God’s Grace (RB)

Gods grace is indeed truly amazing!

Caring for a close relative suffering with dementia, this post from Bruce Cooper was very touching when I read it a few days ago.

When facing this terrible disease, or indeed, any other tremendous trial, I thank God for his grace which is more than sufficient.

I pray you are blessed by Bruce‘s words, and can rest in gods grace in whatever you are facing today.

As one endeavours to walk with God, in this life that we have been given, the grace that God so often extends to us becomes more and more apparent. …

God’s Grace

A God of Justice (Psalm 36:7-12)

We conclude our trio of studies on Psalm 36 today by reviewing the final six verses. So far, we have considered David’s revelation of sinfulness in part 1 – A Revelation of Wickedness, and then yesterday we thought about some of the attributes of God in – Faithful to the Skies.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God!

All humanity finds shelter

    in the shadow of your wings.

8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,

    letting them drink from your river of delights.

9 For you are the fountain of life,

    the light by which we see.

10 Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;

    give justice to those with honest hearts.

11 Don’t let the proud trample me

   or the wicked push me around.

12 Look! Those who do evil have fallen!

    They are thrown down, never to rise again.

Psalm 36:7-12 NLT

Verse seven reminds us of how precious God’s unfailing love is. In many ways, this is obvious but that makes it all too easy to just pass it over. Preciousness means value, not necessarily financial, but something we prize. God does not have to love us (in a sense). Although it would be against His character and nature, He could look upon our sinfulness and reject us outright. God’s love is not to be taken lightly or for granted. The more precious something is, the more it tends to cost, and God’s love cost Him His Son.

Many Christians ask themselves if God really loves them. They may not feel loved, and so question whether God cares at all. In the hectic world we live in, it can be difficult to hear from God at times. This leads us to think He is distant, or even uncaring. Not so! I often ask myself how well or often I hear from God, and my answer is usually the same. When I set aside other things, sit down in the quiet with Him, and listen – truly listen – I inevitably hear what God is telling me. To hear God speak into my life through His Word or in other ways is a true privilege, and it reminds me how much He really does care for me. And the same is true for you.

God’s love is not just restricted to us however, but extends to all humanity (as verse seven reminds us). John 3:16 springs to mind here:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life

John 3:16 NLT

God’s love extends to all humanity. While this does not mean all will accept it, it does affirm that it is available to all. The Bible does not support the idea that all people will be saved, no matter what, for that idea cheapens the cross and leaves little incentive to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. There is a hell to avoid, and while the thought does not bless me, I rejoice that God has made a way for us. Let each of us tell as many as we can of God’s saving love which never fails.

Upon first reading of verse eight, I am not certain if it refers to physical food and drink, or rather points to something more spiritual. God does indeed provide us food and sustenance, and it is certainly important to take a moment to thank Him at each meal time. Not everyone has the abundance of food we do, so it is right not to take our material blessings for granted.

Looking to verse nine as well, I wonder if David was thinking of more spiritual food in verse eight. Verse nine shows us that God is the fountain of life for us. While we need food to survive, we need God no less so. He controls all things, sustains all things, and our next breath is utterly dependent on Him and His grace towards us. God is not just our life, but our light as well. 1 John 1:5 echoes this psalm in telling us God is light. We cannot hope to see our way through this life or the next without the light of God. We cannot hope to understand, nor can we see the right way to go unless God first shows us the way. His Word is indeed a lamp unto our feet as Psalm 119:105 tells us.

Verse ten and eleven turn into an apparent word of prayer. The psalmist asks God to pour out His unfailing love on those who love Him. As referred to above, God has done this at the cross of Calvary. I am not sure we now need ask God to pour out His love, but perhaps it is better to pray that we understand and perceive the love He has already shown. David asks God to give justice to those with honest hearts. Justice is a common theme in the Bible, and we trust God to make all things well in the end. Justice in this life is not guaranteed, but we know that the God of justice will indeed comfort the afflicted and wipe every tear from their eye.

Pour out your unfailing #love on those who love you; give #justice to those with honest hearts. Psa 36:10 NLT #Bible

Verse eleven seeks protection from the proud. I like the phrasing of the NLT here, as no one likes to be “pushed around.” This continues the theme of justice, and the cry to protect the downtrodden. The proud pick on the weak, exploiting them for their own gain. We, as the people of God, must not be like this. We must not show favouritism, nor exploit those who we think are beneath us. Time and time again the Bible speaks of looking after orphans and widows, and we must look after those who are in need or marginalised.

This psalm of contrasts comes to an end with an almost prophetic note. Behold, the psalmist cries out, the wicked are no more! David knows the justice of his God, and knows that the wicked cannot stand before Him. A time will come when sin will end. A time is coming soon when the wicked will see justice. At the end of all things, God will separate the sheep from the goats, and will take care of His sheep for all eternity. I want to be among them, and want you to be too.

You cannot have #love without #justice. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

God’s love touched on in this psalm is not so far removed from His justice. To love someone means hating anyone or anything that would harm them. You cannot have love without justice. We give thanks that our God is both full of unfailing love, and a God of true justice. Receive His love today, and allow Jesus to pay the penalty for your sin so that justice is satisfied.

Blessings on you this day.

A Gentle Answer – Andy Brown

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”Proverbs 15:1 (NLT) This particular verse came up in my Bible reading this morning. It may be very familiar to you or perhaps it’s the first time you’ve read it. Either way, there is much wisdom in its words. A gentle answer can make a…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2021/02/24/a-gentle-answer/

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/

Marriage Matters, It’s A Family Affair, S01E012

Can’t recommend this highly enough! Do give it a watch!

In this week’s Marriage Matters, Andy B and Jo talk candidly about things that cause problems in our marriages, that may lead to unfaithfulness in …

Marriage Matters, It’s A Family Affair, S01E012

This Sunday at Church: Honor those who have served at Church for years

Amen to this!

For this Sunday here’s what you can do: Honor those who have served at Church for years.   I know in the past I have written Thank someone who works …

This Sunday at Church: Honor those who have served at Church for years

Pray for your Neighbour – Sunday Suggestion

This Sunday, after church of course, why don’t you take a walk around your neighbourhood and pray for those living there. You could focus on your own street, or else wander a little further afield. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and see if He will lead you to pray over a particular house or area.

Prayer walking is a great habit to get into. Not only does your physical body get some exercise, but it also gives you the chance to stretch those spiritual muscles. There are many practical ways to bless your neighbour, but only prayer allows you to invite God into their lives and do His miracle work.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Love your #neighbour as yourself #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

The chances are that the most popular name on your prayer list is your own… I know that’s true for me, I’m ashamed to admit. Yet verse 31 tells us to love our neighbour as we do ourselves. Well, if we pray mostly for our own needs, then let us each love our neighbour that way, and lift them before the Lord.

Perhaps it just isn’t possible for you to prayer walk right now, and that’s ok. If you can, pray at home for those living near you, as that will be beneficial too.

Finally, if you live in the UK, don’t forget your raincoat!

Have a great weekend!

An Open Rebuke

An open rebuke

    is better than hidden love!

Proverbs 27:5

Generally speaking, and not wanting to assume, you probably are not all that keen on being rebuked… let alone having it done openly where others may overhear it!

At work, if we need to correct a member of staff about something, it is thought bad practice to do so in the open office where others may listen in. It does happen from time to time, and it is surprising how quiet an office can get when it does!

So, all in all, an open rebuke doesn’t sound all that fun. And yet, this proverb tells us it is preferable to hidden love. How so?

Firstly, what is a rebuke (open or otherwise)?

A rebuke is a stern reprimand. It is essentially to pull someone up on something in a not always so gentle manner. For me, what makes a rebuke tolerable or not is the heart behind it. If someone is trying to show me up, catch me out or just downright embarrass me, then I have little time for it. If, however, they are generally trying to help me, turn me away from some destructive behaviour or to improve my performance in some way, then I gladly accept it.

The “open” part might be harder to handle than the rebuke itself. We might be able to take a rebuke conducted privately where no one else can see. We certainly do not want others to see the mistakes we have made or to be aware of our faults and failings. Something about a public correction seems far worse than a private one… and could that simply be pride? We tend to portray a certain persona to the world around us, and rarely let our guard down except with close friends or loved ones. An open rebuke may allow others a glimpse beyond the veil of our external personality.

Given this, in what way is “hidden love” worse?

I am reminded of these verses from James’ letter.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17 (NLT)

This situation is similar to hidden love. While the character here may bestow good wishes on this individual in need, they do nothing to actually help them. Hidden love, likewise, may make one feel warm and fuzzy, but does no good to the one being loved.

I may love my wife and children, but if I do not show that love at any point, then it is hidden.

Hidden love appears identical to “no love”.

Hidden love appears identical to “no love”.

At least if someone rebukes me, I know that they care. Someone who cares nothing for me will simply let me continue in error. But a friend will point out my fault, and help me get back on to the right road.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

Hebrews 12:5-6

These verses from Hebrews remind us that God’s love is not hidden, and that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves. Discipline is a sign of love, believe it or not. When I discipline my children, it is not because I am some mean ogre, but rather because I do not want them to engage with sin, danger or behaviour which will not set them up for a good life. While I take no pleasure in rebuking, it is more loving to point out the danger than to ignore it.

Imagine a person walking towards an open pit and not realising it is there. It is not loving for me to avoid telling them about it, for fear of rejection or how they might react. No, I tell them, “Look out!”

There are a number of ways we can apply this verse in our lives.

Firstly, do not be offended when someone tries to set you straight. For the most part, we must trust that people have our best intentions at heart. Take their rebuke to the Lord and see how He directs you. If it is a true rebuke, it will lead you to repentance and change. If it is not, you can move on and not waste your energy on offense.

Secondly, do not hide your love. If you care about someone, then show them! This is not about rebuking them left, right and centre, but love them in every way you can. Don’t just wish them well, as James points out, actually do something they can see or feel.

Lastly, is there anyone in your life whom you need to challenge? Make sure it is your place to do so. If some random stranger started rebuking me in a coffee shop, I probably won’t respond all that well! Why? Because they have no place or right to speak into my life. If my wife comes and points something out, then that is very different. She has more than earned the right to correct me, and I trust her to do so. We err when we think we have the right to tell anyone we like what we think.

Pray about it before you decide to confront. Let the Lord guide you carefully. He will show you if it is you who should do it, and the timing and the words you need. Humbly ask Him if you need the same message yourself first.

Thanks for reading!

No Stones Were Thrown

I was reading John 8 this morning, and in particular the account of the “Woman caught in adultery.” I take slight issue with that title, as no woman (or man for that matter) can be caught in “solo” adultery. As far as I am aware, it takes two to tango and so the guilty man in this case is a notable absence.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6 (NIV)

Notice how the Pharisees had little regard for this woman’s dignity. They forced her to stand in the midst of this crowd, enhancing her humiliation. While adultery is no crime in our day and age (although still very much a sin), in those days it was plain criminal. A little humiliation was perhaps the least of her worries however.

The Pharisees think they have Jesus cornered. He has two apparent choices; 1) to condemn her and permit them to stone her to death, or 2) to let her go unpunished, and thus break the Mosaic Law. To choose option 1 would dent Jesus’ reputation before the crowds that followed Him, and option 2 gave the Teachers of the Law grounds against Him.

Jesus says not one word. Instead, He bends down and begins to write on the ground. It is infuriating to not know what was written. Why would the author include such a detail if he was not going to give us the full picture? That, in fact, gives the text some credibility. If this were fictional, you would simply not include such a loose end. The truth of this narrative shows an honest report of what happened, even with this glaring omission. The author most likely did not know what was written.

We can take a stab however, guessing that as the finger of God wrote on the stony ground, that it is connected to the Ten Commandments written in stone all those years ago.

Assuming this is correct, as the gathered crowd read each commandment in turn, they realise their own sinfulness. Jesus challenged only those without sin to throw the stone at her, and not one did. The oldest left first, perhaps more aware of their own failings than the youth, but in the end Jesus remained alone with the woman.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:9-11 (NIV)

No one in the crowd condemns the woman, as no one had the right to. The only One without sin, and the only One legitimately able to cast the stone at her chooses not to.

I am astonished at His words to her.

“Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”

Be aware of the order of this. Jesus releases her from condemnation first, then instructs her to leave her life of sin. Were it the other way around, she (and we) might believe that we might first cleanse ourselves of sin before we can go out without condemnation. But not so! He releases us first, and in response, we leave our sins behind.

In the same way, God led the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt before giving them the Law. It was not the case at all that God demanded perfect performance from them before He would act. Instead, He rescues them and later deals with their obedience.

I imagine myself in this account, most often as the woman caught. You can swap out adultery for any number of sins here, and still the premise holds. I stand before the Lord, and He has every right to condemn me for my sin. My head is bowed, and I am ashamed. I wait for the stone to impact me, and the pain that would follow. Yet it never comes. I dare not look up and into those eyes.

There is still a big part of me that feels I must earn God’s favour. When I am conscious of my sin, I pull away from God, believing myself to be unworthy to enter His presence. I have it backwards. He has dealt with my sins (and yours) once and for all. We enter into His presence, not because we are good enough, but because of His shed blood on the cross.

As we accept and rejoice in that truth, it spurs us on to a life where we no longer tolerate sin. We will never achieve perfection on this Earth, but we strive against sin and its effects as an act of praise to our glorious and generous God.

Reflect on this truth from Romans:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Romans 8:1 (NIV)

As you meditate on this, soak it up and marinate (for want of a better word) in the fact that you face no condemnation whatsoever, let that lead to a life without habitual sin.

You cannot earn God’s forgiveness, and have no need to. It has been bought and paid for. Enjoy that gift, and live holy to please your Lord.

He is Our Rock (Psalm 92 #3) – Andy Brown

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…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/04/28/he-is-our-rock-psalm-92-3/

Marriage Matters – Longevity & the D Word, S1, E1

I love the resources that this faithful family produce… In this one about marriage is no different! I highly encourage you to give it a watch!

And while you are there, do you subscribe to their blog and newsletter.

Andy and Jo kick off this brand-new series of Marriage Matters, looking at how we keep going and they go there – they talk openly about the D word – …

Marriage Matters – Longevity & the D Word, S1, E1

Musings From the Gospel of John – Number 38

God has been speaking to me lately about the very issues this post raises. And I share it for your encouragement today.

I find myself constantly encouraged but regularly challenged by the writings on Bruces blog. do take some time to check out the other posts and be blessed yourselves.

The Scriptures covered in this post are from John 15:9-14 NASB. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; remain in My love. If you …

Musings From the Gospel of John – Number 38