Skip Church #SundaySuggestion

Skip church? Is he serious?

Before you unfollow me, I am not advocating you deprioritise church or stop going altogether. Being part of a church family, and making it a priority, is something we all must strive for. In days gone by, it would be unthinkable to miss a Sunday service, yet these days a committed member might make three Sundays a month.

So what is the point of my Sunday Suggestion for today? I will explain by telling you about my day today.

This morning I will be taking care of someone who is not too well in order that their spouse can go to church. They are unwell to the point where they cannot easily be left, so their spouse is rarely able to meet with other believers in church. Church is certainly my priority, but today I have the chance to help someone else get to church instead.

Now if I were to do this all of the time, missing church frequently, then that would not be healthy. Between us though, I am sure we can find ways of supporting each other and ensuring believers get the encouragement of fellowship.

I once heard a story of a group of women who felt compelled to get together twice a week to pray. That is, all except one member of the group. Instead of praying, she felt led to take care of the others’ children so that they could pray. While not praying with them herself, she certainly enabled them to do it.

In a similar way, are you able to enable others to take part? Whether it be a Sunday service, home group or other church event, is it possible for you to step in and give a hand? That might be by taking care of someone, or offering a lift, or missing out on a hobby you had been planning. Whatever it is, do think about whether you can be an “enabler” and help someone else benefit from a time of fellowship.

Skip church? Absolutely not – unless you are paving the way for someone else!

Have a great Sunday!


S04E087, Accepting things is a good thing! Andy B 2 Minute Video

Some wise advice from Andy here. How well do you accept praise?

When people say well done, do you try and deflect that compliment? I know this is something I’ve always struggled

S04E087, Accepting things is a good thing! Andy B 2 Minute Video

Live for Eternity (PoW#17) – Andy Brown

Pearl of Wisdom #’17 We ought to spend our time here, preparing for there In our society, which is largely anti-God, anti-Christian and promotes evolution, humanism and secularism, it is hardly surprising that people think very little about eternity – life after death. If you take a Christian worldview, then you believe and understand that…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/09/24/live-for-eternity-pow17/

Poor Little Fig Tree

On Tuesday, I wrote a post entitled Anything, which looked at the awesome power of prayer. Yesterday, I shared a post called – A Fig Tree – which picked up that theme, and was written by the excellent blogger Bruce Cooper. Some comments on these posts highlighted to me that many do not fully understand the poor little fig tree that Jesus cursed. It is my intention to help you today to grasp why Jesus treated it so harshly.

Let’s look at Mark’s Gospel, which is the parallel account from Matthew 21. Mark splits the story in two halves; so I put the two together here.

In the morning when they were on the way out of Bethany, Jesus was hungry.

13 He saw a fig tree a little way off with leaves on it. So he went to see if it had figs. He came to the tree. There was no fruit on it, only leaves. It was not the time for figs.

14 Jesus said to the tree, `No one will ever eat a fig from you again!’ His disciples heard what he said.

Mark 11:12-14 WEB

19 In the evening Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

20 The next morning they passed the fig tree again. They saw that it had died from the roots.

21 Peter remembered about it. He said, `Look Master, you cursed the fig tree and it has died.’

22 Jesus said, `Believe in God.

23 I tell you the truth. Anyone may say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea.” He must not doubt in his heart, but he must believe that he will have the things he asks for and he will have them.

24 So I tell you, when you ask God for anything believe that you will get it and you will have it.

Mark 11:19-24 WEB

So, Jesus wants some breakfast. Seeing the fig tree (from a distance presumably), the green leaves make the promise of fresh fruit. As He examines the tree, He find not one fig. Jesus is clearly displeased and curses the tree, saying no one will ever eat of it again.

In the second half of the story, Jesus and His disciples pass the very same tree and find it withered. They are amazed, and Jesus uses it as a teaching opportunity about the power of prayer and faith.

Many people feel rather sorry for this poor little fig tree. I mean, did it really do anything wrong? Or at least, did it do anything so wrong it deserved to be cursed unto death?

If you do feel sorry for the tree, then I have to tell you that you have misunderstood the point of the text. This fig tree was a phony – worse, it was a liar. It displayed its leaves to the world, offering the promise of fruit and nourishment, but did not deliver. It said one thing, and did another.

The key to understanding this picture is to read what happens in between the two halves of the account.

15 They reached Jerusalem. Jesus went into the temple. He began to drive out the people who were buying and selling in the temple. He threw down the tables of the money changers. He pushed down the seats of those who sold doves.

16 He would not let anyone carry anything through the temple.

17 He taught the people, saying, `The holy writings say, “My house shall be called a house for all tribes and nations, where people talk with God.” But you have made it a place for people who steal!’

18 The chief priests and scribes heard what he said. They wanted to find some way to kill him. They feared Jesus because all the people were surprised at his teaching.

Mark 11:15-18 WEB

Jesus goes into the temple, and not for the first time, creates something of a disturbance. The temple – the place where people could come and approach God in prayer – has been turned into a market. Complex systems of monetary exchange, purchasing of animals for sacrifice and a general lack of respect enrage the Lord and He turfs them out.

Look at how the priests react in verse 18. They want to kill Him! Why? Because they were likely benefitting from the state of affairs in the temple. Rather than revering the temple’s holiness, they have profited from those seeking to approach God. Jesus is incredibly displeased by this.

The key is this: the priest, who display the outward appearance of holiness, have no true fruit to offer. Like the fig tree, they put out their leaves – wearing fine robes, quoting Scripture, enforcing the Law, applying human traditions to temple worship, and so on. In their hearts however, they do not keep the Law of God, and make it harder to approach God instead of serving the people. They were phonies.

So what is the lesson for us? Are we to go around cursing unfruitful trees? Or ought we to go into church and start turning over tables and chairs? Of course not!

The point is that you and I, by bearing the name of Christ, are displaying leaves to the world. We represent Jesus in our homes, places of work and community, and when people come looking for fruit, we had better make sure they find it.

Don’t carry around a Bible under your arm and be as mean as a snake to those you meet. Don’t put a fish sticker on your car, and then cut off another driver before speeding off into the sunset exceeding the limit. Don’t put “Christian” on your social profile and then share materials far less than holy.

Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5:

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT

Christ does not live on the Earth in bodily form anymore, so the only way people can see Him is in us – His church. We represent Him, and we are His ambassadors. God is making His appeal to the world through us! That is a huge responsibility, and one we must all take seriously.

That is not to say we must be perfect, or can never make mistakes, but where possible we must endeavour to back up our words with actions.

Do not feel pity for the fig tree, instead learn its lesson. Be a tree which bears good fruit, and remember the world is watching.

A Fig Tree

Today I share some further thoughts on the fig tree from a fellow blogger Bruce Cooper. He gives us some further thoughts on the power of prayer but also its limitations. We cannot, for example, pray outside of God’s will.

Anyway, I shall leave it to Bruce to explain! I hope you enjoy the post and do encourage you to check out his blog.

I was reading a post by Andy Brown this morning, where Jesus curses a fig tree, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which you can view here. These …

A Fig Tree

Anything

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew has been on my heart of late. Well, particularly verse 22.

In the morning he went back to the city. On the way he was hungry.

19 Along the road he saw a fig tree. He went to the tree. There was no fruit on it, only leaves. He said to the tree, `No fruit will ever grow on you again!’ Right away the tree died.

20 The disciples saw it and were surprised. They said, `So soon the fig tree has died!’

21 Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth. Believe God. Do not doubt him. Then you can do what I did to this fig tree. But that is not all. You can even say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea” and it will be done.

22 When you ask God for anything, believe that you will have it. Then you will have it.’

Matthew 21:18-22 WEB

The “He” in verse 18 refers to Jesus, in case it wasn’t clear. As Jesus passes by this fig tree, which apparently offers the promise of fruit, He finds only leaves on it. He then curses it, causing it to wither. Many feel sorry for this poor little fig tree, but in context, we realise it is an allusion to the Pharisees and teachers of the Laws aka the religious leaders of the day. They, like the fig tree, promised fruit but instead delivered nothing.

But the fig tree really did wither. It was not just a clever analogy for the religious leaders. There was a real tree, and Jesus spoke to it, and it died. We ought not to miss that simple truth.

Like Moses when he struck the rock twice, and God punished him for it. This was a serious problem because the rock symbolised Christ who would only be struck the once. Yet, irrespective of the symbol, there was a real piece of stone and Moses, in his anger, actually hit it twice with his staff (see Numbers 20). Symbolic or not, it was a real event.

Verse 20 of Matthew 21 shows us that the disciples were surprised at the withering of the tree. They perhaps did not fully understand the power of Christ’s words.

Jesus answers their astonishment with verses 21 and 22, and I restate them here because they are so utterly amazing.

21 Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth. Believe God. Do not doubt him. Then you can do what I did to this fig tree. But that is not all. You can even say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea” and it will be done.

22 When you ask God for anything, believe that you will have it. Then you will have it.’

Matthew 21:21-22 WEB

Believe God. Do not doubt. Then you can do what I did to the fig tree, and not just that, but tell the hill to go jump into the sea, and it will be done. Let that sink in!

And likewise, the next verse, the Lord says, when you ask God for anything, believe that you have it and you will have it. It sounds so matter of fact, and yet is seemingly beyond the realms of our prayers.

Ask God for anything – anything! No limits, no boundaries! Although I hasten to add that there are those who would take this Scripture on its own, ignoring all others, and claim whatever their flesh desires. Within the confines of the Bible and the will of God, we can ask for absolutely anything! Yet, I so often pray like I’m bothering God or that He is a miserly, stingy Father unwilling to part with anything. Not so! God knows how to give good gifts to His children.

I want to start praying Matthew 21:22 prayers. I want to ask God for what is on my heart. I don’t wish to be greedy, but I do want to recognise who He is and the kind of Father I worship. He is generous, and kind, and more powerful than anything we can imagine. I want my prayers to reflect that.

More than just asking though, I also need to believe. There is little point asking God for something, and then saying to my family, “That’ll never work!” Nothing pours cold water on the fire of faith than words of doubt.

Nothing pours cold water on the fire of #faith than words of #doubt – Andy #Believe #Jesus

Nothing is too big for our God to handle. There is no request we can make which will dim the lights in heaven because it uses so much power. God is more than able to respond to our needs and our prayers. Let each of us step more boldly into prayer, being specific, recording what we ask for and praising Him when the answer comes.

Those points are important. If we cannot be specific, then we cannot know for sure if God answered or not. If we do not record what we pray (in a journal or note of some kind), then there is a good chance we will forget what we have asked for and so, when it comes to pass, may not give proper thanks.

My prayer life can be sporadic at times, but I want to press into it more and more. Not every prayer I utter may be answered the way I expect, but if I do not pray at all, it certainly won’t! I want to partner with God, praying His will and seeing the answer come. The point of my post today is to do no more than encourage you to pray; pray more and pray bolder.

What will you ask for today? Whose life will change for the better because you prayed for them? For what will you give thanks to God for when you see Him moving?

Thanks be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – to whom we can ask anything in His Name!

Rejoice, Pray and Give Thanks

I enjoyed reading this post over lunch today, so I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy it too rejoice always and give thanks! Praise the Lord!

God our Father’s will for us is that we partake in joy everlasting, pray to Him always and praise Him in thanksgiving. By doing these things, we are …

Rejoice, Pray and Give Thanks

The Berean Approach – Andy Brown

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/

Replenish

The word “replenish “ has really struck me from this post, as does the verse from Jeremiah. Do give it a read.

Replenish…what a satisfying word just in itself. When you say that word “Replenish” it automatically has a positive influence. It’s a word with good …

Replenish

UK Christian Bloggers

Hi! My name is Andy Brown, you may remember me from such blogs as andy-brown.org…!

It has indeed been some time since my last proper post, although I have tried to share some older material and some great posts from friends and fellow bloggers. Life has gotten rather busy and my writing has suffered. I would like to tell you that I’ve been working on book projects or other writing, but alas no! Some days I feel guilty for neglecting the blog, and other days I reflect on my full-time job, wife and four children, church leadership and Christian study course – and realise that I do have a lot on my plate! I’m sure you understand!

Thursday evening I enjoyed a time of fellowship with a group of UK-based Christian bloggers. We have been (trying) to get together every couple of weeks to swap stories, encourage one another and pray for each other. It is a wonderful time and I regret not being able to make all of the sessions so far!

The photo lists some of the members and their sites, so do check out their blogs if you are not already familiar. There are doubtless many more Christian bloggers out there hailing from the UK, so this is by no means an exhaustive list!

I came away from our recent call feeling very much encouraged, and I value the prayers of the group. Having a fellowship of believers is so important, and in our largely disconnected modern world, it is even more so. We often feel alone or isolated, despite the noise of life, and so it is critical we connect with fellow believers in Christ and strengthen one another.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

It is an instruction from the Bible that we do indeed encourage one another. There are times when life is a struggle, and in those days or seasons, we need the comfort of others to help us through. We absolutely rely on the Lord, but a little encouragement from fellow believers is most welcome too!

Encouraging someone costs little more than a small amount of time or effort. A kind word or timely phone call can really make a difference in someone’s life. You have that power today, and don’t let being busy be an excuse not to (talking to myself here…) My guess is that you won’t have to look very hard or travel very far to find someone in need of a boost.

While the gift of encouragement may be a specific spiritual gift (see Romans 12:8), it does not excuse the rest of us from doing it. Some have a special gift for evangelism, yet the call to share our faith is one we all enjoy. Naturally or spiritually gifted or not, we can all improve by practising. See if you can find a way to encourage someone in each of the next seven days, or even see how long you can keep the streak going.

I “encourage” you to check out some of the other writers I mention above, and have no doubt you will come away refreshed and uplifted. I will be sharing some of their posts in the near future, so do look out for them.

If you wish to encourage me, do leave me a comment, share a post or pray for me. I receive your prayers with delight and gratitude. Have a great weekend!


How To Be A Welcoming Church – Andy Brown

I happened to catch an episode of “Veggie Tales” the other morning while my children were watching it. If you are not familiar, it is a kids show starring Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. In this particular episode, Bob had taken on a job of Chief Greeter at a local shop. He started…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2019/03/28/how-to-be-a-welcoming-church/

What is Prayer? – Andy Brown

Recent news has reported a big increase in the number of Google searches for the term “prayer.” The stories suggest that the increase in these searches is in step with the spread of Coronavirus and in general perhaps reflects people’s growing fears in recent times. Just yesterday I caught a video on Facebook of Russell…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/05/15/what-is-prayer/