Just as He said He would

Happy Easter!

It was my privilege to share for a few minutes this morning at our early morning sunrise service on this Resurrection Sunday.

I share below a recording of the message which I hope you enjoy.

May you be eternally blessed this Easter weekend!

A message from Andy on Easter Sunday morningA message from Andy on Easter Sunday morning

Palm Sunday talk

A sermon I preached on Palm Sunday several years ago now… Hope you enjoy

Precious Promises (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Last week I wrote a post called – Precious Faith – which looked at the opening words of Peter’s second letter. Having reminded his readers of his slavery and apostleship, and the like precious faith they share, Peter continues.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)

Living A Godly Life

In his opening, Peter tells us that we share a faith given to us by God. Likewise here, we see another example of what God has given to us. Namely, everything!

Well, not strictly true… although I once heard a preacher say that this verse does mean just that. That God has given us everything we might want, need or desire. If we were not fallen, sinful creatures, then that might not be so bad.

Peter, however, does not mean literally everything but rather qualifies his words. God, by His power, has given us everything we need for “living a godly life.” God has indeed blessed us richly, and gives us what we need that we might live godly lives. He does not empower us to commit sin, nor to swallow up all we want in selfish greed.

It can be very difficult to be a Christian in today’s world. Some days it feels like we live on a different planet to the rest of the population. We are criticised, laughed at and persecuted, and at times it can feel almost impossible to live in a godly way.

Yet, Peter would encourage us by reminding us of what we have been given – everything! We can do it, because we have what we need. This is not to depend on ourselves to live righteously, but instead to draw on that “divine power” that the Holy Spirit brings. We live godly because we follow Christ, and want to be like Him. We have courage to stand out from the world even if it costs us something.

Verse 3 continues by saying we have received all of thins by coming to know Him – that is, the One who has called us by His marvellous glory and excellence. So, this means that we receive this as we come to know Jesus Christ. It is not received in church attendance, daily devotionals, doing good works (as profitable as those things are), but it is also about knowing Christ.

I am reminded of Paul’s words from Philippians:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

Philippians 3:8 (NLT)

I have been challenged lately by asking myself how Christlike I am. I often do not feel a whole lot like Him, and as I examine what it means to be like Him, I have to first truly know Him. I challenge you in the same way today; are you Christlike? How well do you know Jesus?

Precious Promises

Last time, we thought about the precious faith we share, and now Peter points to precious promises.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)

Because of His glory, because of how excellent Christ is, He has bestowed upon us promises as precious as our faith.

These promises allow us to share in Christ’s nature, and that is also what allows us to become Christlike. I hasten to point out that these promises are not given to us because we are good, have earned them or are superior to anyone else; no, they are given to us simply because we know the Lord.

The corruption of the world is what I touched on earlier. We are surrounded by sinfulness, and temptation seems to appear from every direction. How can we Christians escape such wickedness and not be overwhelmed by it? By receiving these very valuable promises, by drawing on Christ and all His strength and abiding in Him (as a branch linked to a vine) we can deny human (sinful) desire and seek the Spirit’s lead.

Practically, what does this all mean?

Put simply, I believe these verses point us back to God’s Word. We find these precious promises in the Bible. We come to know Christ fully as we see Him revealed in Scripture. As we study the Word, it changes us from the inside out and, over time, we become more like the Lord we serve.

Seek out those promises today. Read the Gospels and learn about who Jesus is. As you do so, you will be eternally blessed.

Psalm 32 – Sermon

A few years ago I gave a sermon on Psalm 32, and was reviewing my notes from it this morning.

It is one of the penitential Psalms, or Psalms of repentance. It is a wonderful set of verses, and I share below the audio message I gave at the time.

Do have a read of the whole Psalm before listening, as it is not included in the recording.

Parable Surprises – Wedding Banquet

While the phrase is weeping and gnashing of teeth are not entirely encouraging, they are important biblical concepts. this blog post offers some interesting insights into their meaning, and some more general thoughts on this particular parable which I will encourage you to read.

I do not like to share posts too often, as I do not want to weary my readership! But there are some truly amazing writers on WordPress, so do explore for yourselves and find them!

Weddings are awesome, but sometimes full of tension and surprises. To plan a wedding is one of the more complex projects I have been involved with. …

Parable Surprises – Wedding Banquet

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)

The Berean Approach – Andy Brown (repost)

I don’t want you to just take my word for it… We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important. It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/04/12/the-berean-approach/

Is the Old Testament Relevant Today? (Best of 2021)

As part of my Course in Christian Studies, I have completed an assignment about why I think the Old Testament is relevant to 21st Century readers. I thought I would share it with you today. Is the Old Testament Relevant Today? CCS Assignment 1 Imagine you have a Christian friend who cannot see the point…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2021/01/09/is-the-old-testament-relevant-today/

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!

Belief and Action

Here is an essay I wrote as part of my Course in Christian Studies. I hope you enjoy! I hope that normal service will resume on the blog in the not too distant…!

7. Write an essay of between 1500 and 2000 words on the question: What have you learned from Paul about the relationship between what we believe and how we act?

By Andrew Brown

In this essay, I will attempt to explain what I have learned from Paul about the relationship between what we (Christians) believe, and how we ought to therefore act.

Before we can explore what I have learned from Paul about this, we must first ask if any such connection exists. Do our beliefs affect our actions at all, or rather do our actions go on to affect our beliefs? Or, alternatively, is there little connection between them whatsoever?

Let’s take a simple example to begin with. What does the act of sitting down in a chair tell us, if anything, about our beliefs? The obvious answer is that by the act of sitting in a chair, we learn that the individual must first have believed that the chair could hold their weight. If they did not believe this, then there would have been no corresponding action. The action is driven by the belief.

Similarly, a person who says they believe a chair can hold their weight, and yet refuses to take the action of actually sitting in it, is likely not being totally honest. What faith can we put in their “belief” if they are not willing to act on it?

Finally, what came first – belief or action? Without belief, one may have chosen not to take the action at all and this suggests the believing must precede the action. However, one who does not believe, sits down anyway, and yet the chair does not fall… such a person would derive belief from that action.

Of course this example has limitations, but it in some small way aids us in understanding what I have learned from Paul in his letters – namely, that what we believe is crucial, and that it drives the actions we take.

Using Colossians as our prime example, I hope to demonstrate that we must first believe in the truth of the Gospel and in what Christ achieved for us, and this, therefore, leads to us living and acting in the way Paul directs us.

Paul opens his letter like so: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,” (Col. 1:1 ESV) and we note that Paul is an apostle, not on his own merit, education or effort, but rather by the will of God.

Chapter 1 begins with Paul giving thanks for the Colossians, and their response to the Gospel which they heard from Epaphras (v7). He tells them that he has not stopped praying for them since he heard of their faith (v3-4). Beginning at verse 9, Paul then notes down some of his prayers for the church. Part of verse 9 says “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” and this is a prayer about their belief rather than action. It is about helping them fully understand spiritual matters and to know His will for them. Verse 10 then begins “so,” as of a result of this, that they may “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…” Before they can act in a pleasing way, they must first know and believe the truth of the Gospel.

Having completed his prayer, Paul goes on to discuss the Pre-eminence of Christ, starting at v15. Paul sets out that Christ is the image of the invisible God (v15), and that all things were created by and for Him (v16). Verse 18 tells us He (Christ) is the head of the body, that is the church, and v19 is astonishing as it states that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Him!

Verses 21 to 23 tell us how Christ reconciled us, despite our evil, to Himself through the death of His body. That we may be present holy and blameless and even above reproach if we continue steadfastly in our faith. This all achieved by Christ, and not attributed to our own action or righteousness. It is all about our faith in the One who has achieved it for us!

Paul concludes chapter one by explaining his ministry in Christ for the church. We see almost no instruction to act in any particular way here, and Paul has made a case for what Christ has done. He has stated the theology we must first accept and believe.

Chapter 2 continues in like manner. Paul sets out how he wants the church to have full understanding of the mystery of Christ. He continues to build the theology, wanting them to be “knit together in love.” Only at verse 6 do we see a command to act – “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Again, it begins with “Therefore,” like the “so” above, and as a result of what they believe they must act accordingly.

After a warning to guard against deception in “philosophy and empty deceit,” (v8), Paul goes back to setting out the supremacy of Christ. Verse 12 points out how we were buried with Him in baptism, and raised with Christ through faith. Verse 14 shows how our debt to God (in sin) has been cancelled, and nailed to the cross forever.

Paul ends chapter 2 arguing that the church is free from the demands of rituals to do with food or drink, New Moons or Sabbaths. The final verse of the chapter points out that while such laws have the appearance of wisdom or “self made religion,” – “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (v23). 

Having built a strong foundation of faith in the first two chapters, that is, the beliefs of the Christian, chapter three then begins to set out how we ought to act as a result. Paul tells them to seek the things that are above, and to keep their minds focussed on the matters of Heaven, not of the Earth. Verse 5 instructs the church to put to death the earthly things, such as sexual immorality, impurity and evil desire. Verse 8 tells us to put away things such as anger, malice and obscene talk, and verse 9 that we ought not to lie to one another.

Verse 12 begins the contrast, stating what we should be doing; compassion, kindness, humility and patience. Verse 13 gives the instruction to forgive each other and above all else, verse 14 tells us to put on love. As a result of acting this way, the peace of Christ will rule in our hearts (v15).

The remainder of chapter 3 gives instructions for the Christian household, advising how wives, husbands, children and parents ought to act towards each other. Many of these commands are difficult and often contrary to the ways of the world, and so we must act this way out of the firm foundation of our belief in the Gospel and what Christ has achieved.

Before Paul concludes his letter in chapter 4 with his final greetings, he gives further instructions for “masters” and also general instructions about prayer and wisdom. All of these come together to paint a clear picture of how we Christians ought to act.

As demonstrated above, we see that Paul does not launch straight into instruction for the church in his letters. Instead, he builds a foundation of faith and belief, and then, as a result, directs us to live and act in certain ways. Such a structure is not unique to Colossians, and we see it also in Paul’s other epistles.

There is insufficient space here to discuss the letter of Romans to any degree, but it is another example of how Paul sets out the comprehensive view of the Gospel in perhaps the first eleven chapters, and then turns to instruction in the concluding chapters. Romans 12 opens with the famous verse from the NIV: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” This “Therefore” builds on the theology of the previous chapters to then give us instructions of how to act.

Finally, we can make similar arguments of the structure of Galatians or Ephesians, but I cannot pass up the opportunity to discuss the small letter of Philemon. In this letter, Paul writes to Philemon asking him to accept back his runaway servant Onesimus. This short letter encapsulates the relationship between belief and action that I have learned from Paul.

Paul begins by praying for Philemon, and rejoicing in his love driven by his faith in the Lord Jesus. He then, rather than commanding Philemon to accept back Onesimus, appeals to him on the basis on his love and faith. Paul has little doubt that Philemon will do the right thing because he believes the truth of the Gospel and acts out his love. Paul does not seem to need to instruct, but instead points out his knowledge of the faith, and therefore relies on this to appeal to Philemon to do what is right.

In conclusion, I take from all of this that in order to act in a manner worthy of the Lord, we must first have proper belief, that is, correct theology about what Christ has achieved in and for us. If we believe right, then this will lead to right actions. I believe that if we attempt to act well without proper belief, then we are merely acting as those under the Law. We do not act to obtain God’s love and favour, instead we have already obtained it through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, so therefore we act accordingly.

When studying Paul’s letters, I may be tempted to jump straight to the instructional sections, wanting to practice my faith. However, I believe I will have little success unless I have a firm grasp of the truth of the Gospel, and like Paul, I “ask God to fill you [me] with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9 NIV).

Why water into wine?

It was my pleasure to stand in for our local vicar at short notice this week. In this video, I share a few thoughts about why I think Jesus turned water into wine from John 2.

For some technical reason I do not understand, I was not able to upload the video directly to this post. However include a link below to the video on Facebook. Hope you enjoy!

https://fb.watch/3d1lSFD0DE/

Course in Christian Studies

This week I have started on the Course for Christian Studies. This is a two-year course designed to help Christians understand the Christian faith more deeply and to also act as a gateway into various forms of ministry.

For me, I’ve tried to study the Christian faith myself over the years and so hope these early weeks of the course won’t be too stretching for me! We shall see! Theological training is important, and week one of the course is entitled “You too can be a theologian!” Properly handling the Bible and understanding matters of doctrine is important for all believers.

I have wanted to get involved more and more in the life of my church. My gifts largely centre around teaching, and while I have been very fortunate over the years to be able to teach in a variety of ways, if I want to do more in my church then I do need to obtain more formal training. I understand this, and it is wise that those in positions of authority or teaching are properly equipped.

I have been praying a lot about my own ministry and its future. I am certainly keen to explore more formal ministry further, and completing this course is a great first step. Through it, I hope to learn al ot but to also meet other believers on a similar journey. Also, I hope it will help me to more fully understand God’s will for my life.

As I progress on the course, I will try to write about it from time to time. I won’t give you a blow by blow account, but hope to keep you updated on my progress and the things I am learning.

This first course module is all about Encountering God. Those on the course come from a variety of churches and backgrounds, and so we begin by getting to know one another.

One activity involved noting down words we use for and about God. These included:

  • Lion of Judah (see Revelation 5:5)
  • Lamb of God (see John 1:29)
  • Comforter (see John 14:16 (Amp))
  • Advocate (see John 14:16 (Amp))
  • Judge (see Psalm 75:7)
  • And so many more…

God is everything to us, and so one single name does not fully convey Who He is. The Bible refers to God in a huge variety of ways. Some you will relate to, and some you may find more difficult.

We can no more define God than we can measure the distance between east and west. God is beyond our comprehension, and we are shown various dimensions of His character throughout Scripture. And yet, paradoxically, we can know Him. We can know the unknowable. The Almighty God came down as a Man, a human being just like each of us, and He lived a life like we live.

It is a mystery that the God of the Heavens has made Himself known to us through His Son. The God so far above us connects with us on our level. He meets us where we are.

Who is He to you? I will be spending some time this week thinking about this question. Have I put Him in a box, and have I limited Him? Do I know Him as I ought to, or do I concentrate on the bits I want to? I rejoice in His salvation, but do I submit to His Lordship? Have I painted a picture of Him in my mind which is not true, and if so, how can I really learn Who He is from the Bible?

The course this week has challenged me to think about this. I do not wish to limit God, nor do I want to know Him only in part. He is Saviour and Friend, but also Lord and Judge.

We can know God through the Bible, but it tqakes effort on our part. We must study the Scriptures and learn about Him. Not just gathering facts about Him, but understanding Who He is through relationship. I may know my wife’s date of birth, hair colour, shoe size or telephone number yet these are just facts about her and tell me little of who she really is. Likewise, I may gather pieces of data about God and still totally miss Who He is.

Only through systematic study of Scripture can we fully know God as He is revealed to us. Let us leave behind any preconceptions or traditions, and see what the Bible really has to say. I pray that the Holy Spirit will help each one of us do that.

I hope this has been of interest, and I’ll post more about the course over the coming weeks and months.