Three… Two… One and Only

Last Sunday (9th January) was known in some church traditions as Epiphany Sunday. This tradition celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem to worship the child Jesus. You can read the entire account in Matthew 2, and although I won’t post the entire text in this post, I may refer to particular verses of interest.

If you do read the entire chapter, then there are a few points you might notice…

When?

First of all, despite the traditional nativity scene, it is unlikely the Magi arrived at the same time as the Shepherds and while the baby Jesus was in the manger. Epiphany is celebrated slightly after Christmas to denote that actually it isn’t really known how long afterwards they arrived.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent out and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under, according to the exact time which he had learned from the wise men.

Matthew 2:16 (WEB)

Verse 16 suggests it could have been up to two years later that the men from the east arrived.

Who?

You are likely familiar with the Christmas carol entitled “Three Kings,” but is this biblically accurate?

For instance, does Matthew tell us that there were three of these so-called kings?

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3

Verse one does not say “three” at all, but rather “some.” It is not clear from this how many Magi came along. Tradition has grown up that there were three of them because of the three gifts that they brought. There were other suggestions too, and I do not think you can know for certain. It may be that there were three leaders, but I put it to you that the text alone implies far more than three simple men on camels!

Verse three tells us that King Herod was troubled by their arrival, and we will explore why in a moment, but he was not alone in feeling troubled. Verse three also states that he was troubled and “all Jerusalem with him.” While Jerusalem would have been somewhat different to how we know it today, even then it would not have been too concerned by the arrival of three men. It is likely, in my mind at least, that they came with a rather large caravan and something notable to set the wheels of gossip turning.

Were they kings?

Again, the text makes no mention of these travellers from the east being royal. Rather they are described as wise men or Magi. The word “Magi” is where we get our word “magician” from, and when we think of them, we should picture the wise men and scholars as depicted in the book of Daniel. In fact, I once read that Daniel may have begun the very group of Magi who were looking for the signs in the heavens that would tell them when Messiah was to be born… but I am not sure if such a claim can be verified.

So not three kings then, nor kings at all. If you look at the text carefully, then there are two people named as “kings.”

  1. King Herod – mentioned in verse one
  2. King of the Jews, i.e. Jesus – mentioned in verse two

There were not three kings, but only two in reality. Or were there?

Why was King Herod so bothered by the birth of a baby in the little town of Bethlehem? (Bethlehem meaning House of Bread, in case it ever comes up!)

Herod was deeply troubled by this news because he was no king at all. He was not part of the Davidic line, and so had no birth right to the throne. Instead, he had been placed there by the Roman rule to govern the nation. He did some good things for the people, but was known for being somewhat paranoid and even had his wife and children murdered because he thought they threatened his position.

We see the depths of his wickedness as he has all the baby boys in the area killed as a way of trying to rid himself of this Boy King. See verse 16 above.

We started with three kings, then reduced that to only two, and now only One remains. The baby in the manger. Arguably the least kingly of them all.

Others may claim kingship, but there is but One true King. And His name is Jesus. He is the Son, and Eternal Word of God. He came to live on this earth with us, and was born as a vulnerable baby in a cave (most likely). He lived a perfect, sinless life and was betrayed, tortured and executed having committed no crime. Jesus did this to pay the penalty for our sin. He was buried (in another cave) but death could not hold Him. On the third day, He rose again to new life, appearing to His friends and disciples. He later ascended into heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father. One day, He will return.

All who put their trust in Jesus need not pay the penalty for their own sin. They can rest of His mercy and accept that He has done it all for us.

Do not delay, make a choice for Him today.

Don’t Go That Way (Proverbs 1:10-19)

The next part of Proverbs chapter one turns rather dark. The narrator, King Solomon himself, now appears to talk directly to his child/son, and warns them of danger.

 My son, if sinners entice you,

    don’t consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us.

    Let’s lie in wait for blood.

    Let’s lurk secretly for the innocent without cause.

12 Let’s swallow them up alive like Sheol,

    and whole, like those who go down into the pit.

13 We’ll find all valuable wealth.

    We’ll fill our houses with plunder.

14 You shall cast your lot among us.

    We’ll all have one purse.”

15 My son, don’t walk on the path with them.

    Keep your foot from their path,

16 for their feet run to evil.

    They hurry to shed blood.

17 For the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird;

18 but these lay in wait for their own blood.

    They lurk secretly for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain.

    It takes away the life of its owners.

Proverbs 1:10-19 (WEB)

We will not go through each verse in turn, as they come together to paint a vivid picture. Verse 10 probably summarises this whole section, and I cannot really add to its wisdom with my own words.

My son, if sinners entice you, don’t consent. Proverbs 1:10 #Bible #Wisdom #Christianity

The thrust of this section is simply this: when you are tempted by sinners, don’t go that way!

Verse 11 and 12 go into some particulars about the kind of words or enticements they may use to trap you. On the face of them, they do not seem that appealing to anyone. Why lie in wait purely for the purposes of “blood”? You might associate this kind of talk with demonic sources, but not your everyday “sinner” right?

While such direct words may not be used, any temptation to lie in wait for an innocent victim boils down to such language. These are robbers who care little for life. The thrill of sin is addictive to them, and we must stay well clear of any such evil.

Verses 13 and 14 tell us the real purpose for their trap – money. They would kill the innocent for the sake of a few coins. They have not, so they take from others, not caring the harm they do in the process. Robbers of the time would prey on the unwary, exacting violence in the process. Are they all that different from modern day burglars? Such thieves break in, ransack people’s homes for financial gain, and do immeasurable harm to those on the receiving end. Heaven forbid the homeowner should run into such a burglar, who is likely to strike out in violence to get away with their crime.

Don’t go that way! Verse 15 echoes this cry. Do not walk on their path, nor even put your foot upon it. They run to evil, instead of away from it. Let us be known for our flight from wickedness, and not towards it.

Verse 17 is a little proverb in the midst of our narrative. Put simply, if the bird can see the net, it won’t fly into it. We might learn to look out for things that might entrap us, and steer well clear.

The end of our passage points out that the trap these evil ones set for the innocent will in fact close upon their own selves. They lay in wait for their own lives – how so? Because we serve a God of justice. While some believe they can escape justice in this life, they can never escape the justice of God. We will all stand before Him one day and give an account for our lives. Such evil people will not be able to justify their actions before our Righteous God.

If you have been mistreated, or were the victim of some wickedness in the past, it will be put right. Even if those who hurt you got away with it, they will never escape God’s judgement. When we stand before Him, we will know that all and every sin will be accounted for – either at the cross of Christ, or as the penalty for the wicked. God has not forgotten what happened to you.

To us all I say again, do not follow the evil path. If you are being enticed into iniquity, or spending time with the wrong crowd, it is time to make a change. It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into sin.

It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into #sin. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

I leave you where we began with verse 10. Spend some time today just meditating on its truth. It may save your life!

My child, if sinners entice you,

    turn your back on them!

Proverbs 1:10 (NLT)

Preparing for Proverbs – Andy Brown

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/

Parable Surprises – Parable – Two Sons

Some helpful thoughts on this passage here. Hope you enjoy reading it this Sunday afternoon.

I got kids. This parable rings true. None of my kids were consistently like the second one, but occasionally… Let’s read the passage and think on …

Parable Surprises – Parable – Two Sons

Every Christian is a Teacher

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.

Matthew 28:19-20

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?

Peter says:

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!

God bless you.

Confession Time

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.

Jeremiah said:

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.

    I can’t.

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!

On (Christian) Blogging – Andy Brown (repost)

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/

Pure vs. OK

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:

How can a young person stay pure?

    By obeying your word.

Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

The Berean Approach – Andy Brown (repost)

I don’t want you to just take my word for it… We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important. It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/04/12/the-berean-approach/

Happy new year plus Bible in a year

Let me join in the chorus of other voices in wishing you a very happy New Year!

May 20 22 be a joyous and Blessitt year for you and those whom you love. I pray you draw nearer to the Lord this year, and through your life he may be glorified. May many come to faith through your ministry and witness for Christ.

That said, and not unrelated to my “best of “series, I share a post I wrote just over a year ago about a year long Bible reading plan. If you intend to follow the bible reading plan this year, then there is still plenty of time to start one today!

God bless you…

-

On this, the final day of 2020, I have completed a one year Bible reading plan. I have been following a chronological plan, where you read the Bible not as it is laid out, but instead in the order things actually happened. I wanted to offer a few thoughts today on one year Bible plans,…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/12/31/bible-in-a-year/

A Stirring to Pray – (Best of 2021)

Continuing my “best of “series, it seems appropriate to share this post on prayer as it goes right alongside my earlier post this morning.

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Have a very blessed 2022!

-

During the height of the lockdown in the UK, where we were only allowed out for short periods of exercise, I began to fairly regularly record prayer videos which I put out here on the blog and on my Facebook page. You can see an example here, if you’re interested. I really love to pray…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2021/06/12/a-stirring-to-pray/

New Year Prayers

We find ourselves at another New Year’s Eve! Where does the time go?

If I have mentioned this before on the blog, then I do apologise! There is a church near me who likes to pray in the new year. They hold a gathering in the evening, and begin a late night service together so that the congregation can be praying as the clock strikes twelve. I think this is a wonderful practice, and a great way to start 2022 off in the right way.

Jesus often prayed through the night, such as:

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.

Luke 6:12

I too want to start 2022 off in prayer. Due to other commitments, I cannot guarantee that I’ll actually be praying when the stroke of midnight comes, but I do want to spend some time today with the Lord.

For at least part of my prayers, I want this verse from the psalms to be a focus:

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 42:8

Every day this new year, let the Lord’s love be directed towards us, and may He sing over us in the night. May we each be rooted and grounded in His love which endures forever! Let us rejoice in His forgiveness, and joy that comes from knowing He remembers our sins no more!

I know that not everyone will be starting this new year in a state of joy, and many face trials of various kinds. So, how can I pray for you? What is happening in your life and how can I lift these things to our gracious God?

There are numerous ways to get in touch with me and let me know your prayer requests or praise reports. Simply comment below if easiest, and others can join in praying also. If your request is more private, please use the Contact form.

As ever, I consider it a tremendous privilege to pray for you. I believe in the power of prayer, and believe that God is ever active and responsive to the calls of His people.

In years gone by, my family and I have kept a “blessing jar” where we note down the blessings that have come to us throughout the year. We jot down anything from promotions at work, to special times of worship, to new friends made. Then, on New Year’s Eve, we go through them and remind ourselves of the goodness of God.

What do you have to be thankful for this year? There were no doubt many problems that you faced, and many you overcame. What has God done for you this year that you could thank Him for? As well as your prayer requests, I’d be glad to offer up a word of thanks to Him too. We are a family, and as God blesses you, I rejoice in that too!

Whatever you are doing this New Year’s Eve, be it a big party or a quiet time alone at home, take a moment to thank Jesus for the year gone by and say a word of prayer for the year to come.

May God richly bless you and those you love in the next twelve months!