In case you misread the title of this one, it is not a blog post about cooking – check your pasta! Instead, my suggestion this week is to check in with your pastor or church leader.
In my experience, church leaders can find it very difficult to manage their time and workload. This comes from the fact that they are not merely doing a job, but trying to fulfil a calling. For many church leaders, ministers and pastors, they are rarely off the clock and can be called on night and day for support. While many try to take a day off each week, the demands of a church family can encroach on that time. This is, of course, understandable at times and we cannot schedule our problems to fall on pastor’s working days! However, if a minister is frequently missing out of their time off, then it is only a matter of time before they run out of energy.
How is your #church leader doing? How can you support them this week? #Bible #Jesus #Christianity
Also in my experience, church leaders are not always so good at asking for help. They are so busy ministering to others that they forget they need ministering to as well.
So, this week, why not check in with your pastor. Ask them how they are doing, and if there is anything you can do to support them. You may be able to pray for them, and indeed is something we should try to do regularly. In what other ways can you be a blessing to them?
Perhaps you can offer to take care of their children for the night, giving them and their spouse an evening off? Maybe you can drop them in a meal or two, saving them having to prepare something during a busy period. I am certain there are lots of things that could be done. You might have to draw in the support of other leaders in the church to find out what they really need or to find the best way of supporting them. It could take a bit of effort, but I am sure it would be appreciated.
Many churches in UK, and I suppose it is similar elsewhere, are rather small consisting of fewer than 50 members. If they have their own minister (as many share), that person might be the only member of staff in the church. That can be a lonely position, especially if they are unmarried. In such a situation, ministers can be left carrying the burden of a whole church on their shoulders.
I am reminded of this passage from the Old Testament.
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
Moses could not bear the weight of his staff for a long time, so Aaron and Hur came alongside him and supported him. Can you stand alongside your pastor or church leader in a similar way?
Do you think about what you are thinking about? what I mean is, do you spend any time analysing your thought life?
Generally speaking, we humans spent a great deal of time thinking! Not all of that is productive however.
We can think about negative things, or we can think about positive things. We can imagine what can go wrong, or we can spend time developing our hopes and dreams.
Today’s scripture encourages us to think about pure, good and lovely things.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” Philippians 4:8 NIV
Don’t waste your mental energy thinking about things that will not benefit you. Think about good things, and if nothing else, you will feel much happier!
How will you spend your thinking time today? Enjoy your weekend!
I heard someone talking about John 3:16 the other day, and wanted to share a few brief points from it. These are not theological in nature, but just some interesting quirks specifically to the English NIV translation… it’s more interesting than I’ve just made it sound!
John 3:16 is arguably one of the most well known verses in the Bible, and the New International Version renders it as follows:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV #Bible #Jesus #Gospel #Christianity
Did you know this is the Gospel in one verse? It sets out the fact that God was not content to let the world be destroyed as a consequence of sin, but instead gave His Only Son to save it.
If you write the verse out acrostically, you can read it as:
God so loved the world, that He gave His
One and only
Son, that whoever believes in Him will not
Perish, but have
It’s a bit clunky perhaps, but a nice little nugget none the less!
You can also break this verse into three parts.
For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only
That whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life
Section 1 is all about God and section 3 is all about us. What bridges the gap between us and God is section 2 – namely, Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Sin has separated us from God. We were born as sinners, and our thoughts, words and actions confirmed this. Our sin cannot co-exist with God’s holiness. God is on one side of the divide and we are on the other. We cannot hope to cross the gap as will never be able to meet His perfect standards. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ however, who gave us the precious gift of His very own Son to live and die for us. He paid the penalty for our sin once and for all, and by accepting this gift, we can go free and have complete access to God. We are made holiness because of Christ’s holiness.
If you know the Lord Jesus, then praise God this weekend for that fact. If you do not, and you yearn for your sin to be washed away, then waste no time and ask God to forgive you and accept His Son into your life. For more information about how to do that, do get in touch with me and I’d be glad to help you.
After a series of posts on Proverbs 6, we conclude the chapter today.
This final section warns us about an important issue, and one which appears more than once in Proverbs – namely, adultery. Do not skip this section though, believing it to be irrelevant to you, as alongside the dangers of adultery, there are also other warnings and wisdom laced in you do not want to miss.
For the commandment is a lamp,
and the law is light.
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
24 to keep you from the immoral woman,
from the flattery of the wayward wife’s tongue.
25 Don’t lust after her beauty in your heart,
neither let her captivate you with her eyelids.
26 For a prostitute reduces you to a piece of bread.
The adulteress hunts for your precious life.
Proverbs 6:23-26 WEB
I included verse 23 here as it is a joint thought with verse 24. We see, as discussed before, that the Law of the Lord is a lamp to us, showing us the way we ought to go. We discussed this last time in the general sense, but here verse 23b specifically links the reproofs which instruction brings to avoiding the immoral woman. Of course, God’s wisdom and teaching go far beyond this one issue, but it is a key theme given to us. For background here, Proverbs was probably written (at least in part) as a sort of study guide for a group of young men being taught by an elder. References to “immoral women” for example, are not representative of women as a whole but instead indicate the audience to which it is directed. What I mean is, a group of young men are likely to fall prey to such a woman if not careful. Immoral men are just as dangerous and wicked, but the warning here is against temptation of a sexual nature, and no comment on women in general.
Verse 24 warns of the flattery of her tongue, that is a warning against being taken in by her enticing words. Verse 25 warns against the beauty of such women, and the fluttering of eyelids. Young men, typically but not always, are particularly prone to temptation connected to the physical beauty of women so this is an apparent risk. Whether young or old, male or female, we must guard against such physical temptation. It can lead us down paths we do not wish to go, and have severe consequences for our lives and families.
Verse 26 takes the perspective of such an “immoral woman.” She sees her prey – these young men – as nothing but a means to gaining bread. She is hungry, has little means of earning and so relies on her beauty and charm to entice men into bed for financial gain.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap,
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals,
and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife.
Whoever touches her will not be unpunished.
30 Men don’t despise a thief
if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry;
31 but if he is found, he shall restore seven times.
He shall give all the wealth of his house.
32 He who commits adultery with a woman is void of understanding.
He who does it destroys his own soul.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor.
His reproach will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy arouses the fury of the husband.
He won’t spare in the day of vengeance.
35 He won’t regard any ransom,
neither will he rest content, though you give many gifts.
Proverbs 6:27-35 WEB
These final verses in the chapter form a cohesive argument.
Verses 28 and 29 essentially warn us of a no doubt familiar turn of phrase – those who play with fire will get burned. The writer of Proverbs asks basically the same question. Can you scoop fire into your lap without it burning you? Can you walk on scorching coals and not burn your feet? No! Of course not! And so, we cannot indulge in adultery without reaping the dire consequences of it.
The point is driven home in verse 29. If you have an affair with your neighbour’s wife, you will find yourself in extremely hot water!
I think verses 30-31 are then set in contrast to the remainder of the chapter. Dropping the subject of adultery for a moment, we turn to theft. It points out that we might have a modicum of understanding for a hungry thief stealing a loaf of bread to stave off starvation, but how little compassion we have on adulterers. The text shows us that even in a situation where we understand the thief’s reasons for stealing, they are still required to pay it back in accordance with the law. There may be “good” reasons to break God’s laws of so we think at times, justifying our actions with excuses or deflection. Yet, to break the law is to break the law and the consequences are the same.
Theft in a situation of hunger is one thing, but having an affair with another man’s wife is quite another. Verse 32 essentially says you are stupid if you do it! You cannot be clearer than that! It will result in wounds and dishonour; reproaches that will never be taken away.
The jealousy of a husband is a terrible thing, verse 34 warns. Such a wronged man is full of fury, seeking vengeance and it may very well cost you your life! Verse 35 tells us that you won’t be able to buy this vengeful man off. He will not accept any ransom, nor can you turn him away with many gifts. If you dare to seduce his wife, you will reap the consequences. I wonder how many men, young or old, have perished at the hands of a jealous husband? We say beware a woman scorned, but no less so a man either.
If you find yourself battling temptation right now, then I urge you to run! Keep well away from its source, and get on your knees and pray that God will help you do what is right. Do not play with fire, and do not indulge your fleshy desires. Be it someone at work, a neighbour or even a digital someone in the form of pornography – stay well away and fix your thoughts on your own spouse, family or better still, on God and His ways.
On a recent blog post, a dear reader commented and use the phrase “sinfulness of sin “.￼
That reminded me of this post I wrote a few years ago. So I thought I would share it with you today! it considers a verse from Psalm 32, and there is a link to an audio message I gave on that same psalm which you can listen to.￼￼
Hope you enjoy, and I welcome your comments as ever! Thank you for reading.￼
I acknowledged my sin to thee, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.Psalm 32:5 (WEB) The sinfulness of my sin… captivating title right? And I know what you are thinking – two blog posts in two…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/03/18/the-sinfulness-of-my-sin/
At long last, we move on to Acts 5. This chapter opens with a rather disturbing set of events, and I want to try to shed some light on what is happening here. This particular passage is a difficult one, and I admit to having struggled with it for many years. I will explain why,…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/06/16/a-protective-father/
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!