Quick update

I hope this blog post finds you well?

I just wanted to post a quick update on why I have been so quiet on the blog these last few days. I am pleased to say that all is well, and actually just taking a few days off of work to spend time with family.

Life, as ever, has been rather hectic of late! I saw an opportunity to take a few days rest, and grabbed it with both hands!

How often do you take time to rest and relax? when you have a strong work ethic, or even a works mentality, it can be very difficult to switch off and relax for a while. Every single one of us needs to stop and rest at times however.

Let us not forget that even our wonderful God, who is infinite in power, took time to rest at the end of creation. This was not because he was tired, but simply because he wanted to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Likewise, he built a specific command in the 10 Commandments for us to take time each week to just rest in his presence.

Perhaps it is not possible for you to take an entire day each week just to rest. But the principle remains, that each of us should take time to re-energise so that we might continue to serve him with gladness.

Whether we work in a secular job, ministry or at home, too many of us burn out because we do not stop often enough. Don’t let that be you dear reader!

Let’s pray:

Father God, we thank you for your loving grace and mercy towards us who believe. Thank you that you are the one who gives us the strength we need for each and every day.

For all who are weary, I pray that you may give them strength and rest.

Help us not to be so busy that we ceased to be fruitful.

As we lift up our voices in prayer and praise, may our strength be renewed.

We worship you, loving father! thank you for your enduring love. Thank you that you walk with us through our everyday lives.

Thank you for the times when you carious, when our strength is gone.

In the mighty and glorious name of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

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/

Sing To The Lord!

I really do encourage you to check out Allens blog-Devotional Treasures. you certainly won’t regret it!

Formonthills Nature Reserve, Glenrothes, Fife. Photo by Alan Kearns Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and …

Sing To The Lord!

Beloved Christians (Psalm 100 #6)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (ESV)

Today we conclude our short series on Psalm 100. Verse five culminates in a crescendo of praise and focusses solely on our Heavenly Father.

The Lord is good

Verse five tells us a simple truth – that the Lord is good. When things get difficult, or we look at the problems of the world, it can be easy to forget this fact. If God is so good, then why… <insert here>? We have all asked this at times, and there are no answers that can satisfy this side of heaven I believe.

The suffering of the world, and the pain we experience, does not disprove the existence of a “good” God. This world is broken, corrupted by sin and far removed from what God had originally intended. Yet He has not left us in this mess, alone and uncared for. The cross has said it all. God is indeed good because He came down into this fallen place, lived perfectly and died for each of us.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 (NIV)

This verse from James not only tells us that God is the source of every good thing, but that He is ever unchanging. He is good now, and will always be.

Enduring Love

Psalm 100:5 goes on to say that God’s steadfast love endures forever. This continues the theme of the verse from James above, in that God is unchanging. The word “steadfast” (describing God’s love) can be defined as “fixed in direction.” God’s love is not whimsical. It depends not on our behaviour, and His mood. He loves you today, and He will love you just the same tomorrow. You can count on it!

I have sometimes heard Christians say, and probably been guilty of saying it myself, “I just don’t feel that God loves me…” God’s love is not dependent on mere feelings. When your feelings are in disagreement with God’s Word, it is your feelings that are wrong, not the Bible. Whether you feel the love of Christ or not, you can know without a shadow of a doubt that it is true. This is but one of many verses which extol the permanence and endurance of God’s love for all of the saints.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)

What a prayer! And I pray it for you dear reader, and please do pray it for me!

Faithful to all generations

Psalm 100 closes with words about God’s faithfulness. God is faithful to His people, and we can rely on Him and His Word without question. God is true to His Word, and if He has said it, you can consider it done.

God is not just faithful to us however, but also to the generations that come after us. This is another sign of His steadfastness and consistency. We can rely on the fact that God is no respecter of persons, and that He will bless my children in the same way He has blessed me. Too few of us take a generational view, thinking primarily of our own lives. If the Lord tarries however, then a new generation will rise up after us and we are responsible to them.

We can trust in the goodness of God, and we can know that God’s faithfulness will remain for those who come after us.

Summary

Psalm 100 may only be short, but I hope it has encouraged you as we have plumbed its depths in the last few posts. It is no doubt a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving to our Creator God, and I want you to come way with many reasons to “shout for joy!”

You are a “Beloved Christian!” That is the culmination of this psalm. God’s love endures, and as a result we have much to thank and worship Him for. God’s love for each of us is reciprocated, and in turn we live to serve Him with gladness. We belong to Him, marked as His people, and so live our lives in gratitude for all that He has done for us.

Are there parts of this passage which really stand out to you? Is God saying something in particular to you during this season of your life? As we read and study the Bible, it should often lead to some form of change in our lives. This might be a specific action you take – like starting all of your prayers with words of thanks – or it may be less tangible than that. Has this psalm provoked you to action? I’d love to hear from you if it has.

Serve the Lord with gladness! Give thanks unto Him, and bless His Name!

Further posts in this series, if you wish to read more, are:

Shouting Christians #1

Serving Christians #2

Singing Christians #3

Created Christians #4

Thankful Christians #5

Thankful Christians (Psalm 100 #5)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (ESV)

Thankful Christians…? Is there any other kind? A Christian who does not give thanks, is like a Christian who does not pray!

This psalm directs us to enter the gates of our God with thanksgiving. Even in the midst of terrible trouble, we have much to be grateful for. It should not take us long to reel off a list of things we can thank the Lord for.

It was a privilege recently to record an interview with “understand the Bible.” When the video comes out, I’ll share it here so you can see it. One of the questions I was asked was, “Why do Christians pray?” Had you never heard of prayer, and studied our prayer lives to find the answer, what would you say? If you are anything like me, one might study my prayer life and say that prayer is “asking God for things.” Of course, this is woefully inadequate, and yet our prayer lives reflect little more than “petition” at times.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it again, but in our prayer lives, our praise should always outweigh our petition. We should thank God and worship Him with far greater frequency than we make demands of Him.

As we “enter His gates” why not use this as the primary way to start off your prayer time. Enter the prayer time with thanksgiving. Tell God what you are especially grateful for right now, and let that overflow into praise.

Verse four concludes by again telling us to give thanks, but also to “bless His name!” Could it be that by giving thanks, we are blessing His name? Is it a blessing to the Lord when He hears His people expressing their gratitude? I think so.

Being thankful is an admission of how good we have it. It helps us remember that no matter whatever else is going on, we do have some positives to focus on. The Bible is full of exhortations to thank God, and I for one am convicted that I should be doing it all the more.

How about you? On a scale of 1-10, how thankful would you rate yourself? Be honest…

Let us all get into a habit of being grateful. Help each other by commenting below with tings you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long, even one-word answers will inspire each of us to say “thank you!” to God for something.

It must go deeper than just saying the words however. I train my children to say “thank you,” after we give them something they have asked for. For a long time (even years) they may repeat the words out of pure habit. Hopefully, sooner or later though, they will learn that thankfulness is in actuality an attitude of the heart.

A heart which is not thankful is one which is arrogant. It demands, or even, expects to have whatever it wants. A humble heart though gives thanks for even the smallest of contributions. One who is humble and thankful recognises what others have done, and acknowledges it.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever! Amen!

Further posts in this series, if you wish to read more, are:

Shouting Christians #1

Serving Christians #2

Singing Christians #3

Created Christians #4

Created Christians (Psalm 100 #4)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (ESV)

We pick up where we left off at verse three of this fantastic psalm. We have so far thought about us shouting and singing to the Lord, and also how we can serve Him with gladness. Today we turn our thoughts to who God is, and the fact that He made each one of us.

Verse three in the ESV Bible (as above) tells us to know the Lord, he is God! This word “Lord” here is again the Holy Name of God – Yahweh – which is often rendered Lord or LORD in other Bibles.

In our society, we use the word “God” a great deal. Sometimes it is a simple curse, but other times just a flippant throw away term. Other religions use the same word – God. Christians believe in “God” but so do Muslims or Jews, and then other religions such as Hinduism believe in more than one god.

My point is that we may all use those same three letters, but we mean very different things by it. The God of the Bible, of both the Old and New Testament, is the LORD – Yahweh, and He is God!

We, Christians, must never fall into the trap of believing that any religion that claims to follow God is actually doing so. There is One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He is the One this psalm sings of.

This God is the One Who made us – we are Created Christians.

The Bible opens with the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (see Genesis 1:1). Understanding and accepting that truth is critical in grasping the full extent of the Gospel. As our society strays further and further away from this truth, we fall further from God and deeper into sinfulness.

If we are indeed “created,” then we are not the top of the food chain. We are not the masters of our own destiny, nor are we supreme or sovereign. Humanity may be the pinnacle of all created things, made in the very image of God, yet we are not equal to God Himself. We have a Creator, and we are His (see verse three above, again!).

If we really did just evolve from the ether, then humanity is nothing more than the mere product of chance. And, may I add, the “chance” is so small you would have better odds of winning the lottery every week for the rest of your life in comparison! Spontaneous life without a Creator has no meaning. We are no more than animals who come and go, and life has no meaning.

Thank the Lord God this is not so! We were made by a Loving Creator, we belong to Him and we belong to each other. Verse three also tells us that we are His people. We are not individuals, but a crowd. We are a people who belong, and belong to Him!

The Bible often uses the analogy of sheep and their Shepherd.

As above:

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3 (ESV)

And here:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1 (NKJV)

And perhaps the ultimate example:

I am the good shepherd. (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-12,15,22) The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn’t own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. 13 The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn’t care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own;

John 10:11-14 (WEB)

I have left in a couple of the references which also point to Scriptures about sheep and Shepherds.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep of His pasture. He laid down His life for each of us, bearing our burdens and sin on His very own shoulders that we might go free. The world may not value you, but Christ does! If you ever feel worthless, remember that Jesus poured out His blood for you.

Now that makes we want to shout (or make a joyful noise at least!)

We thank You Lord Jesus that You died for us! Thank You that You became as one of Your created beings, suffered and died that we might live. We shout for joy to You today! Praise Your Holy Name! We recognise that You are indeed God, the Creator of all things. We humbly surrender to You and Your Lordship. In the Name of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ! Amen!

Further posts in this series, if you wish to read more, are:

Shouting Christians #1

Serving Christians #2

Singing Christians #3

Singing Christians (Psalm 100 #3)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

Today, we continue our look at Psalm 100 and it might only be a short one, as I intend to focus only on the second part of verse two! If you want to catch up on the previous posts in this series, then the first was Shouting Christians and the second was Serving Christians.

Verse two continues “Come into his presence with singing!”

It is a simple and straightforward phrase, but we should not gloss over it without thought. It directs us to enter the presence of Almighty God… that ought to make us pause!

Imagine a royal throne room, its grandeur and splendour, and a great king or queen seated on a high throne above the crowd. Whatever picture you have in your mind, it pales in comparison to the heavenly throne room where the King of kings is sat at the right hand of God! This is the place we are directed to enter – the very presence of God! I imagine myself almost crawling in, wearing filthy clothes and my head bowed so far departed do I feel from the holiness of that place.

And yet…

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

And:

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

1 Peter 1:18-19 (NLT)

We enter that throne room, and into the very presence of God, not on our own merit, but because we have been bathed in the precious blood of Christ. We have been made righteous by inheriting His Righteousness, and we are made holy, set apart and consecrated for Him. Sin cannot dwell in the presence of God, so it must be dealt with at the cross. Once done, it is done forever and we can walk with confidence before Him.

We come in not quietly, but in song! We are “Singing Christians!”

Singing is somehow universal. All people from all manner of places sing. They may use different languages or styles, but singing is not unfamiliar to any group of people. Singing is somehow or other built into us. Perhaps because God Himself is a Singer?

For the Lord your God is living among you.

    He is a mighty saviour.

He will take delight in you with gladness.

    With his love, he will calm all your fears.

    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Notice that last line – He will rejoice over you with joyful songs! The Lord our God loves to sing, and He has put that same desire in our hearts too.

Singing with others is a bit alien to new believers however. We all sing in the shower, or along with the radio, but where outside of church, do you get together with others and just sing? Unless you are part of a choir (or rugby team!) you probably don’t sing all that much outside of church. We must bear that in mind when we welcome new people into our fellowships, as some of the things we do may seem strange to them!

Singing is not the same as worship, but certainly it can be a vehicle to doing so. God has placed songs in our heart for Him, and irrespective of how good or bad your singing voice may be, each of us can raise our voices in praise of our God.

We sing to God, and we sing to each other about how great our God is. We are singing Christians! Whatever you are doing today, set aside some time to come into the Lord’s presence, and sing your heart out before Him.

Praise His Holy Name!

P.S. – perhaps this post wasn’t as short as I’d led you to believe! Apologies!

Serving Christians (Psalm 100 #2)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

Yesterday, in my post – Shouting Christians – I began talking about Psalm 100. The psalm opens with an encouragement to “shout” or if you are reading from the ESV (as above), then to “make a joyful noise to the Lord!” Before we continue thinking about the next part of the passage, why not pause for a moment and offer the Lord a word or shout of praise?

Verse two instructs us to “Serve the Lord with gladness!” Christians are (or should be) marked out by their acts or even lives of service. We are to be a people known for serving others. The world looks only after itself and its own, whereas we are to put others before ourselves. We sacrifice that others may have.

Bearing that in mind, it is a poor reflection on our society that really does look down on those who would serve. Whether it’s waiting staff in a restaurant, or noble care staff meeting the most basic needs a person can have, it is so sad that such individuals are often looked down upon. We must recognise the massive contribution such “servants” make to our families and our communities.

During the height of the COVID pandemic in the UK, people were encouraged to step outside and onto their front doorstep at 8pm each Thursday evening. There, we would clap and applause our health service staff showing them a small token of our appreciation for their hard work during a very troubling time.

Christians should be serving Christians… but none of this is what this Psalm is really talking about.

Verse two directs us not just to serve, but to serve the Lord. How do we do that? How do we serve the Sovereign God who needs nothing from us? There are a few ways in which I can suggest.

Worship

First and foremost, we serve the Lord by worshipping Him.  This is indeed a psalm which encourages us to do that in myriad ways. There is no shortage of things to thank God for, and studying His character will give you a thousand more reasons.

So many people float through life without purpose. I have been watching a TV show about people who gave up their “normal” lives to live in wild or far-flung places. The show tells their stories; the pain they felt, the reasons they changed everything in their lives, and the dreams they sought and fought for. Yet so many of them, once the battle was over and they had their dreams in their hands, felt lost and unfulfilled. Having achieved all they wanted, they had nothing left to live for.

Not so for the serving Christian! We were created for a specific purpose. Our very nature is established to worship the Living God. If we achieve nothing else in life, we have lived life well if we’ve lived a life dedicated to worshipping Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Dying to Self

I know that the phrase “dying to self” isn’t exactly an exciting one, and neither its alternative “crucifying the flesh.” In simple terms, it means killing off our old sinful nature and its whims. We die to self by starving it of its power. We deny our fleshly desires, and instead choose to follow Christ.

Jesus said:

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (ESV)

We serve God and follow Christ when we deny ourselves, and put God and others first. This is not easy, and as Jesus says above, is a daily exercise of our faith. You cannot deny yourself one time and it be dealt with, instead it takes a lifetime.

With Gladness

Verse two isn’t just about serving God however, but serving Him with gladness. This means to do so cheerfully, and not begrudgingly.

I’ve only given two examples of serving the Lord above, and yet each can be very difficult to do with gladness at certain times. Denying ourselves is rarely easy, but there are times and seasons in life where worship may be a sacrifice. When all is well in our lives, it may be easy to lift up holy hands to the Lord. In times of trial or despair however, it may be a real effort to worship.

Serving God is a privilege that not all accept or relish. We are indeed privileged and humbled to know and be known by the Creator of all things. We are a chosen people, and a Holy Priesthood dedicated an set apart to serve the Lord. The eternal promise of heaven should be more than enough to make us “glad!”

I commented yesterday that I do not find joy the most natural of things (or maybe I cut that out during editing!) I’m not the most exuberant of people, so the idea of shouting for joy isn’t all that easy for me. Joy is a cousin of gladness of course, and so as we turn our attention onto our loving Heavenly Father and off of ourselves and our problems, gladness will soon follow.

What might your service of God look like? It may be slightly different for each of us. If yesterday I encouraged you to be a “shouting Christian,” then today let me exhort you to be a serving one.

Two posts in, and we’ve not yet completed verse two! More from this fabulous psalm another day! God bless.

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!

What about the animals?

Jonah 4:11 (NLT) But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

As I write this, I’m overlooking a sort of forest woodland. In the last few minutes I have seen an abundance of nature! I’ve seen ducks, squirrels, deer, rabbits and even what I think was a stoat.

Due to the Coronavirus, the woodland has largely been abandoned at the moment. I suspect that the sudden drop in guests will quite badly affect the wildlife here. Over time I am sure they have become somewhat dependent on the food given to them by visitors. This area will be closed to the public for several weeks leaving the animals to fend for themselves for a while.

While the sudden drop in available food will be a bit of a shock to them, I am not overly worried about them. God cares for people, but He cares for His creation also.

There have been a number of posts on social media about panic buying and stockpiling. As a result, many food banks and charities have seen a dip in food donations. This is not limited to charities offering support for people either, and a number of animal rescue shelters are struggling too. The Coronavirus is affecting the whole world in myriad ways.

The verse above is quoted from the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. In fact, it is the closing verse of that book. Most people recall that Jonah was once swallowed by a big fish, but in case you don’t know the rest of the story, here is a brief summary.

God called Jonah to preach to the non-Jewish (Gentile) city of Nineveh. Instead, Jonah heads in the complete opposite direction and boards a ship to Tarshish. A great storm swamps the ship, and in the end Jonah confesses to the crew that he is the cause of their struggle. Ultimately they have to throw him overboard to still the storm.

It is at this point – more or less – that Jonah is swallowed by the fish. The fish later spews up the reluctant prophet on to the shoreline, and Jonah finally goes to Ninevah as he was instructed.

Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah and preach because he was afraid the people would listen to him… He knew that if they heard his message, they would repent and turn back to God – and God would forgive them. Imagine that?

After he gives his message, he goes and sits outside the city to see what would happen. The sun is burning hot, and he grows weary. God causes a vine to grow up beside him and offer him some shelter. Later however, a worm comes along and eats the root of the vine so it withers and Jonah loses his shade.

It’s something of an odd story right? Indeed it is, but it is really about who is in charge. God is running the show throughout, and He gives Jonah the vine and quickly takes it away to demonstrate to Jonah that he has no control in the situation. God wants Jonah to realise that He cares for the people of Ninevah.

The book of Jonah closes with the verse above. God tells Jonah He is right to care for the 120,000 people living there. We don’t know what happened to Jonah after this, but let’s hope he learned a lesson!

Perhaps 15 years ago, I had a dog who was very poorly. They had a particularly bad night, and we had to contact an emergency vet. The next day I happened to be reading this closing chapter of Jonah. I’ll always remember that because I recall very vividly this final verse. As well as the 120,000 people, God specifically mentions the animals also.

The word animals here is sometimes translated as cattle, so perhaps refers to farm animals or bovine species. Whatever it refers to though, it is clear that God cares for the animals also.

Animals are a part of God’s creation. While they are not as important as people, they are important. We have a responsibility to take care of them, and must certainly not mistreat them.

Spare a thought this week for all those affected by the Coronavirus. We must prioritise helping people with various needs at this time. We, the church, may not be able to gather together in large numbers, but we can and must continue to be Jesus’ hands and feet on the Earth. Call an isolated family member. Check on an elderly neighbour. Let’s do what we can to share God’s love in this difficult time.

As well as those things, and if you’re not overstretched, do consider whether there are ways to take care of God’s creation also. You might consider grabbing a can of dog food to pass on to a struggling pet owner. Perhaps you could walk a friend’s dog. Maybe, like me, there is a nearby animal shelter who could do with a helping hand at this difficult time.

Like many, I’m deeply disappointed to read stories of fighting in supermarkets and immoral seller hiking up prices. There are plenty of positives stories also, and we – the church – should be leading the way in that.

How can you be a blessing to those around you at this time? And remember, God cares about the animals also.

Lent is Coming

It’s only about a month until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

I know that Christians mark Lent in many ways. Some observe fasting, while others start a spiritual habit.  I knw many who like to read a new book or follow Lent study throughout the period. And here comes the shameless plug…

If you are looking for something to read and study over Lent, then please consider getting a copy of my 40-day devotional – A Journey with Jesus.

It is available from your local Amazon store, both in paperback and Kindle.

It’s also available in large print for those who prefer.

I hope you enjoy it, but more importantly, I hope you grow closer to God as a result.

Feed My Sheep (Audio)

Here is a short talk Andy gave at the Morning Praise service in the Parish Church in St Osyth. It was on John 21:1-19 – text below.

 

After these things, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.”

They told him, “We are also coming with you.” They immediately went out, and entered into the boat. That night, they caught nothing. 4 But when day had already come, Jesus stood on the beach, yet the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus therefore said to them, “Children, have you anything to eat?”

They answered him, “No.”

6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

They cast it therefore, and now they weren’t able to draw it in for the multitude of fish. 7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!”

So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around him (for he was naked), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits[a] away), dragging the net full of fish. 9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fish, one hundred fifty-three; and even though there were so many, the net wasn’t torn.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”

None of the disciples dared inquire of him, “Who are you?” knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Then Jesus came and took the bread, gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was revealed to his disciples, after he had risen from the dead. 15 So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you have affection for me?”

Peter was grieved because he asked him the third time, “Do you have affection for me?” He said to him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I have affection for you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don’t want to go.”

19 Now he said this, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. When he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:1-19 (WEB)