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.

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

June 30 Faithful Living

Paul’s last words to the leaders of the church at Ephesus set quite an example for believers to follow. I also pray that I will be able to say to my …

June 30 Faithful Living

Ask and Believe

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “Ask” which you can read here. It was all about encouraging us to ask of our generous and gracious God.

At that time, I prayed a specific prayer to the Lord and am thrilled to say that it was fulfilled this week. The content of the prayer is not for sharing, but please do join me in thanking and praising our Wonderful Lord for His faithfulness.

Here’s the thing though… I was more than a little surprised when the answer came. What does that say about my faith in general, or in that particular prayer? If we are surprised when God answers our prayers, it is because we did not expect Him to do so. Let me be clear; if we do not expect any answer to our prayers, then why pray in the first place? Prayer is not simply “wishing!”

I am truly humbled to see this answer come, and God has challenged me to not just pray big, but to really expect the answer to come. I have heard Christians pray for something, say “Amen!” and then immediately say, “That probably won’t happen…” Why do we undo our prayers like that!

In the first chapter of the letter of James, it says this:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

James is clearly talking about the subject of wisdom here, and yet what he says about not doubting applies to all that we ask of God.

Verse six tells us to believe but at the same time, not to doubt. These are two separate instructions, I think. Belief and doubt are not mutually exclusive. For the prayer I referred to above, I did believe God when I asked, but I also doubted it would happen. My doubt was not necessarily in God Himself, but rather in a) my deserving b) that it was His will and c) that the ask was too big for me and my faith right now.

I can say wholeheartedly that I did believe when I asked, otherwise I would not have asked at all. But in the gap between the ask and the result, I began to doubt that the answer would come. Can you relate?

James uses the example of a wave to illustrate his point. A wave is neither on the beach nor out to sea. One minute it is in, and the next it is out. I am fortunate to live by the coast, and so when we take a walk alone the shoreline, I am reminded of this truth. I do not wish to be like the wave. When I pray, I want to be fully in – believing that God will come through and not doubting either Him or myself.

That is why it is so important to pray with the Bible. If we are not entirely sure if something is God’s will, then it is hard to have complete faith in it. However, when we pray with the Word of God, we can be sure that what we are asking for is promised by Him. It gives us full assurance of His faithfulness.

So I am going to continue to pray, and pray big! In an attempt to learn my lesson from this experience, I am going to focus on the Generous God we serve, and try not to allow doubt to talk me out of it. If God shows me that the answer is no, then I shall move on to the next thing!

Tell me your praise reports and prayer testimonies. Are you ever surprised by God answering your prayers? Let’s steadfastly remain in Him, trusting in His goodness and glory.

As ever, do send me your prayer requests. I would love to pray for you in whatever capacity I can. Comment below or get in touch. May your prayers be fruitful this week!

Your Government Needs You

The COVID pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges that has faced our generation, many have said. Governments across the world have grappled with its consequences, and whether you think your political leaders have done a good job or not, you cannot deny the scale of the issues they have faced.

The UK appears to be in an unusual place concerning the pandemic. We were heading for a full release of restrictions on 21st June – so call Freedom Day – but due to rising cases of a COVID variant named Delta, our government have pushed this date back to 19th July.

The challenge facing the UK Government does not end on 19th July however, and a whole new set of challenges begins. Many have lost their jobs over the last 18 months, much money has been paid out to businesses forced to close during the lockdown, and our health service faces a massive backlog of treatment they could not give in the last year.

All of this came to mind this morning when reading Proverbs:

When the country is in chaos,
everybody has a plan to fix it—
But it takes a leader of real understanding
to straighten things out.

Proverbs 28:2 (Message)

Whether you think it fair to describe the current state of affairs as “chaos” is down to you. As above however, this country and nearly all others are facing unprecedented times. Things certainly need to be straightened out in one way or another.

The phrase “everybody has a plan to fix it” stood out to me this morning. At every turn, and every choice the Government makes, there will be someone telling them they are wrong. Commentators, experts and the general public say they should do this or that, but of course, no one can agree. For every expert that says “Go this way!” there is another which says to go the opposite direction.

Such times as we live in, and indeed, any times really, require leaders of wisdom. They must use their wisdom to make sensible choices, and not be swayed by wavering opinions. Sometimes the right choice is obvious… but often it is not.

This is true in our own lives, let alone running a whole nation. We do not always know which path to choose, and so how can our governments when they face decisions which can have implications for generations to come?

Only God has wisdom enough to show us the right path to choose. We, as Christians, must seek Him fully in His Word and be obedient to His call. When we face a choice not clearly described in the Bible, we pray for guidance and lean on the Holy Spirit. We must pray the same for our political leaders. They may or may not be Christians, but they still need godly wisdom to do what is right.

Your government needs you! It needs you to pray, and such prayers will benefit the whole country. It is a Christian’s duty to pray for our leaders, even when we do not agree with them.

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 (Message)

At times, we may all be guilty of criticizing the government and our national leaders. Their job is extremely difficult, and I am not sure I would want to have the responsibility they hold. I confess that I do not pray for them as often as I should, and clearly they need our prayers now as much as ever.

Some will feel called by the Lord to get involved in politics, local or otherwise, and others will certainly not. Whether that applies to you or not, the Bible is clear that we are to pray for our governmental leaders.

If you are not sure where to start, then here are a couple of suggestions.

As above, ask God to give our political leaders wisdom to make godly choices. When the right path forward is not clear, ask the Lord to show them the right way to go.

Also, pray that the Gospel can be freely preached in your nation. There are places in this world where the preaching of the faith is strictly prohibited. While not banned in the UK, the Gospel is no longer a popular message (if the Gospel ever was) and those who wish to share it are being penned in on every side.

Your government needs you to pray for them. The Bible commands us to do so. Let each of us set aside some time this week to pray for those in authority.

Have a great day!

Prayer for the weary

How has your week been? How about your day today? I feel led to pray for the weary this evening. Is that you? It certainly is me!

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks and praise for your wonderful, never ending love for each one of us. Whether this week has been good or bad, we thank you that you have been with us through every step of it.

As we approach the weekend, I want to pray for all who feel weary or heavy laden at the moment.

Lord, I ask you to give them strength. I pray that they may know that your yoke is easy and your burden is light.

If there are those who have come to the end of their strength, May they draw on your infinite resources.

If need be loving God, then do carry them through this moment.

Increase their joy, heavenly father, as we know joy is our strength. let them draw on your piece which surpasses all understanding.

You know the burdens we all carry Lord, so do help us to know that we do not carry them alone. let us also know the height, depth, length, and breadth of your unfailing love!

When it is time to sleep this evening, may that sleep be sweet and peaceful. Watch over us as we rest, so we might serve you all the better tomorrow.

We thank you that you have heard our prayers. we lift them before you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ!

Amen!

Joseph and Jesus (Joseph #8)

I have now written and published a series of posts on Genesis 37, which covers the early part of the story of Joseph. I know it is a familiar story to many, and I hope that you have found my thoughts helpful.

Let me summarise chapter 37 for you now:

There once was a son, beloved by his father, and he made some very bold claims about himself. He was hated by his brothers, so much so that they bound him and beat him. They wanted to kill him and left him for dead. They thought they had gotten rid of him for good for the price of a few silver coins. They did not realise that one day, he would return to rule over them.

Who am I talking about here? Joseph? Or Jesus? With some careful wording, the above seems to apply rather well to both the son of Jacob and the Son of God.

Joseph is a “type” of Christ, and by type, I mean something akin to a prototype. In the Hebrew Scriptures, prophecy is less about predicting the future, and more about  establishing a pattern. Joseph is a pattern for Christ.

Let’s walk back through Genesis 37 and see if we can spot the similarities between Joseph and Jesus.

  • Joseph was hated by his brothers. Jesus was largely rejected by the people of Israel. (Gen 37:4)
  • Joseph was beloved by his father, as was Jesus beloved by His Father (Gen 37:4)
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him for telling them the truth (his dreams). Jesus was hated by the religious leaders of the day for telling them the truth. (Gen 37:5)
  • Joseph told his brothers that they would one day bow down to him. Jesus said that one day we all will bow down to Him (Gen 37:6-7)
  • Joseph’s father sent him to his brothers. Jesus was sent by the Father to the people of Israel (Gen 37:13)
  • Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him; Jesus’ fellow Israelites plotted to kill Him. (Gen 37:18)
  • They threw Joseph in a pit, and Jesus was put in a tomb hewn from rock. (Gen 37:19)
  • They stripped Joseph of his tunic, and the same was done to Jesus (Gen 37:23)
  • Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver; Jesus was sold for thirty pieces. (Gen 37:28)
  • Reuben returned to Joseph’s pit and found it empty. Likewise, the women found Jesus’ tomb empty on the third day (Gen 37:29)
  • Joseph’s brothers killed a male goat to hide their sin. Jesus became a sacrifice for us all, and His blood covered our sin (Gen 37:31)

Some of these, alone, may seem just trivial or coincidental. But when you look at the list as whole, you must admit there is certainly something here.

Is Joseph a perfect, prophetic representation of Jesus? No, not exactly of course. However, there are signs here and patterns set out which we must not gloss over. This passage alone is surely not enough to convince anyone of Jesus’ future coming, but take it alongside the many other Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, and a picture forms.

I am not suggesting you bend Scripture to make it say whatever you wish. IF you look however, you will soon see that Jesus is ever present in His Word. The old Testament is a shadow of things to come, and that shadow is that of Christ Himself.

Genesis 37 is not the only place in Joseph’s story where we see Christ. As we continue on through his story, I will try to point them out to you. If you spot one that I miss, do let me know!

Rest assured; the Bible is true! It is the only truth we can rely on! I have not just bet my life on it, but my whole eternity as well. How about you?

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/

June 23 Strengthen me

I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear this today! I hope you enjoy reading it, and that it speaks to you as it did to me.

“Lord, I call to You; come quickly to me.  Hear my voice when I call to You.” “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips…

June 23 Strengthen me

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

Reuben Returns (Joseph #7)

Reuben returned to the pit, and saw that Joseph wasn’t in the pit; and he tore his clothes. 30 He returned to his brothers, and said, “The child is no more; and I, where will I go?” 31 They took Joseph’s tunic, and killed a male goat, and dipped the tunic in the blood. 32 They took the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father, and said, “We have found this. Examine it, now, and see if it is your son’s tunic or not.”

33 He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s tunic. An evil animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.” 34 Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, “For I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” His father wept for him. 36 The Midianites sold him into Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard.

Genesis 37:29-36 (WEB)

Reuben Returns

If you cast your mind back to an earlier part of the story, you will recall that Reuben was the one who convinced his brothers not to murder Joseph in cold blood. Instead, he talked them into leaving him in the pit and letting nature take its course. This somehow seemed more palatable to them.

Secretly however, Reuben had planned to return and rescue Joseph so that he could return him to his father, and claim the credit. This is pretty low…

Our passage today picks up the account and opens with Reuben’s return. His is more than a little dismayed to find Joseph gone!

Reuben tears his clothes as a sign of grief, or perhaps regret. It does not appear to be a sign of repentance, as he was not exactly acting out of the purest of motives. Rather he recognises that he won’t be able to “save the day” and claim the credit now. He is sorry of course, but for quite the wrong reasons.

I acknowledged my sin to you.

    I didn’t hide my iniquity.

I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,

    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 32:5 (WEB)

Psalm 32 is one of the Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Repentance. Here in verse 5, the psalmist asked to be forgiven for the iniquity of their sin – other translations say the “sinfulness of my sin.” See my post of the same name – The Sinfulness of my Sin.

Often when we are caught in wrongdoing, we are sorry for the consequences, not the sin itself. A bank robber is sorry he got caught red-handed, but would feel no guilt had they gotten away with it. Reuben, here, is likewise sorry for the consequences of his sin, not the wrongdoing itself.

The Cover Up

There is a possible gap between verse 30 and 31, as the text moves from Reuben’s cries straight to the brothers’ cover up of events. Presumably one of them told him what had happened in his absence.

Joseph is gone, and the brothers must now deal with the obvious. What will they tell their father? Taking Joseph’s coloured coat, they kill a goat and use its blood to stain the tunic. This will be evidence enough of Joseph’s supposed fate.

Taking it to Jacob, they ask him to identify it. In the absence of a body, this is the next best thing and they do not correct him (of course) when he assumes Joseph has been killed by a wild animal.

Look at the grief they inflict on Jacob! His heart is broken and he descends into deep mourning for many days. His other sons and daughters try to comfort him, but to no avail.

Did they feel any guilt, I wonder, as they looked upon their father during this time? He was so broken that he wished to go to Sheol – the place of the dead – so that he might be with his beloved son. Would a spark of remorse have been felt by any of them? The Bible does not record it.

To what lengths people will go to cover up their sinfulness. I see it in myself at times too. I make a mistake at work and there is clear temptation to sweep it under the carpet, or to give a version of events which look less unfavourable. Surely I am not alone in feeling such temptation in those moments?

Christians must not lie however. We must be honest and truthful, even if it means admitting we’ve done wrong and facing the consequences.

The passage, and this chapter, close by telling us that Joseph (meanwhile) is taken to Egypt and sold to a man named Potiphar, who is a servant of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard. This will later turn out to be another divine appointment for Joseph – but we’ll pick that up another day.

Every blessing to you!

Opportunity Knocks (Joseph #6)

They sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, and let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not let our hand be on him; for he is our brother, our flesh.” His brothers listened to him. 28 Midianites who were merchants passed by, and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The merchants brought Joseph into Egypt.

Genesis 37:25-28 (WEB)

Joseph has found his brothers in the wilderness, and they hatched and executed a plan to capture him. Tearing off his coat of colours, they throw him into a pit. Having talked themselves out of killing him directly, they now plan instead to leave him to the elements.

Verse 25 opens by telling us that they sat down to eat bread. I am not sure if there is any significance to this in particular, but it strikes me that having captured and essentially murdered their brother, food might be the last thing on their minds! It takes a callous heart to condemn someone to death, and then in the next moments enjoy a hearty meal.

Perhaps the significance lies in the timing. The text tells us that while they were eating, they look up and see a caravan of Ishmaelites heading their way. Had they dumped Joseph in the pit and moved on, they may not have run into this group at all, and the rest of our story may have been quite different.

There are no such things as coincidences with God.

Opportunity Knocks

Judah is quick to come up with an alternative ending to Joseph’s life. Rather than murder him outright, he sees an opportunity. Judah sees the chance of making a profit by selling Joseph into slavery. He also adds that why should they shed his blood, after all, Joseph is their brother. His words show perhaps little respect for Joseph himself, but for the family. They all recognise that shedding one’s own brother’s blood is not exactly a righteous thing to do.

So they haul Joseph out of the pit, sell him to the merchants and gain a bag silver in return. We learn that the merchants are heading to Egypt, and surely the brothers expected that to be the last they would ever see of this dreamer. How wrong they would one day prove to be!

God has not been directly mentioned in any of this up to now. Clearly though, He is ever present in the account. God is the source of the dreams that Joseph has had, and surely God is the one who has preserved Joseph’s life at the hand of his brothers. Likewise, God decreed events to take place in such a way that these merchants just happened to be passing at the precise moment necessary.

God has a plan! And this is no less true for you. What happened to Joseph was truly terrible, and yet it was all part of the tapestry of God’s plan. As he lay in the pit, Joseph was likely questioning his dreams and wondering what on earth was to happen to him. Even in our darkest moments, we can cling on to the promises of God and know that they will never fail.

There is a well-known verse from Jeremiah which is often quoted, although I’m not certain if the context applies to all people at all times, but here you go:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:1 (WEB)

When you know Jesus, the future is bright. That does not mean there are no dark days ahead of us, but we can rely on Him to take us through. Whatever God’s plan is for you in this life, there is an eternity in paradise to look forward to.

To finish, let me ask you what opportunities may present themselves to you today? How can you be a blessing to someone, or to share your faith with a person who needs to hear it? Don’t just wait and see if an opportunity presents itself, ask the Lord for divine appointments where you can act as a light in this world.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!