Justice (Audio)

Andy shares about the subject of justice, and considers one of the Proverbs given below.

Condemning the innocent or letting the wicked go—both are hateful to the Lord.

Proverbs 17:15 (GNT)

This audio will also be uploaded to the podcast feed for those who prefer to listen to it there. You can find the podcast “The Andy Brown Podcast” on all good podcasting apps, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

He is Our Rock (Psalm 92 #3)

This is the third and final post on Psalm 92. If you missed them, you can read the first one here – Praise in the morning, praise in the evening– and the second one here – You Thrill Me.

We left off last time discussing that although evil may flourish for a time, it will ultimately be destroyed. The psalmist compares evil to the weeds or grass, which appears rapidly but does not last.

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.
9 Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
10 But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
You have anointed me with the finest oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.
12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
15 They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”

Psalm 92:8-15 (NLT)

Exalted Forever

Unlike evil, which has a definite end in sight, God’s praise and worship will continue for all eternity. He is worthy, and eternal exaltation is hardly enough to worship the Living God.

For those who worry that Heaven will somehow be like a never ending worship service, please do not be afraid! IF the thought of just singing for all eternity fills you a sense of dread, then please let me reassure you.

I love to sing, and especially so to the Lord. However, Heaven offers more than just unending choirs and instrumental praise. Worship is far more than singing. Singing is a vehicle certainly, but it is just one vehicle.

We worship God with our very breath. Every day while you work, serve, rest or play, you can worship God Most High. How? We do that by putting Him at the centre of everything we do. When we work, we work to the Lord. When we rest, we rest in His presence. When we walk, we walk with Him. Anything you can can be done with worship in your heart.

Heaven will be life – eternal life – and a life lived in worship and exaltation to our deserving King.

Strong as an Ox

Verse 10 gives thanks to God for giving us the strength of an ox. Interestingly, some translations render this “unicorn” rather than “wild ox,” but the point is the same.

Our strength is found in relationship with God. When times get tough, and they do, we must turn to God and draw on His power. We cannot do it all ourselves or in our own strength. Instead, we must rely on Him and be fully dedicated to prayer.

Do you feel as strong as an ox? If you are like me, then you perhaps must admit to not feeling quite so vibrant most days. My strength fades when I take my eyes off of Christ. After a sleepless night with a child, it is very easy to give in to the temptation of being pitiful, or being snappy or grumpy.

What’s the solution? The latter part of verse 10 tells us. The Lord God has anointed us with finest oil. Oil in the Bible is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When our strength is lacking, we must seek the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit who renews and rejuvenates us. While this can be physical of course, primarily I am thinking of an inward refreshing.

Praise the Lord for sending us His Comforter and Strengthener!

Like a Palm Tree

In verse 7 of this psalm (not quoted above) the evildoer is compared to the weeds or grass, and we should take from this that it is short-lived. Grass and weeds seem to sprout as if from nowhere, and yet a hot summer or hard frost (more likely here in the UK!) and they are gone.

In contrast, the godly are compared to the palm tree or the cedars of Lebanon in verse 12. Times of heat or cold won’t destroy us. For the godly, rooted and anchored in God’s love, we have the staying power to outlast this world and its difficulties.

I love the imagery of the godly trees being transplanted into God’s garden from verse 13. We were all once lost and part of the world, yet God saved us and transferred us into His Kingdom where can flourish in His presence.

For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,

Colossians 1:13 (NLT)

Evil is a temporary weed, but the godly are trees forever transplanted into the court of our God.

The Final Word

The psalm concludes with two key points. Firstly, that God is our Rock. The second that there is no evil in Him at all.

Let’s take the latter first.

God is not evil, nor is there any evil in Him at all. Some accuse Him of this but this comes only from our own human ignorance. I do not mean to sound harsh there, but as verses 5 and 6 remind us – God’s thoughts are very deep, and only those who lack understanding believe that evildoers escape judgement.

When tragedy befalls us, it can be easy to point at God and blame Him. We may say, “If God is so good, then why did so-and-so have to die so young?” These are natural questions, and yet ones that can never be answered satisfactorily. If we knew what God knows, then we would be able to answer.

God’s love is demonstrated at the cross of Jesus Christ. He took on all the pain and suffering of this world, taking our place so that we can go free. That is love!

I am not saying that trouble is easy to cope with, nor that you should not grieve when you lose a loved one. The pain of loss makes us feel all kinds of things, and I would not presume to quarrel with yu over it. However, please do not doubt God’s love.

God is good, and there is no evil in Him. And He is our Rock. Rocks do not change. They are stable. Large enough ones cannot be moved or shifted. Likewise, God does not change, He is stable, and He cannot be moved.

Let us exalt Him this day and sing for joy at the work of His hands!

Rainbows

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, you may have noticed the sudden appearance of rainbows in windows near where you live. It has become a symbol of hope for people, and a way of lifting our spirits in this difficult time.

The picture above was drawn by one of my budding artist daughters…

But did you know that the rainbow has a specific meaning in the Bible?

The rainbow was a symbol which God gave humanity shortly after the flood of Noah. Here is part of the story from Genesis 9.

God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “As for me, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth. 11 I will establish my covenant with you: All flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be a sign of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, 15 I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow will be in the cloud. I will look at it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-17 (WEB)

At the end of the global flood, God had preserved Noah and his family on the Ark. God made a covenant with humanity and all of the living creatures of the Earth, that He would never again destroy all flesh with a flood. God said that the rainbow would be a token between us and God of this promise.

So the rainbow in the sky is a reminder of God’s covenant. When God makes a promise, He means it. While the text above does say that God will remember the covenant when He sees the rainbow, there is no danger of Him forgetting. Rather it is for us to know that God remembers what He has promised us.

God did not promise that the world would never end, simply that all life would not be destroyed by flood. In fact, in Peter’s second letter to the church, he writes that the heavens and the earth will indeed come to an end but not in floodwaters, but burning heat (see 2 Peter 3:10).

I have not heard anyone suggest that COVID-19 will destroy all flesh, as Noah’s flood once did, but there are some asking if it is a sign of the End Times. The Bible does not appear to mention COVID specifically, although does say that pestilence is such a sign. Whether it is a specific sign of the End Times or not, I think it is a clear warning or opportunity from God for all of us to assess our relationship with Him and make sure we are in right standing with him.

The rainbow of Noah’s story is not the only rainbow we see in the Bible. In the book of Ezekiel, he opens his prophecy with a strange description of heavenly, angelic beings and even tries to describe the glory of the Lord.

In verse 28 we read:

As the appearance of the rainbow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Ezekiel 1:28 (WEB)

So vivid is the appearance of the Lord’s glory, Ezekiel struggles to describe it. He likens it to the appearance of a bright rainbow in the sky on a cloudy day.

We also see a rainbow surrounding the throne in heaven.

Immediately I was in the Spirit. Behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting on the throne 3 that looked like a jasper stone and a sardius. There was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald to look at.

Revelation 4:2-3 (WEB)

We also see some angels wear the likeness of a rainbow.

I saw a mighty angel coming down out of the sky, clothed with a cloud. A rainbow was on his head. His face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.

Revelation 10:1 (WEB)

The rainbow, therefore, is a simile for heavenly glory. The glory of God and His heavens are such that they cannot be described in words. They can only be expressed in figures of speech to give us some glimmer of understanding.

Rainbows are an impressive sight. Whenever the sun and rain collide, you will often hear people mention a rainbow, and scanning the skies to find one. When they appear, bright and crisp above us, they can be breath-taking. God’s glory goes far beyond this.

As you take your daily exercise today, why not go rainbow spotting. If the weather is right, yu may see a real one, and if not, then there’s a good chance you’ll see them displayed in a nearby window.

Focus on that rainbow. It has a specific promise behind it, and yet also symbolises the very glory of God. Take the time to praise Him for His glory this day and always!

Today You Will Be With Me

Despite the current state of the world, and life here in the UK, I actually quite enjoyed the Easter celebrations. Of course, I was disappointed not to have been able to meet with family or friends, or to gather as a church, but we made the best of it.

I have been thinking about the two criminals who were crucified with Christ – well, one of them in particular.

As I mentioned on Good Friday’s post – Seven Sayings of Jesus at the Cross– we learn that one of the criminals turned in faith to Jesus in his dying moments. Yet Matthew’s Gospel records both of the criminals having hurled insults at Him. This is quite the turnaround for one man, and look at the reward Christ offers him.

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (WEB)

I know that I said this on Friday, but it is worth repeating. It is never too late to turn to Jesus. No matter what you have done, and no matter how far short you fall, God will never turn you away if you sincerely surrender yourself to His Son.

Yesterday I heard of a family friend who sadly passed away from COVID-19. The man was not old, nor particularly unhealthy (although he did have a condition which made him more vulnerable to this virus). The illness started off rather mildly but has now led to his death. It is very sad, but a reminder that none of us know how long we have on this Earth. Whether COVID or not, we must all die some day and we must make sure we are ready to face God.

Are you?

I’ve digressed slightly, but hopefully that is an important reminder for us all.

So, the criminal turns to Jesus and Jesus says these words: “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

English Bibles are translations of the original language. For the New Testament, that was mostly Greek. To emphasise a point, sometimes we read a repetition such as “Truly, truly…” or “Mary, Mary…” This is to catch our attention such that we really take in what Jesus is about to say.

Likewise, here, Jesus says “Assuredly…” Assuredly. Absolutely. Definitely. I guarantee… Jesus is assuring this man in no uncertain terms that he will join Christ in Paradise. Comforting this criminal in his last moments, Jesus confirms on him salvation and a place in eternal life.

Scholars have debated what Jesus meant by “today” here. Does it imply that at Jesus’ and the criminal’s death, they both entered straight into Paradise? Some suggest that Jesus descended into the abode of the dead – Sheol in Hebrew – and still others say into hell itself. If so, how could He or the criminal be in Paradise “today?”

Let me give you my thoughts, for what they are worth!

Today is a subjective term. If I say to you, “I’ll meet you later today,” then we both have a reasonable idea of what I mean. But what if I am in a different time zone? Then “Today” becomes slightly more blurred.

It boils down to physics, and what Einstein called “relativity.” Time is relative to your perspective. It is a physical property dependent on gravity and so when we leave these physical bodies, time no longer applies to us.

God is infinite. This doesn’t mean He has lots of time on His hands, but rather that He is outside of time. The criminal arrived at Paradise that same day to him, but from our point of view, time has carried on as before. It may even be that when each of us die, we all arrive in eternity at the same “moment” because there are no moments on the other side.

Anyway, I don’t want to get bogged down in this, but just want to point out that “today” is a relative thing.

Moe important are Christ’s words after “today” – “…you will be with Me…”

There is no greater thing than being with Christ. There are so many blessings to being a part of God’s family, and yet all pale in comparison to actually knowing Jesus.

Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ

Philippians 3:8 (WEB)

These words are truly, truly humbling to me. I love the Bible, and thirst for knowledge of it. I love being part of a church, and certainly love knowing that I will go to heaven when I die. But can I really say, as Paul does above, that I count everything else as refuse (sometimes rendered “dung”) in comparison to knowing Jesus? Not nearly enough.

Let’s spend our isolation doing fruitful things. Let’s make the most of this time. Let’s spend it getting to know Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

What will you do “today?”

Where do you stand?

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. 36 I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’

40 “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[c] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

45 “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46 (WEB)

I know this is a long passage to start this post with, but I wanted you to be able to read the whole thing and let its challenging words sink in. 

Where do you stand? On the left, or on the right? And I don’t mean politically…

When the news about the corona virus first broke in the early part of this year, I’ll admit to being a little flippant about it. I never imagined it would impact the lives of us all in such ways. 

Reading the news and various social media feeds, I see a rather bleak picture and many individuals who are very scared right now. I thank God that this virus is no worse than it is, but certainly appreciate the heavy impact it will have on many families – particularly those who are vulnerable or elderly. 

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Some doctors are urging we discuss and prepare for the fact that this virus may take the lives of those we love. Are we ready for that? 

I mentioned in my post the other day – Coronavirus – that some had claimed this virus was a sign of the End Times. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, the Bible teaches that one day Jesus will return for His people. There are many diverse views about exactly how this will happen, but essentially all Christians agree HE will return sooner or later. There are certain signs which precede His coming and perhaps this virus is one of them. You can do your own study on that. 

Either way though, the Corona virus gives us pause. It is an opportunity to face the big questions in life. What happens when we die? Are we prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus? Where can we turn when it feels like the world is falling apart? 

Do you have adequate answers to these questions? 

The passage above from Matthew’s Gospel is often called the parable of the sheep and the goats. It depicts the end of time when we will all stand before Jesus’ throne and He will judge us. This is known as the Great White Throne judgement. I’m not entirely sure it is right to call this a parable, as it may not be an illustration at all, but precisely how it will be. 

There is much we could say about this passage. One of the scarier elements is that those who thought they were doing well, were not, and those who did no think they were doing so well, were commended. 

So, where do you stand? Are you a sheep or a goat? It is a question we must all ask ourselves, and answer honestly. Ignoring the question is not an option. We must not wait until we get there to find out, as it will then be too late. 

How can you be sure? How can you know whether you will be counted among the sheep or the goats? The passage itself suggests it is not about what we do, as those who did “spiritual” things were counted as goats. 

The answer does not lie in the activities we participated in, nor in our own “good works.” Our best works are going to look rather shabby when we stand before the Throne of God. 

There is only one way to heaven, and His Name is Jesus Christ. The difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep put their lives in the hands of the Good Shepherd. The goats went their own way. 

If you want to find out more about the way to heaven, then check out my post – One Way. 

For the vast majority of people, this Coronavirus will not take their life – praise God. But the questions posed above are still important. None of us can beat the clock, and every one of us will – sadly – die one day. Even if we are the generation to see the return of Jesus Christ, then we sill need to be prepared. Are you? 

So what will it be? Are you a sheep or a goat?

Blessed 2x

Ephesians

Many months ago I began writing about the book of Ephiasians. You can find that post here – From an Apostle to the Saints.

For various reasons, I did not write more on the subject but I am very pleased to return to it today. I did promise you it might not be a series… and I make no further claims now!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”

Ephesians 1:3 (WEB)

After Paul’s introduction, he wastes no time and dives straight in! Blessed! Blessed be God! You can feel the power of his words leaping from the page as you read this. Before he says anything else on any other subject, he starts with praise.

It’s a great place to start a letter, and it’s a great place to start a prayer. In fact, it’s a great way to start anything really! Whatever you’re doing, be it work, washing up or watching TV, always start with a word of praise.

Praising God has many effects on us, which we can consider in a moment, but praise isn’t about us at all. It is about God Himself. We turn our attention off of ourselves and our own lives, and we focus as fully as possible on the One who made us. Worship is our reason for being, and on days when I feel I achieve little else, I want to be able to say I fulfilled my created purpose by praising the God of Heaven today.

Imagine the effect on us, if we uttered words of worship prior to any activity. Take the TV example above. How different might our TV viewing choices be if we were to spend a moment thanking and worshipping the Father before picking up the remote.

Paul identifies God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we rejoice in that. There’s also a nod towards the Trinity here, so see if you can spot the Holy Spirit’s presence also. If not, I’ll pick up on that in a moment.

The word “Blessed,” appears twice in this verse, although they are slightly different Greek words. The way we read it naturally in English is how it was intended. The first “blessed,” is referring to God being blessed, or praised, and the second, refers to the blessing of God or invocation of God’s blessings on people.

What Paul says next is astonishing to me. He says, “who has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Read that again before you continue.

God has blessed us, which is wonderful. To simply say we’ve been blessed though, is something of an understatement!

God has “blessed us,” and we must first notice the tense. This is not a blessing we will get in the future, but something we hold right now.

What have we been blessed with exactly? “Every spiritual blessing,” That word translated as “every,” is the Greek word – pas – and means “every,” “any,” and “all.” That’s every spiritual blessing! Not some of them, not half, not most, but all of them!

You might not be feeling all that blessed at the moment, in fact, you might be looking at a stack of bills or a doctor’s report feeling anything but blessed. This verse shouldn’t be interpreted as “God is going to give me whatever I want…” as I don’t think that’s true. We do the Word and God Himself a great disservice however, when we diminish a verse like this and explain it away not accepting what it says.

You are more than just your body, and your life is more than just your bank balance. We must not limit the blessings of God to the physical realm. The spiritual world is far more real than this physical one, and came first. There was “spirit” long before there was any earthly matter.

Paul calls it “spiritual blessing,” and some therefore limit this to refer to things of the spirit such as sanctification, justification, salvation etc. And of course, all these are included. But the blessings here are “spiritual”, I believe, not because they are spiritual in nature, but because they are given by the Spirit of God. Christmas gifts are given at Christmas, that’s what makes them Christmas gifts, not because the gift itself has anything to do with Christmas (although it certainly might do).

Thus in this one verse Paul has pointed us to God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

My point is that this blessing given by God is no small thing. It’s not limited to things of the spirit, although we would do well to focus on the eternal things more than the temporary.

So where is this blessing exactly? We find it in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. You might be thinking you’d rather have the blessing down here on Earth than locked away in heaven with Christ. Yet if the blessing is in Christ and Christ dwells in us then the blessing is not as far away as we might think.

We are too often guilty of thinking that blessing relates to money possessions or things this world holds so dear. Paul goes on to talk about many wonderful spiritual blessings in the next few verses and we will examine these another time.

The take home message today is really to think about what we mean by being blessed. If we ask God to bless us are we asking for something God has already done?

What we have as believers and adopted children of God is far greater than anything this world can offer. Our eternal hope is held securely in Christ and God can do no more than He already has to enable us to access heaven forever.

It is truly humbling to think about what God has done for us.

But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (WEB)

We in no way deserve “every spiritual blessing” but it is ours because of what Jesus did at the cross. That is grace. And I join with Paul in saying “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Amen!

Live for Eternity (PoW#17)

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 this world is not all that there is. There is an eternity, and what we do here on the Earth determines what that eternity will be like.

We live in a physical world, and must of course live our lives. Rather than living just for the here and now though, spend more of your life preparing for the world to come.

After a thousand years in eternity, you really won’t care quite so much about the problems of this life.

If you do not know Jesus Christ, and aren’t sure of your eternal destination, I encourage you to put your trust in Him. Jesus is the only way to heaven, and none of us know how much time we have left to make that choice.

Read these relevant posts to find out more – “Resurrection Sunday” and “One Way