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!

Reliable

13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest

    is a faithful messenger to those who send him;

    he refreshes the soul of his masters.

14 Like clouds and wind without rain

    is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

Proverbs 25:13-14 (ESV)

Has anyone ever described you as “reliable?” How did that feel? For most of us at least, being called reliable probably isn’t all that much of a compliment. There isn’t anything exciting about being “reliable,” and it probably isn’t the one word most of us would choose to sum up our lives.

Yet God is reliable. And it is something I too strive to be.

These two proverbs were the focus of my Bible study for yesterday, and it got me thinking about the subject of reliability. Few times have I ever heard someone preach on the subject in church, and the most memorable one I can recall is one I heard about excellence (which touched on the same subject).

In verse 13, the proverb compares the cool of the snow in the time of harvest. Now that is not to sy they are hoping for snow while trying to bring in their hard-earned harvest, but uses the picture of cool snow to reflect refreshment. One paraphrase depicts a refreshing drink on ice to communicate refreshment. This refreshment is then likened to a faithful messenger or worker to the his/her master. I suppose good help is hard to find at times, and so it is like a breath of fresh air when we find reliable help.

Verse 14 paints an altogether opposite picture. Like the clouds which promise rain and never deliver, is the one who talks a good game and yet does not come up with the goods. I once heard someone at work described in such terms – “He talks a good game, but I’ve yet to see him kick a football!”

It reminds me of the fig tree in Mark 11 which Jesus cursed. It promised nourishment in the form of fruit by displaying its leaves, and yet, when Christ sought the tasty fruit, it had nothing to offer. Some feel sad for this poor little fig tree which Jesus was seemingly so hard on. However, studying it in context shows that this was a picture of the religious of the day. They boasted of how they followed all the commands and looked the part, yet bore little if any fruit.

We are not to be like this.

As Christians, we must seek to be a totally reliable people who stick to their word. If we say it, then it should be considered done to those who hear us. Far too many of us say things we do not mean or have no intention of doing. This is not right at all.

God never breaks His Word. If He has said it, then we need not doubt it will be fulfilled. He is totally, 100% reliable, and that is exciting! It means that everything He has promised you will be done. That is the difference between biblical hope and the hope of the world. When the world “hopes” it just means that it wishes it was so. Not us! For us, our hope is guaranteed by the promises of God and His Word.

What does that mean for us – His people? I think it means that if we make a commitment, then we must stick with it. I think that it means we need to be very careful about what we agree to, or what we allow others to talk us into.

Psalm 15 says:

in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Psalm 15:4 (ESV)

This phrase “swears to his own hurt” is interesting. I believe it means that a righteous person sticks to their word, even if it hurts them in the long run. Say they commit to helping out at church, and then realise they have double booked themselves and must miss the “must see” sporting event of the year. They stick to their commitment, despite the hurt of missing the game.

The lesson is not to commit, not to agree to build before counting the cost.

Are there examples in your own life where you have made a commitment that you wish you hadn’t? Do you need to see that through now despite regretting it?

The classic example for me is when the children are naughty. In a moment of temper, I say something ridiculous like “You’re grounded for 20 years!” (I exaggerate) and I know I don’t mean it, they know I don’t mean it, and my word is no longer reliable.

Let us not be a people who throw words away without thought. Let each of us mean what we say and say what we mean. Don’t be hasty with your words, and make sure you count the cost before you begin. If someone is pressing you to agree, and you’re just not sure, say so and ask for some time to think it over.

Let our words be few, but let us mean every single one of them.

Words Can Be Atom Bombs

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

Proverbs 25:18 (NIV)

You have likely heard the schoolyard or playground phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” But is this true? I think not! Sticks or stones may indeed bruise our body, or in a severe case, break our bones of course but words can wound as well. How many people took a physical beating at one point and are now totally recovered, yet those same people carry deep scars from vicious or poisonous words in their past.

A single fist may bruise an eye, but a single word can start a war if spoken at the right (wrong?) time.

If sticks and stones can break our bones, then words are atom bombs!

The writer of the proverb above likens false testimony to that of real life weapons. He clearly compares clubs, swords and arrows to that of spreading falsities about one’s neighbour. When we hear the word “testimony” we may automatically think of a courtroom. While this is certainly the place to tell the truth, we can give false testimony about our neighbours in any setting. It is every bit as important to be truthful in the court of opinion and on social media as it is in a court of law.

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 12:

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Matthew 12:36 (NIV)

If there was ever a Scripture to make us shudder, then this would be it! We speak often, and how much of it is “empty words”?

The Bible has a huge amount to say about our words, and Proverbs in particular talks of the important of how we speak. James, in the New Testament, is often thought of as the Proverbs of the NT, and he too warns of the power of words. It is hard for me to state how critical this subject is. Jesus was so careful about what He did and did not say, remaining silent at crucial moments.

Although the thought terrifies me, I toy with the idea of recording myself for an entire day and listening back to the conversations I have had. What would that reveal? Would I hear myself building others up and encouraging them? Or would my words be careless, inflicting wounds without thought?

Would you wish to be recorded for a day, and have to listen to it back? Let each of us take an inventory of, not just our words, but our tone as well. Often we communicate more in the way we say things than in what we specifically say. Instead of an entire day, why not just take stock for an hour. Make notes or record yourself, then pray over the results.

Are there words in your past that you deeply regret? Such words cannot be changed, but you can learn these lessons and avoid the dangers in future.

Like the psalmist, ask the Lord to set a guard over your lips.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

Remember, words are atomic bombs that can devastate a life. They are also a wellspring of life that can create and build up.

Watch your words today, and every day! Lord, do help us to speak out only good things to the people in our lives. Guard our mouths so that we utter nothing in anger or haste that will harm and wound. Holy Spirit, watch over our words this day and let them point people to You – in Jesus’ Name! Amen

Love Discipline

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

    but he who hates reproof is stupid.

Proverbs 12:1 (ESV)

One of the things I love about Solomon’s proverbs is the fact he doesn’t mince his words! There’s a place for diplomacy and sensitivity, but sometimes there’s a need for stark warning.

Loves Discipline

The other day, my three year old threw a toy across the room. When I told her not to, she got rather cross and took a swing at me with all her might. I took it on the chin (not literally) but sent her to the “naughty spot” in our house. It is fair to say she did not “love” discipline in that moment!

How many of us can truly say that we do love discipline? When my boss calls me in to their office (virtual or otherwise) to point out something I need to change, I hardly relish the experience! Yet, as I’ve gotten to know my boss over the years, I know that they have my best interests at heart and anything they correct me on is for my benefit. By “loving” the discipline, I’m growing and improving.

Discipline is tough in the moment, and far too few of us later reflect on that correction and realise its value. Church discipline, for instance, often leads to people walking out of the church, not gratitude to the pastor or minister for loving them enough to say something.

We cannot hope to grow as Christians without the love of discipline. I learn from others who teach me, and from those who love me enough to say something when I go wrong. If no one ever pointed it out, I might never come to the realisation on my own.

Discipline works best when it comes from a safe and loving relationship. My wife can point out my faults to me in a way a total stranger never could. I trust her judgement and know she wants what’s best for me. The same can’t be said for a person I do not know well.

God knows us best, and we must trust in His deep, unending love for us. When He disciplines us, it’s because He loves us and does not want us to stay stuck in a place of error.

Hates Reproof

The Proverbs often mirror themselves. So, if you are wise to do one thing, then you are stupid to do the reverse. We see this here. If it is wise to love discipline, then it is stupid to hate correction.

To hate discipline is really to hate ourselves. It suggests that we have a level of pride where we think we couldn’t possibly be wrong.

Often when correction comes, we react badly to it. We point to the one disciplining us, and say “What about when you…?” Discipline does indeed hurt at times, but it is a pain which leads to something better. I once heard someone say that you can go through the pain of change, or go through the pain of staying just as you are.

Do not hate discipline, nor the one who brings it to you. While you may feel too excited about it, take the time to thank the person and bring it before God. If, for instance, that person does not really have good intentions, then you can lay that before Jesus and let the Spirit lead you.

Discipline in general, but church discipline in particular, does seem to be becoming more and more rare these days. I wonder why this is? There is truth to it that many church members are easily offended, and would storm out if a church leader even dared breath a word of correction near them. This, of course, does put church leaders off of doing it.

Also though, I wonder if all of us have somehow lost a level of holiness in our own eyes. As I consider this, I realise that bringing discipline makes me take long look at myself, and highlights the areas where I fall short. If I make so many mistakes, then how dare I tell others what they should and should not do?

Iron sharpens iron though, and only by living and worshipping together can we ever hope to support each other. I need you to tell me when I am going wrong, and likewise you need me to do the same for you. Let us love each other enough, and be brave enough, to help one another grow.

Is God bringing discipline into your life right now? Is He using a friend or family member to do it? Is He prompting you to speak a word into someone else’s life? Do so with humility, and love them as best you can.

Justice (Audio)

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

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

Proverbs 17:15 (GNT)

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

It’s Not Really Stealing…

The Lord hates people who use dishonest scales. He is happy with honest weights.

Proverbs 11:1 (GNT)

Some people accuse the Bible of no longer being relevant to life in the 21st Century. I totally disagree with this! Never more has the Bible been more relevant than right now.

As I sat down to write this morning, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about. Usually when this happens, I start to read the Proverbs as they are so rich with life lessons and wisdom. I did not have to read for long today before I felt this verse was important to discuss.

I am working from home at the moment due to the COVID-19 virus. While our office is technically open, nearly all employees are able to log in from home and do their daily work from there.

I thank God for my employer who has been extremely supportive during this time. They have been more than understanding about how we do our work while balancing caring responsibilities.

We all had a chuckle the other day as a colleague’s young child burst into the room where he was conducted a teleconference and shouted, “Daddy, I’ve done a poo!” before he could trigger the mute button!

So what does any of this have to do with this verse from Proverbs? I can’t recall the last time I saw a set of balance scales, let alone used one. I certainly have never used one in my working life…

In context, this verse is about being honest. If you imagine people selling goods by weight in a market, then you will start to get an idea of what this is about. A customer would ask for a pound of whatever product they were buying. The seller would use their balance to weigh it out. You would have the product on one side, and the weight on the other. When they balanced, you knew you had the right amount.

The problem with this system was that dishonest sellers would use weights which weren’t quite true. They may be marked as a pound weight, but actually be slightly less. The result was that the customer was cheated and did not get what they paid for.

This happened to me once. I bought a bulk pack of coffee beans. I ordered one kilogram, but when it arrived I weighed it. The package only contained around 900g of coffee, and so was 10% short. When I complained, I was told the weighing machine they used had a certain tolerance or error margin. Some customers may get less than a kilo, while others slightly more.

Perhaps this was true. Perhaps I was just an unfortunate customer who got slightly less, while someone else a little more. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt – but isn’t it funny how it so rarely works out in our favour?

Again, you might be thinking what does this have to do with anything?

The point of the proverb is that we are to be honest in our dealings. If we are selling something for a particular weight, then it should actually weigh that much. It is about integrity.

For someone like me who works in an office role, I rarely interact with customers nor do I sell a particular product. But the principles can still be applied.

If I am paid to start work at 9am, but don’t arrive until 9.10 then I am using an unjust balance – that is, I’m stealing that 10 minutes. Is it really stealing? Actually, I think it is and unless we work those extra ten minutes at the other end of the day or take a shorter lunch break, we are taking something we have not earned.

This is very much pertinent to our current situation. For me, working at home with four children running around can be very challenging. As I say, my employer has been very understanding and is allowing us time to sort out domestic issues. I should not take advantage of this however.

God wants us to be people of excellence. He wants us to be a good example to the world. Even if the rest of the world thinks it is fine to steal a few minutes here and there, we live to a higher standard. We are not satisfied to live below par just because no one is looking, because we know God is always looking.

Some say the Ten Commandments are old fashioned or even irrelevant. Not so.

Do not steal.

Exodus 20:15 (GNT)

This is a pretty straightforward commandment.

God has not changed His mind.

While we may not enter a store, pick something up and leave without paying for it, we sometimes fall a little short. If an online shop makes an error and sends you two items instead of one, and you’ve only paid for one, then you do not have the right to keep it without checking with the store. Offer to pay for it or return it, and many stores may just tell you to keep it. This has happened to me more than once.

Do not steal. It sounds simple, but can be applied in many ways in our lives. God has convicted me while writing this, and I hope it encourages you to come up higher and reach for excellence in all you do.