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

Inseparable

To be honest, I have been mulling this post over for a couple of days. It is not controversial in any way, it is just that I have struggled to articulate what God has shown me. It is not some huge revelation either, simply that God met me where I was at, and through His Word spoke directly into my situation. Has such a thing ever happened to you? I’m sure it has…

A few days ago I wrote a post entitled Ask and Believe – linked here – where I prayed about something and the answer came. In an entirely opposite way, I prayed for something else and unfortunately the exact opposite happened. It did not shake my faith or anything so grand, as I am slowly learning to trust in God’s will for my life. The unanswered prayer led me to a choice I did not want to have to make, and neither could I put it off. I have since been anxious that I made the wrong decision.

In those moments of fear and worry, I was directed to read the following Bible verses. The comfort they brought is really the intangible substance I am struggling to describe. Perhaps it is best to simply let the words speak for themselves.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Paul was entirely convinced, that is – fully persuaded – that nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus. I was not convinced, based on my initial feelings, until God so gently reminded me of this truth.

The things that Paul lists here are heavy hitters. Death, demons, the powers of hell – none of these things will ever be able to remove us from God’s love.

I have been reading these verses over and over, and letting them minister to me. There is nothing – simply nothing – in all creation that can pull us away from the gravity of God’s love. We are inseparable.

When our prayers do not get the answer we wanted, or when we face times of great difficulty, it can be all too easy to start to doubt God’s love. Yet in Christ and what He did at the cross, there is an immovable, unchanging, eternal testimony of that love.

God’s love does not equal instant access to a 100% prayer record, nor a complete trouble-free existence, but it does mean that no matter what happens, He will be right there with you in the thick of it. He is trustworthy. You can fully rely on Him. That love gives you an assurance that when you one day stand before Him, there will be nothing that separates you from His presence. When we put our trust in Christ, receiving that love and submitting to Him, our sins are washed away and our place with Him is irrevocable.

I needed that assurance this week. Perhaps you will need it today? Put Romans 8 before your eyes, read it aloud and trust that you cannot be separated from His unfailing love.

No created thing can come between you and God’s love when you are fully committed to Christ. There is but One who is not created, and that is God Himself. You are anchored and fixed in that love. Draw on that truth this day and always.

Time

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog over the last month. This week however my time has been extremely limited and I have not written nearly as much as I would have liked. Can you relate?

I do not want to make a habit of putting up older posts but i’ve written a fair few articles over the last three years and some of the newer followers may not have seen them all. When I simply cannot write something you for whatever reason, I will try to share an older post here for your enjoyment.

To be perfectly honest, I get frustrated with myself when I cannot carve out the time or headspace to write. If you’re anything like me, then you put enormous pressure on yourself to deliver! It just so happens that I was flicking through some older posts and found this one.

It is about using our time for the benefit of others. Now that is a good use of time!

For those who are not familiar, every so often I put out a shorter post which I described as pearls of wisdom. I tried to offer a nuggets of wisdom and a few thoughts to go alongside it. These have proved popular so I do hope you enjoy this particular one below.

If you can spare a prayer for me at the moment, then I would truly appreciate it. Life is good and I cannot complain. We have a number of things going on all at once so I would value your prayers so that I can keep God at the centre of it all. And ideally, find some time to write!

Bless you today.

andy-brown.org/2020/04/27/people-are-a-good-use-of-time-pow/

Prayer for a Monday

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this new week and for the opportunities it gives us to serve and worship You. Thank you that you go with us into this week, and we take great comfort knowing that that we do not face it alone.

Lord, we may think we know what this week will bring-both good and bad. But what ever surprises this week may have in store for us, may we grasp every opportunity for you, and rise above any storm which may come.

Please protect us from any temptation which we may face. Give us the strength to say no to sin, and yes to you.

We pray for opportunities to share our faith, and to show the people in our lives the love of Christ. Give us the correct words, in the correct way, and at the right time, to bring others one step nearer to Jesus.

As we work, rest, and play this week, may we do it all for you and your glory! Please help us to keep you in your rightful place at the very centre of our lives.

May we be ever rooted and grounded in your love. help us to know the eternal depths of that love from which we can never be separated.

We worship and praise you this day! we give you thanks for every good thing in our lives! We do not forget you’re unending blessing, or your unfailing love!

May that love drive us forward to live fully for you. Help us put to death the sinful nature of our flesh, and to pick up our cross and follow you.

In the mighty and holy name of Jesus Christ, we pray! Amen

A Father’s Day Blessing

I literally could not say it any better than Bruce has in the below post. All fathers, give it a good read and do think about following Bruces blog

We fathers need a huge amount of grace. None of us are perfect, and off an hour mistakes outweigh the things we do right. praise God that our Father in heaven does not hold it against us. In fact, he gave his only son that every mistake we have ever made will be blotted out and forgotten.

My prayer is that we fathers learn to love is our heavenly father loves.

Bruce always ends his posts with the phrase worthy is the lamb! And I join him today. Worthy indeed is the Lamb of God!

A father is someone who is supposed to love you, protect you, provide for you and guide you and most importantly, be an example to their children, of…

A Father’s Day Blessing

A Protective Father – Andy Brown

Last year, I wrote a series of blog posts on the early part of the book of acts. The below post, which is about a protective father seems appropriate for this fathers day!

To all of the fathers out there, I wish you a very happy Father’s Day! It is both a very difficult and very rewarding job to raise children in this difficult world. Be encouraged and God bless you and your children today.

At long last, we move on to Acts 5. This chapter opens with a rather disturbing set of events, and I want to try to shed some light on what is happening here. This particular passage is a difficult one, and I admit to having struggled with it for many years. I will explain why,…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/06/16/a-protective-father/

Confront (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Refusing to confront someone’s sin, is refusing to love them.

When we see a Christian brother or sister dabbling with sin, or worse, tangled up in it, it is the loving thing to do to gently point this out to them. Ignoring the issue will not solve the problem. By not confronting them, we are not valuing them enough to say something. It is like someone crossing a road and not seeing the truck heading their way… if we do not cry out to warn them, then how can we possibly claim to love them?

Sin is not just dangerous, it is deadly. One of the main reasons we do not confront sin is because often we do not take it seriously enough. In my truck illustration above, the danger is very real. The danger of sin is no less real, but somehow we don’t recognise it as such.

One reason for not confronting others about sin is because we are afraid of how they might react. This is understandable of course, but if done in the right way, and by someone who truly cares, we must hope and pray they are mature enough to receive.

We also do not confront sin because we feel unworthy to do so. We look at our own lives and recognise the sins we struggle with, and therefore conclude we have no right to speak into another’s life. This is likewise understandable. You do not have to be perfect to help someone with sin, but you do have to be humble.

Before I close, I do want to add that this does not give you the right to walk about your church, pointing out all the sins, mistakes and issues you see. Going around looking for things to confront people about is certainly not loving. As someone once said, “You are not Holy Ghost Junior!” Let God do His perfect work in others, and yourself too.

If you live life with others for long enough, sooner or later you will encounter sin in their life. This is not negative, but a fact of our fallen reality. Be ready to carefully and respectfully direct them away from sin and its consequences. Be prepared for others to love you in that same way.

Every blessing to you!

Listening Speed

So, then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger;

James 1:19 (WEB)

No one ever got a speeding ticket for listening too fast.

I don’t know if it’s ok to have favourites in the Bible, but the book of James is certainly one of mine! This verse in particular has meant a lot to me over the years, and as it happens, has popped up a couple of times in my Bible study recently. Clearly, God is bringing it to my attention once again.

Being slow to speak or to become angry is clear to understand. It means that before leaping into hot anger or letting our words erupt uncontrolled, we should take a breath, be slow and considerate and then speak carefully. I hope this is reasonably obvious to most of you, and so I’m not going to focus on that today.

Instead, what does it mean to be quick to listen? I am “listening” all of the time, and so how can I do it any faster?

As I say above, no one has ever been given a ticket for breaking the listening speed limit… but what is the difference between fast and slow listening?

It comes back to a difference between hearing and listening, I think. While I may hear most everything that goes on around me, do I really listen to it? If my phone is in my hand, or the radio is on, and one of my family are speaking to me – am I really listening?

Hearing is passive, but listening is active. It takes effort. It takes selflessness. It means putting aside what we are doing, or what we want to do, and focussing our attention on someone else. It takes discipline too, if you have a wandering mind like me, or if you are already thinking of what you want to say next rather than absorbing what is being said.

So what does it mean to be “quick to listen?” I think it is the gap between hearing the sound of someone’s words, and switching on our listening ears.

I often have to pull up my children on this point. I can see them staring at a screen, ask them to do something, get a mumbled reply and no follow up action. I repeat myself, with added frustration, until they convert the hearing of my words into genuine listening and response. I roll my eyes and say “Those kids never listen!” But am I any different?

Friends of ours reported a similar incident between husband and wife. The wife of the story was talking to her husband about something, and a few days later it transpired he had no memory of their conversation. “Where was I when you were talking to me about this?” he asked. “You were sat right there, watching the football!” retorted the wife. “Oh…” says the husband, recognising that his attention was no doubt so fixated on the game that he did not receive one word that she said.

He heard, but did not listen.

How fast can you switch from hearing your spouse, child or friend to really listening to them? To getting your attention off of yourself and what you are doing, and turning it fully on them? That, I believe, is what James is talking about.

Listening to someone is a real act of love. So many people just want to be heard – really heard. You can do that for someone today.

And remember… no one was ever caught on speed camera for listening too well!

God bless you today!

God’s Love for you – A Journey with Jesus

I am still having a few technical issues with WordPress, and cannot upload any videos at the moment. I’ve put the latest video in my Lent series on Facebook, and posted the link below. Hope you are able to view it there.

In this video, I talk about how important it is to understand God’s love for you. Enjoy!

https://fb.watch/3PfG5TJKc4/

Stir One Another Up

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Hebrews 10:24 (ESVUK)

During this protracted time of lockdown and COVID restrictions, it can be hard to stay motivated. Last week, for instance, I had a lot on my mind and found most things something of a drag. We do need to overpower such feelings at times, and do what we need to, but they can also be a signal of the need to rest or reflect.

Here in the UK, we have at least six weeks of “stay home!” to look forward to. It can feel constrictive and limiting, but let us not forget to be grateful we have a home to be locked down into.

When we find ourselves stuck in a rut, we have to choose whether to dig ourselves in further, or to stir ourselves up and out of that position. Our verse for today from Hebrews encourages us to do the latter.

Consider

The first thing we are told to do is to “consider.” To consider means to think carefully about something, particularly in regards to making some kind of decision. Like so many things in life, very few things occur by accident. We must be intentional about how we live our lives, and not just go with the flow.

Here, we are instructed to consider – to consider how to stir one another up. This requires effort on our part. It requires us to engage the brain, and to focus not on our own needs (or our own “rut”) but to pay deliberate attention to others. Use your mental energy not to grumble about how tough the lockdown is, but on ways you can support and encourage others.

COVID restrictions do limit what we can do – that’s the point of them! But it does not mean we can do nothing. Even if we are completely out of ideas, God is not, and we can seek Him and His guidance to know what we can do – in our situation – to stir one another up.

Love and Good Works

Stir one another up? To do what? The author of Hebrews is pretty clear here. We stir one another up to love and good works.

When I first began to write this post, I separated these out as two sections; one for Love and one for Good Works. But as I come to write it now, I realise that you cannot separate the two. As James points out in his letter, how can one demonstrate their faith without good deeds? Likewise, how do we demonstrate our love for one another? By performing good works towards each other.

So how do we stir one another up in this way?

In some ways, this blog sets out to try to do that. I am hoping that you are encouraged by what you read here, and it will indeed stir you up to love and good works. If that’s true for you, why not share it with someone else who might enjoy it?

If you don’t have a blog or similar platform, then there’s a good chance you have a social media account of one form or another. Whatever flavour you have; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. how can you use it to be a force for love in the world? How can you encourage your Christian brothers and sisters through it?

I have said it before, likely more than once, but even if you can do nothing else, you can certainly pray. There is no one who does not need a healthy dose of prayer coverage right now, and you can be the one to have the immense privilege of kneeling before God and bringing their needs to Him. Pray through your church directory, phone book or for every person who sent you a Christmas card last year.

In our home, we have a set of lolly sticks with our friends, family and church family written on it. We select a stick at random and pray for whoever we draw. We trust God that whoever we pick out is in need of prayer that day.

I am certain there are a thousand other ideas you can come up with. This is where the “consider” part of the verse comes in. Set aside a short time and grab a notebook, mind map as many ideas as you can to reach out and encourage someone today. Even if you are not in a position to fulfil the idea yourself, post it online and see if someone else can run with your idea.

The best gift you can give someone today is Jesus Christ. Point them to Him in some way. Whether in or out of the church family, we can all bring someone one step closer to Christ with our love and good works.

I would love to hear some of your ideas today, so please do comment below or on any of the social media feeds. Imagine if everyone in the church came up with five ideas and shared them, and if we all did our bit, how much good could we do in the name of Jesus this week alone?

Meditate on this verse today, and let it stir you up this week

Our Example of Suffering

Due to ongoing COVID restrictions in our area, our church is holding a shorter, socially-distanced service in the building, followed by an online service straight afterwards. In the “live” services at the moment, we are working through a series on the “canticles” of the Bible. In case you are not familiar with the term, a canticle is simply a hymn, typically focussed on a specific biblical text.  

It was my privilege to be able to share a few thoughts this morning on the canticle called “The Song of Christ the Servant” based on 1 Peter 2:21-25. Here follows a written version of what I said this morning in church.  

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 

22 “He committed no sin, 

    and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 

1 Peter 2:21-25 (NIV)

I want to share a few thoughts with you today about the subject of suffering… and believe me, I know it is perhaps not the most exciting of subjects!  

If I asked you whether Christ was your example, I would imagine many of you would say a definite “Yes!” Christians the world over look to follow the example of Jesus and live as He did. Yet, if I asked you to follow Christ’s example in suffering, I would expect there to be at least a little hesitation.  

None of us enjoy suffering, and it is something we try to avoid at great cost. In our canticle today though, we see that Christ suffered for us, and that we ought to follow His example. Does that mean we are to seek out and jump straight into suffering wherever we can? I think not. Rather, I think we need only to live and sooner or later, suffering will find us in one form or another.  

As Christ said: 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

John 16:33 (NIV)

As long as we live in this world, we will indeed face troubles and suffering. I am not trying to be negative here, but it is a sad fact of life in this fallen world that trouble will come. Specifically though, for the Christian, we will no doubt suffer for the name of Christ. This is the thrust of Peter’s point here. The world did not and does not recognise Christ, and we, His followers, will always suffer for bearing His Name in this world.  

So, if we must suffer, how are we to act while enduring it? These words from Peter give us some ideas.  

For You 

Christ did indeed suffer, but it was not for Himself, it was for you. When we suffer, we must do so for other people and for our God.  

Whenever we put someone else first, we are making a sacrifice of some kind or another. When we act in a way that prefers others to ourselves, we are denying ourselves for their sake. Perhaps it may only be in some small way, but to put others first, we must put ourselves behind.  

In a greater way, we are to suffer for Christ.  

Peter says, in the preceding verses of 1 Peter 2: 

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 

1 Peter 2:20 (NIV)

There is no credit to us if we suffer because we’ve done wrong. If we break the law of the land, we can hardly claim any hardship for suffering. Yet, if we do what is right before God, and still suffer because and for our faith, then we are commended before the Lord.  

As it says in verse 22, Jesus committed no sin and yet was punished. He did not deserve the suffering He faced, but we, who cannot claim to be without sin, somehow feel we should be exempt from sharing in the sufferings of Christ. For many Christians living in the Western world, we have faced little in the way of persecution in recent times. That tide is turning it seems, and as we choose to live in a godly way, we will indeed face persecution from the world around us.  

So, if we must suffer, let us do so for Him, and for those around us. Let us show by example, that we suffer for the cause of the Gospel and for the benefit of others.  

Do Not Retaliate  

When Jesus was threatened, He did not threaten in return. When Christ was insulted, He did not respond in kind. Rather than using His authority and power to strike down those who abused Him, He chose instead to repay evil with good.  

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Romans 12:21 (NIV)

This is the example we are to follow when we likewise suffer. We are not to repay evil for evil, but good. When we are threatened or insulted because of our faith, we must not insult or threaten in return.  

That is not to say we should allow ourselves to be abused or mistreated for any reason at all, and where we can, we should flee from those who would harm us.  

Trust in Him Who Judges Justly 

When we suffer at the hands of others, we long for justice. An eye for an eye! We may cry! Yet, if we are following Christ’ example, we cannot retaliate against those who hurt us. Instead of doing so, Jesus trusted Himself to the One who judges justly – that is, God the Father.  

In the midst of deep suffering, it can be difficult to trust in God. We want to understand why we are facing the trouble we are, and we beg for Him to change it. This is not wrong.  

Yet we must learn to place our complete trust in God. When we are wronged, it is not our place to punish others. We cast our care onto the Lord, and we trust that He – the Ultimate Judge – will one day put right every wrong.  

God is indeed Sovereign, meaning He is in total control. That is a difficult doctrine to swallow during times of suffering. Why, we ask, would God allow such things to happen to us? Such answers may come, or they may not, but either way, we must learn that all God does is for His ultimate glory. God’s primary interest is not our comfort, but His glory. So, if we suffer, we do so for His glory, and we are glad to do so.  

Live for Righteousness 

The canticle concludes by pointing out what Christ’s suffering has achieved for us. He bore our sins in His very own body, He took the wounds that we deserve, and by doing so, He made a way for us to die to our sins and live for righteousness. Put simply, He paid the penalty for our sin, and by trusting in His work, we gain righteousness – that is, right standing with God the Father.  

Verse 25 uses the analogy of sheep. We were once lost sheep, wandering around at risk and in danger. But because of what Jesus did for us, we are reunited with our Good Shepherd, and will rest under His protection for all eternity.  

Christ’s suffering was not pointless, and neither is yours.  

Christ’s suffering was not in vain. His wounds, death and resurrection not only achieved your salvation from your sin, but the pinnacle of all glory unto God.  

If, when we suffer, we do so as Christ did, then we too can bring glory to God. When people around us see how we suffer, when they see that we do not return threats and insults, but instead trust in God’s justice, then they will want to know more about this Christ and what He has done.  

Let your suffering be a banner which draws many to Jesus. Amen!  

Love or Jealousy (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

If you truly love someone, then it is impossible to be jealous of them

Jealousy is an ugly thing. It is not something we talk much about today, and yet it is a prevalent problem in our society.

To be jealous of someone is to want what they have. Worse, it is to think that they don’t deserve it and that we do. At the heart of jealousy is selfishness. We look on what others have, want it, and our attention is all on ourselves. It may cause us to bitterness, it may cause us to act to undermine the other person, or in extreme cases we may even steal or destroy the very thing we want to prevent them from having it.

None of these are acts of love.

To love someone – to truly love them – is to want the absolute best for them. It has nothing to do with what we do or don’t have, it is just about them having the best. If we love someone and want them to have the very best they can, then it is impossible to be jealous of them. Even if they have the very things we want, that is all overridden by our desire for them to have the very best.

To love is to put them first. It is to put their needs ahead of our own. It is to focus on them and not on ourselves.

The cure for jealousy is love. I put it to you that if you are jealous of someone today, then you perhaps don’t love them truly.

Is there someone you are jealous of right now? What steps can you take to love them better?

Have a great day!