we can never have things we want, or go for goals, but it does mean there are certain lines we won’t cross. Being considerate of others means we don’t just take, we look around first and think what others might need.
Practically, we might:
Not take the last cake at the buffet if it means someone else misses out,
Allow someone else to go ahead of us in the queue
Offer our seat to someone standing on the train or bus
Offer to pick someone up, even if it’s out of your way, when their car is out of action.
These are a few minor examples. If you can think of more, do share them below in the comments.
In the verse prior to the one we have focussed on today, Paul encourages us to rejoice always. Similarly, in the following verse (verse 6), he tells us to be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and petition to make our wants known to the Lord. Both verses 4 and 6 are very familiar, and I’m in no doubt you’ve read blog posts or heard sermons based on them.
It is much less likely, I would wager, you’ve heard teaching on verse 5.
In conclusion, the way we act has a tremendous impact on our witness. If we act badly, few will want to know this Jesus we claim to follow. But if we act well, with gentleness, patience and consideration, they will certainly want to know more about Him.
How will you act today? Remember, the Lord is at hand!
Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled – Confession Time – and part of that featured the following verse from James’ epistle.
Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.
James 3:1 (NLT)
The phrase “heavier judgement” caught my attention, and reminded me (and hopefully you also) that those who teach, will be held to a higher standard because we are supposed to be leading the way for others to follow.
I made the point that this was not restricted to church pastors, but indeed anyone with a ministry (including bloggers!).
As it happens, I am reading a commentary on James at the moment, and there was a point made about this verse that every Christian is a teacher of one form or another. While we may think of those stationed in the pulpit as “teachers” (and they are), it is not restricted to that.
For instance, parents are teaching their children all the time. Whether directly instructing the children, or in turn being observed by said children, parents are very much passing on information to the next generation.
Perhaps you are not a parent, but we can find other examples. Business men and women in leadership “teach” their employees in one way or another – especially if they are known to be believers. Doctors and medical professionals impart knowledge to one another and their patients, teaching them how to care for themselves and others. We could go on…
I do not want to stretch this too far, as clearly James had in mind those who were teaching the Word of God. We naturally include in this: pastors, teachers, preachers, evangelists, home group leaders and Sunday school leaders. Each one of those is sharing knowledge of the Bible with others.
It would be rather easy, if outside of one of those categories, to assume that James 3:1 does not apply to you. I would challenge that however. If you are going to witness for Jesus, as every Christian is called to do, then you will – at some point – need to “teach” someone else about Him. Even if not called into full time Christian ministry, you are called by Jesus Himself to share your faith.
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Notice that first word of verse 20… “teaching.” If you believe that Jesus was giving each one of us this Great Commission, then you must accept the responsibility of being a teacher.
School teachers spend many hours preparing for class. And pastors giving sermons on a Sunday must also give sufficient time to preparing their messages. How much time have you spent preparing to share your faith? Do you have your testimony memorised? Could you give a clear explanation of the Gospel if the opportunity arose?
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear,
1 Peter 3:15 (WEB)
Are you ready to give that answer? Mine could do with work if I am honest. The key is to be clear and concise. Most people will give you around 45 seconds to say your piece before they decide if they want to hear more or not. That really isn’t long. Most of us could prepare and rehearse a short few words setting out the truth of the Gospel, so that we are fully prepared to teach someone who is asking.
Do not squander those opportunities to share your faith. Do not allow yourself to be caught unprepared. As it has been said, you may be the only Bible some people ever get to read, so make the most of the chance. If your memory is not all that good, then keep a flash card in your pocket, wallet or purse so it is there if you need it.
Every Christian is a teacher. That includes you dear reader.
Don’t let this post just pass you by. Set aside some time and prepare you answer. Write it down and memorise it. You do not know when the next opportunity may come. Be ready when it does!
Reading another blog recently, I was struck by the openness and honesty of the author. They were describing their own struggles with sin over the past year, and I actually found it quite refreshing to hear. Not that sin should be celebrated you understand, but rather we all struggle and yet few of us talk about it.
We all want to put on our best face to other people, and so rarely share anything that might make us look bad. Social media can amplify this, giving us glimpses of only the best bits of life. It was once said that social media is life through a very fine filter.
As a result of this lack of openness, we sometimes find ourselves feeling like the only one in the world struggling with one issue or another. Or am I alone in that? I hope not!
The devil loves to make us think we are alone in our battles. If he can fool us into thinking no one else is facing such things, then he can trick us into thinking we are worse than everyone else around us.
If you are in any form of ministry, be it pastoring a church or writing a blog, this problem can be all the worse. Those in ministry should stretch for higher standards. I often wrestle with the following verses from James’ letter:
Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.
James 3:1-2 (WEB)
Heavier judgement, as rendered in this translation, does not sound all that fun! Why make the test harder than it needs to be right? Why bother to teach at all?
For those called to do so, it is an occupational hazard! Once you have discovered your call, you can no more ignore it than you can stop your own heart beating.
If I say, I will not make mention of him,
or speak any more in his name,
then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary with holding it in.
Jeremiah 20:9 (WEB)
Not to speak of the Lord was not an option for Jeremiah. For those called to share the Gospel, they cannot cease to proclaim the truth either.
So, teachers are teachers, and subject to “heavier judgement.” The issue is that this can lead to an almost false persona. We want the people we are teaching to think well of us. We incorrectly believe that if they really knew us, then they would cease to listen to what we have to say.
As a teacher, you need to be able to demonstrate some measure of success in your subject. I do not go around teaching the finer points of plumbing because I know not the difference between a U-bend and a stopcock! If I cannot demonstrate that I know the Bible and can put its teaching into practice, then my instruction will have little power behind it.
Does this mean we can never be open? No, of course not! No one is perfect, least of all me, and we cannot and should not expect perfection from our teachers. I actually think more highly of someone who is open about their struggles than those who claim to have none at all.
John says in his first letter:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (WEB)
We know that when confessing our sins to God, He will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. It goes on to say that if we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.
So, do you need a time of confession? Not everyone should write a blog and tell the world of their shortcomings, but tell a trusted friend.
For me, I am constantly wrestling with pride. I confess to you, trusted reader, that I have myself on my mind far too often! When I get scared, it is because I am thinking of myself. When I get angry, it is because someone or something has interrupted my plan. When I get tired, I forget my priorities and end up living to please myself and not the Lord. All of these issues stem from pride. It is part of why I believe God is steering me towards studying the subjects of meekness and humility at the moment.
I am far from perfect, and make mistake after mistake at times. What I find really frustrating is the cycle of sin I find it hard to escape from. I fight against one temptation, beat it for a while, then slip back. Can you relate?
I could write a thousand more words about my faults, but not sure how interesting a read it would be! The point is, I confess to you that I live in the world, I have a flesh to grapple with, and there is a real-life enemy to contend with. It is the same for you.
Do you need to set aside some time for a “spiritual bath?” Need you sit down with Jesus and talk through some of your own struggles and sins? Is there a trusted person in your life you can speak to and confess your sins to?
I praise and thank God for the cleansing work of His Son! Jesus’ shed blood on the cross means that every sin is covered. As long as we live on this Earth, we will wrestle with sin. But we must keep fighting! Only when we give up and give in, are we truly defeated.
Let me finish by reminding you that you are not alone. No matter what sins you wrestle with, there is someone else going through the exact same thing. You are not alone! Only by each of us being honest about our failings can we reassure one another and offer each other support.
Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other. And let each of us rejoice in Christ’s finished work that we may go free! Praise His Holy Name!
I highly recommend Bruces blog and find his writing both challenging and stimulating.
I have not read this particular book referred to in this post, but have now added it to my reading list for the future. Do check out this post and a book if you have time, and let me know what you think!
J. Warner Wallace has stated that he became convinced of the truth of who Jesus was and in Christianity, over an extended period of time, wherein his…
I have been dabbling with a bit of poetry lately. It has never been something I was particularly good at or interested in, but perhaps the Lord is opening up something new. Perhaps not! Time will tell!
This first attempt at a poem is based around Psalm 150, and is perhaps a little trite to the experience poet. Go easy on me however, I beg you! I here post the original words from the WEB Bible.
Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise him in his heavens for his acts of power!
2 Praise him for his mighty acts!
Praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet!
Praise him with harp and lyre!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dancing!
Praise him with stringed instruments and flute!
5 Praise him with loud cymbals!
Praise him with resounding cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise Yah!
Psalm 150 (WEB)
And my poetic version…
Praise the Lord in the temple!
Praise the Lord for His might!
Praise the Lord in the heavens!
Cease not by day or by night
Praise the Lord for His acts
Praise the Lord for His deeds
Praise our God for His greatness
Praise Him for meeting our needs
Praise the Lord with the trumpet
Praise our God with the lyre!
Praise God with the harp
And lift your voices higher!
Dance for His glory
And sing for delight
Pluck strings for His praise
To worship God is right
Crash the cymbals together
Let the bells ring out
Play the flute and the ram’s horn
And make a joyful shout!
Let everything that breathes
Worship our wonderous Lord
That all may come to know Him
And He’ll forever be adored.
Do let me know what you think, and grateful for any pointers on how to step into the daunting world of poetry! If you know of any good blogs on the subject, I’d be keen to hear about them.
I remember writing this post from a few years ago, and the algorithms which drive traffic to one’s blog still baffle me today!
For me, what remains true, is that even if one person read my blog and is blessed by it, it was all worthwhile.
I hope you enjoy this repost
This post lands on Tuesday 31st March, and I think is the 15th day in a row where I have posted. That is a pretty good run, and although I did not start this because of COVID-19, I am carrying on because of it. There is so much negative news going around, and I just…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/03/31/on-christian-blogging/
I sat down the other evening and put on the TV. There was some superhero movie on which I watched idly. After that, I went to bed and listened to a Christian podcast on the subject of marriage. These two seemingly unconnected things were brought together in my mind as the host of the podcast began to read from Philippians 4:8, which says:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
As I began to ponder that verse, I wondered if the movie I had been watching could be categorised in any of the descriptors Paul mentions here? Was it an “honourable” movie? Was it “lovely”? I got stuck when the word “pure” seemed to leap out at me. Was it “pure”?
The movie itself was ok… there was a bit of action, and no bad language as I recall. It wasn’t rated for adults (an “18” rating here in the UK) and was billed as family entertainment. As I say, it was ok…
But was it pure? No, I can’t say that it was. For however long I was watching it, I wasn’t fixing my thoughts on something pure, I was fixing them on something that was just plain “ok”.
Why on earth would any of us settle for ok, when we can have purity?
Why on earth would any of us settle for ok, when we can have purity?
One definition of purity is to “be free from anything which contaminates.” While this movie was not bad, it was hardly free from anything that contaminates.
I do not wish to be contaminated. I do not want to compromise the purity and holiness offered by the cleansing blood of Christ. I find myself challenged by a simple movie choice. Am I overthinking it? Perhaps I am. Yet if God is directing me away from such movies, then I will never find satisfaction in them.
I have a fairly demanding job at times, alongside helping to look after the children, manage the household and a whole host of other things. When I get to the end of the day, I am often tired and I guess like most of us, just want to flop into a chair and switch off for a while. As I approach my chair of an evening, the temptation of the TV remote is strong, requiring little effort. My Bible is not far away either, yet the thought of studying the scriptures when tired, seems like effort (I’m just being honest here!). Too often I take the easier road.
In my heart though, I know that spending time with the Lord is far more fruitful. Being tired is a weak excuse (if you pardon the pun).
Isaiah says this:
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)
God is the One who gives us strength. While even the young grow weary at times, those who trust in God will have new energy. At night, when we are exhausted, our bodies are refreshed and renewed as we spend time in His presence and enjoying His holy and pure Word.
God’s Word is pure. It is without taint. If you could sum up my calling in a few words, it would essentially be to encourage believers to fully engage with the Bible. The world has a multitude of entertainment offers; music, TV, streaming services, Internet, podcasts, and the list goes on. Yet so little of it could be called “pure.” Some of it may be ok, but why would we – born again, Spirit filled, children of the Most High God – want to dabble with something that is just “ok?”
God’s Word is pure:
Everything God says is pure; he is a shield for those who take refuge in him.
Proverbs 30:5 (ISV)
I know that the next time I sit down, I’m going to have that same struggle with the TV remote. Do pray for me that I make right choices. I want to look again at all of my entertainment choices and weigh them up against the benefits of studying the Word.
For balance, I am not saying you must read the Bible solely and nothing else. That, I think, would be too far and legalistic. There are many forms of entertainment out there, and it is possible to find decent material out there. For instance, there are now Christian TV streaming services which you may find far more wholesome than the mainstream options.
Ultimately, as disciples of Christ, we should be on the hunt for purity. We must hate sin in all its forms, and not tolerate watching it for sheer enjoyment. Indeed, if we devote ourselves to purity, such worldly entertainment will seem alien or even detestable.
How do we seek purity? As always, the Bible gives us a clear answer. And I will close this post with these words: