Don’t Go That Way (Proverbs 1:10-19)

The next part of Proverbs chapter one turns rather dark. The narrator, King Solomon himself, now appears to talk directly to his child/son, and warns them of danger.

 My son, if sinners entice you,

    don’t consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us.

    Let’s lie in wait for blood.

    Let’s lurk secretly for the innocent without cause.

12 Let’s swallow them up alive like Sheol,

    and whole, like those who go down into the pit.

13 We’ll find all valuable wealth.

    We’ll fill our houses with plunder.

14 You shall cast your lot among us.

    We’ll all have one purse.”

15 My son, don’t walk on the path with them.

    Keep your foot from their path,

16 for their feet run to evil.

    They hurry to shed blood.

17 For the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird;

18 but these lay in wait for their own blood.

    They lurk secretly for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain.

    It takes away the life of its owners.

Proverbs 1:10-19 (WEB)

We will not go through each verse in turn, as they come together to paint a vivid picture. Verse 10 probably summarises this whole section, and I cannot really add to its wisdom with my own words.

My son, if sinners entice you, don’t consent. Proverbs 1:10 #Bible #Wisdom #Christianity

The thrust of this section is simply this: when you are tempted by sinners, don’t go that way!

Verse 11 and 12 go into some particulars about the kind of words or enticements they may use to trap you. On the face of them, they do not seem that appealing to anyone. Why lie in wait purely for the purposes of “blood”? You might associate this kind of talk with demonic sources, but not your everyday “sinner” right?

While such direct words may not be used, any temptation to lie in wait for an innocent victim boils down to such language. These are robbers who care little for life. The thrill of sin is addictive to them, and we must stay well clear of any such evil.

Verses 13 and 14 tell us the real purpose for their trap – money. They would kill the innocent for the sake of a few coins. They have not, so they take from others, not caring the harm they do in the process. Robbers of the time would prey on the unwary, exacting violence in the process. Are they all that different from modern day burglars? Such thieves break in, ransack people’s homes for financial gain, and do immeasurable harm to those on the receiving end. Heaven forbid the homeowner should run into such a burglar, who is likely to strike out in violence to get away with their crime.

Don’t go that way! Verse 15 echoes this cry. Do not walk on their path, nor even put your foot upon it. They run to evil, instead of away from it. Let us be known for our flight from wickedness, and not towards it.

Verse 17 is a little proverb in the midst of our narrative. Put simply, if the bird can see the net, it won’t fly into it. We might learn to look out for things that might entrap us, and steer well clear.

The end of our passage points out that the trap these evil ones set for the innocent will in fact close upon their own selves. They lay in wait for their own lives – how so? Because we serve a God of justice. While some believe they can escape justice in this life, they can never escape the justice of God. We will all stand before Him one day and give an account for our lives. Such evil people will not be able to justify their actions before our Righteous God.

If you have been mistreated, or were the victim of some wickedness in the past, it will be put right. Even if those who hurt you got away with it, they will never escape God’s judgement. When we stand before Him, we will know that all and every sin will be accounted for – either at the cross of Christ, or as the penalty for the wicked. God has not forgotten what happened to you.

To us all I say again, do not follow the evil path. If you are being enticed into iniquity, or spending time with the wrong crowd, it is time to make a change. It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into sin.

It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into #sin. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

I leave you where we began with verse 10. Spend some time today just meditating on its truth. It may save your life!

My child, if sinners entice you,

    turn your back on them!

Proverbs 1:10 (NLT)

Confession Time

Reading another blog recently, I was struck by the openness and honesty of the author. They were describing their own struggles with sin over the past year, and I actually found it quite refreshing to hear. Not that sin should be celebrated you understand, but rather we all struggle and yet few of us talk about it.

We all want to put on our best face to other people, and so rarely share anything that might make us look bad. Social media can amplify this, giving us glimpses of only the best bits of life. It was once said that social media is life through a very fine filter.

As a result of this lack of openness, we sometimes find ourselves feeling like the only one in the world struggling with one issue or another. Or am I alone in that? I hope not!

The devil loves to make us think we are alone in our battles. If he can fool us into thinking no one else is facing such things, then he can trick us into thinking we are worse than everyone else around us.

If you are in any form of ministry, be it pastoring a church or writing a blog, this problem can be all the worse. Those in ministry should stretch for higher standards. I often wrestle with the following verses from James’ letter:

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.

James 3:1-2 (WEB)

Heavier judgement, as rendered in this translation, does not sound all that fun! Why make the test harder than it needs to be right? Why bother to teach at all?

For those called to do so, it is an occupational hazard! Once you have discovered your call, you can no more ignore it than you can stop your own heart beating.

Jeremiah said:

If I say, I will not make mention of him,

    or speak any more in his name,

then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones.

    I am weary with holding it in.

    I can’t.

Jeremiah 20:9 (WEB)

Not to speak of the Lord was not an option for Jeremiah. For those called to share the Gospel, they cannot cease to proclaim the truth either.

So, teachers are teachers, and subject to “heavier judgement.” The issue is that this can lead to an almost false persona. We want the people we are teaching to think well of us. We incorrectly believe that if they really knew us, then they would cease to listen to what we have to say.

As a teacher, you need to be able to demonstrate some measure of success in your subject. I do not go around teaching the finer points of plumbing because I know not the difference between a U-bend and a stopcock! If I cannot demonstrate that I know the Bible and can put its teaching into practice, then my instruction will have little power behind it.

Does this mean we can never be open? No, of course not! No one is perfect, least of all me, and we cannot and should not expect perfection from our teachers. I actually think more highly of someone who is open about their struggles than those who claim to have none at all.

John says in his first letter:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (WEB)

We know that when confessing our sins to God, He will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. It goes on to say that if we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.

So, do you need a time of confession? Not everyone should write a blog and tell the world of their shortcomings, but tell a trusted friend.

For me, I am constantly wrestling with pride. I confess to you, trusted reader, that I have myself on my mind far too often! When I get scared, it is because I am thinking of myself. When I get angry, it is because someone or something has interrupted my plan. When I get tired, I forget my priorities and end up living to please myself and not the Lord. All of these issues stem from pride. It is part of why I believe God is steering me towards studying the subjects of meekness and humility at the moment.

I am far from perfect, and make mistake after mistake at times. What I find really frustrating is the cycle of sin I find it hard to escape from. I fight against one temptation, beat it for a while, then slip back. Can you relate?

I could write a thousand more words about my faults, but not sure how interesting a read it would be! The point is, I confess to you that I live in the world, I have a flesh to grapple with, and there is a real-life enemy to contend with. It is the same for you.

Do you need to set aside some time for a “spiritual bath?” Need you sit down with Jesus and talk through some of your own struggles and sins? Is there a trusted person in your life you can speak to and confess your sins to?

I praise and thank God for the cleansing work of His Son! Jesus’ shed blood on the cross means that every sin is covered. As long as we live on this Earth, we will wrestle with sin. But we must keep fighting! Only when we give up and give in, are we truly defeated.

Let me finish by reminding you that you are not alone. No matter what sins you wrestle with, there is someone else going through the exact same thing. You are not alone! Only by each of us being honest about our failings can we reassure one another and offer each other support.

Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other. And let each of us rejoice in Christ’s finished work that we may go free! Praise His Holy Name!

No Stones Were Thrown

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

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

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

John 8:3-6 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

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

John 8:9-11 (NIV)

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

I am astonished at His words to her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflect on this truth from Romans:

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

Romans 8:1 (NIV)

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

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

Eternity in the Balance (Best of 2021)

andy-brown.org/2021/02/08/eternity-in-the-balance/

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of the most read posts of this year.

This post, from way back in February, discuss is the idea of eternal punishment and how we can avoid it! I know that may not seem like the most uplifting of themes… But there is nothing more important!

What are your thoughts on this subject? Do leave me a comment or question.

Thanks for reading!

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

This is the third and final post on Psalm 92. If you missed them, you can read the first one here – Praise in the morning, praise in the evening- and the second one here – You Thrill Me. We left off last time discussing that although evil may flourish for a time, it will…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/04/28/he-is-our-rock-psalm-92-3/

Might Not Sin (Re-post)

Do you want to sin against God? The obvious answer is no! No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does. Yet, what steps do we take to …

Might Not Sin

Might Not Sin

Do you want to sin against God? The obvious answer is no! No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does. Yet, what steps do we take to avoid the trap of sin in our lives? If we do nothing, then we will find ourselves drifting into sin’s clutches. To avoid sin, we must be deliberate and decisive.

There are many reasons to read the Bible, and here is a compelling one from Psalm 119.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

My post today may be short, simple and straight to the point. If you want to avoid sin, then you must be dedicated to God’s Word.

The one who spends their time storing God’s Word in their heart is the one who will have the best chance of defeating temptation and not falling into sin.

In God’s Word we learn what is and is not sin, and how we – as His people – should conduct our lives. We also gain spiritual nourishment so that we might be strong in our faith. As we read and study the Bible, our minds are renewed and the better we think, the better we will act.

You will never grow as a Christian if you do not take the time necessary to get to know God’s Word.

Hide it in your heart, and speak it out of your mouth. Memorise it, meditate on it, and marinate in it!

Sin is deadly. Do not be deceived, and do not falsely believe you can “get away” with it. Jesus defeated the temptation of the devil by quoting the Scriptures. When you are likewise tempted, you too can draw on the Scriptures you have stored in your heart.

Reading a few verses on a Sunday in church isn’t enough. Take time each and every day to consume the Bible. It takes effort, of course, but it is well worth it!

May God bless you richly as you engage with the Word today.

Faith, Weight and Sin (Hebrews 12)

The following short passage has been coming up time and time again in my devotionals and podcast in the last few days. I sense that God is directing me to them, and so want to spend some time thinking about them today.

Therefore let’s also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (WEB)

Chapter 12 opens with the word “therefore,” and this connects it to the previous chapter. Hebrews 11 is definitely worth a read at this point if you have the time. It describes a number of the great heroes of faith, a sort of hall of fame if you like. These faithful individuals followed God and are an example to us. They were not always perfect of course, but are living testimonies to God’s kindness throughout the generations.

Hebrews 12 opens by pointing out that we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses. Clearly, the author of Hebrews is pointing to the people just described in the previous chapter. As well as to the readers, we too are surrounded by their witness and can learn from the examples they set and the interactions they had with God.

Beyond that though, we are even now surrounded by witnesses to the faithfulness of Christ. Every time you set foot in church, there are those around you who are journeying through life with and for Jesus. Learn from them, let them encourage you, and do likewise for them in return.

When you are sat at work or school, surrounded by sin or the ways of the world, it can be easy to feel like the only Christian in the galaxy. Elijah once felt like the only prophet remaining, and it can feel lonely and isolated. You are not alone however!

Until the Lord returns, there will always be a church on this Earth. If you live in a place where you are able to freely worship the God of Heaven, then do so and enjoy the fellowship of other believers. Let them be a witness to you, and share your own faith journey with them to uplift and encourage.

Hebrews 12 goes on to instruct us to lay aside every weight which slows us down, and to remove the sin that easily entangles us. The verse will go on to tell us to run the race, so the idea of shedding anything that slows us down is important.

In running your Christian race, what weighs you down? Remember that it says to lay aside weight and also sin. So “weight” in this context is not necessarily anything sinful.

For example, I might love to play golf (or insert any sport or hobby of your choosing). If I become so obsessed with golf, playing it every Sunday, reading about it all week and spending all of my money on clubs and equipment, then it is likely that will weigh down my faith. Golf is not sinful, but when it becomes my top priority then it is a hinderance to my faith.

Do you have a golfing equivalent? Are there things in your life which weigh you down in your race for Christ?

And what about sin? Sin can so easily get tangled up in our lives, and in my mind, I imagine it as a rope or cord wrapping around us. When we try to run our race, we just trip and fall.

Do not take chances with sin. It is like playing with fire. If you know you are dabbling with a particular sin, stop it right now. Don’t even walk down the street where sin dwells! We must recognise its danger and flee from it with all our might.

If you know you are tempted in certain areas, then pray about it ahead of time and stay well clear. If you struggle with late night TV, then shut that thing off at 8.30 or make sure you’re never alone with it. If your thoughts are starting to wander towards an attractive person at work, keep well away from them where possible and do not let yourself be alone with them.

Sin is like an animal trap. If we get too close, it will spring shut and ensnare us. Please take sin seriously. I worry that the modern church does not always do this. We preach a great deal on God’s grace, and rightly so, but we must be fully aware of the danger of sin.

When I was at university, I recall sitting in a kitchen to an adjoining TV room. Something came on screen which was clearly sinful, and I remember one of the Christians leaping from their seat and running out of the room. They did not want any part in it, and good for them. Let us be equally quick to run from it.

I hope these few thoughts are helpful to you, and indeed convict you if changes need to be made. I have barely made it to the end of verse one today, so will likely pick up the remainder in subsequent posts.

If God is putting this passage in front of me for a reason, then I want to take it extremely seriously. Perhaps He is directing you to do the same?

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?

The Room

I wish I could say I wrote this. Such a powerful, powerful story. This is from my Facebook memories from 9 years ago. But in a sense I did write this…

The Room

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 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/