Preach the Gospel (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Preach the Gospel, and if you have to, use words… let me tell you, you do have to use words!

St Francis is often attributed to having said “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!” There is much truth in this, and our lives and actions should certainly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

I am certain however, that St Francis never intended this phrase to become an excuse not to use words.

While our actions do indeed speak louder than words at times, we must all be ready to speak and proclaim the Gospel of Christ clearly when necessary.

When sharing the Gospel with someone, we may only have at most sixty seconds before they move on, decide they are not interested or want to hear more. We should all rehearse and practise that one-minute Gospel presentation. Don’t stumble over the words in the heat of the moment, have them stored away in your memory so that you can call upon them when needed.

Words without action may be ineffective, as we ought to give people a reason to listen. But actions without words to back them up may not give people a clear understanding of what Jesus has done for us all.

God made the world. We broke it. We deserve punishment for this sin. But God loved us and sent His Son to take the punishment for us. He died on a sinner’s cross, but rose to life again after three days. If we accept Him and put Him in charge of our lives, we can enjoy a new relationship with Him.

Let the world see this in your actions, and tell them what Christ has done!

Honour Your Parents

We resume our series on the Ten Commandments today, and as the title suggests, we are thinking about the command to honour our father and mother. I feel I should point out that in the UK, we spell “honour” with a “u” so apologies to anyone who doesn’t!

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12 (ISV)

When thinking about the Ten Commandments, one thing we must ask ourselves is “Why these commands?” Not committing murder makes sense, as does the command to worship only God alone. But what about the others?

There are many ways we could answer that, but for now let’s at least assume that God was very intentional about the ones He chose to give to the people of Israel. If God thought them important enough to be included in the “top ten” then we should take them seriously indeed!

Dishonouring ones parents may not seem equivalent to murder or theft, but it is clearly important to God. Part of the reason, I believe, is because God sees His people as a family and our earthly families should model our spiritual one. If we are not willing to honour our earthly parents, then how could we be willing to honour our Heavenly Father?

What does it mean to honour one’s parents? In this case, to “honour,” means to “respect,” or “revere.” Essentially God wants us to treat our parents well. They brought us into the world, raised us and so, in return, we ought to treat them with proper respect and kindness.

If our parents are elderly, then they may need care and support, and it is our responsibility to provide that. Now that may not mean we provide that care ourselves in person, but it may mean organising support in various ways.

Paul offers some instruction for children, and quotes this very commandment. His advice, of course, is likely aimed at non-adult children in this case.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Honor your father and mother…” (This is a very important commandment with a promise.) 3 “…so that it may go well for you, and that you may have a long life on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:1-2 (ISV)

At least one way then, to honour our parents, is to obey them. While we are young enough to live under their authority, we should do what they ask of us.

Paul points out in Ephesians that this commandment comes complete with a promise attached. Those who do this, will live long in the land. Are we to take it that if we do honour our mothers and fathers that God will bless us with a long life? The words speak for themselves. I read recently that Japan has one of the highest life expectancy in the world. In that culture, parents are very much revered so perhaps that’s why.

What about bad parents?

A natural objection might be, “My parents did not treat me right, so why should I treat them with any respect or honour?” That may be true, and perhaps your parents were even abusive or neglectful. The commandment does not specify “good” fathers or “responsible” mothers, only the ones that we have.

I am not suggesting you just ignore abuse or neglect, and go and try to have a wonderful relationship with your parents. Such parents are still to be honoured but of course that may look very different in cases without such a difficult past.

The key is to do the best you can, even if they don’t deserve it.

Spiritual Parents

For those reading this who are without earthly parents, for whatever reason, how might you go about fulfilling this commandment?

Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I can be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 I do not have anyone else like him who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21 For all the others look after their own interests, not after those of Jesus the Messiah.[a] 22 But you know his proven worth—how like a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.

Philippians 2:19-22 (ISV)

Not all of our parents are earthly, and some in fact are spiritual.

Paul considered Timothy to be a “son in the faith” or “spiritual son,” and I do not think it a stretch to believe Timothy felt that Paul was a father to him as well.

We can fulfil this commandment by honouring our spiritual fathers and mothers also. Those who have taught us or encouraged us, those who have raised us in our faith, and those who loved and cared for us as part of the family of believers – all are spiritual parents.

If you think back over your journey of faith with Jesus, I imagine there will be those who have made a real mark in encouraging you in some way. These people should be celebrated and honoured. If they are still a part of your life now, then reach out to them today and tell them what they mean to you.

Honouring our parents, whether earthly or spiritual, is not always easy, but it pleases God. How can you fulfil this commandment today?

The Pattern of Sound Teaching (Guest Author)

I’m so pleased to be able to welcome the very first guest author to this blog. I asked Phill Sacre if he would write something for us and he very kindly agreed.

Phill has been a personal friend of mine for a long time, and forms part of the ordained ministry team at our church.

Alongside his church ministry, Phill has launched an online ministry called Understand the Bible. This video ministry supports Christians in their walk with God and… well, helps them to understand the Bible!

I’ll say more at the end, but for now, I hope you enjoy Phill’s post.


The Pattern of Sound Teaching

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14)


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

A few years ago Carl Trueman wrote a book called “The Creedal Imperative”. In the introduction to that book he said: “The burden that motivates my writing of this book is my belief that creeds and confessions are vital to the present and future well-being of the church.” I found the book very stimulating and it is well worth reading.

In the book, Trueman argues that 2 Timothy 1:13, the “pattern” (or “form”) of sound teaching is important for the church: this is not simply learning the Scriptures – as important as that is – but, more than that, learning the truth contained within the Bible.

Let’s consider an example: the Trinity. You may well be aware that the word “Trinity” does not occur within the Bible. However, does that mean that the Trinity is un-Biblical? Of course not! Trinity is simply a word which theologians over the centuries have come up with to explain what is in the Bible. As they studied the Bible, they realised that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity may be simply a word, but it expresses an important Biblical truth. It is a precious truth which has been passed down to us through many faithful Christians over the generations.

But if the Trinity is a deeply Biblical and important truth for our faith, why is it that Christians seem to have so little confidence with this doctrine? Why is it, as Andrew Wilson highlighted in a blog a few years ago, that modern worship songs are rarely Trinitarian (they tend to address God only as ‘God’ or ‘Lord’, rather than the specific Father / Son / Holy Spirit)?

You could extend this to many different areas. I, along with many other Christians, have been deeply distressed over the last few years that many churches in the UK have changed their minds on a number of significant moral issues of the day e.g. about marriage and sexuality, end-of-life issues, and so on. Why is it that churches in the 21st century seem too often to take on the values of the surrounding culture rather than being counter cultural?

I believe the answer to both of these questions is that many churches have neglected the “pattern of sound teaching” which we started out with. Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of people who have only recently come to Christ. They’ve been a variety of ages and from a variety of backgrounds, but one thing is common to virtually all of them: they started out knowing next to nothing about the Christian faith.

What became abundantly clear to me while as I tried to teach them the faith was that our traditional way of doing things in the church – a sermon on a Sunday, with a home group mid-week, looking at a section of the Bible – was simply not enough. For one, most of them didn’t come to church every Sunday – we’ve found it extraordinarily difficult to encourage young families to come to church! We found that home groups are attended much more regularly – but even a home group doing a traditional home group study on a Bible passage didn’t hit the spot.

It’s not that the Bible isn’t good enough – of course the Bible is sufficient. But rather, our teaching methods weren’t sufficient: I found that we needed to find a way of teaching people ‘from the ground up.’ One of my regrets with our group is that I tried to do too much too soon – we moved onto a traditional Bible study before I think they were really ready for it; they needed more time to learn.

So, the million dollar question is, what should we be doing instead?

Over the last few years, I have rediscovered something which the church largely forgot during the 20th century: catechism. A catechism is simply a way of teaching and learning the Christian faith through a series of questions and answers. Catechisms were originally developed in the early church to teach people the faith before coming to baptism. They have been used through the centuries to teach new believers (and children) the faith. They were rediscovered at the time of the reformation, and two of the most famous catechisms still in use today were produced at that time (the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism).

Why did they fall out of favour in the 20th century? Perhaps churches became complacent. Perhaps churches thought “everyone’s a Christian”, and so stopped doing it. There are probably many answers – but I think the weakness of the church now is simply the fruit of what was sowed then. At the start I quoted, George Santayana – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We ought to learn from the experience of the church in previous generations. Not long ago I was listening to a podcast on the early church which talked about people being converted from pagan backgrounds needing to be taught the faith from the ground up. The church has been in our situation before – what we are going through in the 21st century is nothing new. We already have the wisdom of previous generations in dealing with this!

I have been enormously encouraged recently by signs that the church is beginning to learn. Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has published the New City Catechism – a modern language catechism with lots of teaching resources including a Sunday School curriculum. The church in the 21st Century is starting to wake up to the fact that people need to be taught the Christian faith systematically in order to understand it.

This is where Understand the Bible comes in. Over the last few months I’ve been working on a website called Understand the Bible. This is my effort at trying to help the 21st century church to teach people the faith. I have recorded lots of videos on different topics (e.g. the New City Catechism, Justification, Sin, and I am currently working on the Heidelberg Catechism). People can then sign up to the website and be guided through these videos, watching them in their own time at their own convenience. I have even just released a mobile app so people can watch / listen on their smartphones!

It is still a work on progress – one thing I really want to do is make it easy for local churches to link into it, to create a stronger link between UTB and the local church. I don’t want people simply to sit at home and watch the videos without getting connected to the church!

But my hope and prayer is that these videos will help people to understand the Christian faith by providing a “pattern of sound teaching” from the ground up. I hope that it will both strengthen existing believers and teach new believers the wonderful truths of the gospel which have been passed down from generation to generation.


 

A huge thanks to Phill for contributing his thoughts on this subject.

You can find out more about Phill at his personal website – phillsacre.me

Understand the Bible has a whole host of videos to take you from the basics of the Christian faith through to studies of particular books. There really is something for everyone no matter where you are on your journey with Christ. I encourage you to take a look.

The Ten Commandments

Yesterday I wrote about one of the proverbs, and it was ultimately a post about stealing. You can read it here – It’s Not Really Stealing… I referred to one of the Ten Commandments which clearly tells us we should not steal. It got me thinking about the Commandments as a whole and so perhaps this will turn into a miniseries!

When I was young, I remember discussing the Ten Commandments at school. I imagine most children today are not taught or shown such things. That’s certainly true in the UK. We take the Bible out of schools, don’t teach children God’s ways and then wonder why we struggle with morality in society!

Some may think that the Bible is not relevant today. Even more so, we may think the Ten Commandments have nothing to do with modern life. Yet I hope what I said yesterday about stealing reminded us all how relevant these things are.

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments into two main categories. we could put it simply like this: love God, and love people.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

This is a wonderful summary. Our whole lives as Christians should be focused on loving our Heavenly Father and on loving the people in our lives. That is no easy or small task!

So what exactly are the Ten Commandments? Many of us might struggle to name all ten! Here they are:

God spoke, and these were his words: 2 “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.

3 “Worship no god but me.

4 “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 6 But I show my love to thousands of generations[a] of those who love me and obey my laws.

7 “Do not use my name for evil purposes, for I, the Lord your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name.

8 “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9 You have six days in which to do your work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. 11 In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the seas, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That is why I, the Lord, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.

12 “Respect your father and your mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you.

13 “Do not commit murder.

14 “Do not commit adultery.

15 “Do not steal.

16 “Do not accuse anyone falsely.

17 “Do not desire another man’s house; do not desire his wife, his slaves, his cattle, his donkeys, or anything else that he owns.”

Exodus 20:1-17 (GNT)

Some may see these as rather old fashioned to our ears. Some will wonder what relevance the Sabbath rest has to us Christians in the 21st Century. Have any of us ever had any issues desiring our neighbour’s animals? Probably not. 

Yet when we dig a little deepr, we start to see that these Commandments reveal certain problems we may have hiding in our hearts. We might describe this “problem” in different ways, but it is essentially the problem of sin. 

We can examine the Commandments in turn and see how they fit in to modern life. I imagine if we all chose to live by them, even for a short time, we would be amazed at the changed state of the world. 

For now though, let’s look at the effect of the Law. Paul goes to some length to describe the purpose of the Law in his letters in the New Testament. I don’t propose to look at those now, but instead point you to an event described in the Gospels involving Jesus. 

The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

John 8:3-11 (GNT)

The teachers of the Law brought this woman to Jesus to try to trap Him. If He let her go, then He was breaking the Law – that is, one of the Ten Commandments. If He condemned her, then He showed the crowds He was no different from them. 

Whenever the teachers thought they had Jesus trapped, He always showed them up. This is no different. 

Instead of answering them straightaway, He stoops down and begins to write on the ground. Many have asked, “What did He write?” For me, this is part of the authenticity of John’s Gospel. Were this account fictional, you would never leave out such a detail! 

In our minds, we imagine the ground where Jesus was writing like a sandy beach. He scratched out whatever He wrote for all to see. The ground by the temple, where Jesus was, is actually quite rocky. So, in a sense, we see the finger of God writing in stone… a clear allusion to the Ten Commandments of Moses. 

It is my opinion that Jesus was in fact writing the Ten Commandments. As the teachers began to see and comprehend what He was writing, they began to realise their own guilt and shame. Jesus told them that whoever was without sin should throw the first stone. As they read the words of the Ten Commandments on the ground, they realised they too had broken them and deserved the same punishment as this woman. 

It is noticeable that they left, oldest to youngest, perhaps because the older we get, the more we realise how sinful we are. 

The Ten Commandments teach us our need for a Saviour. We have fallen short in many ways, and sin has corrupted our entire lives. 

Only the saving work of Jesus Christ at the cross can remedy that. Amen.

Loved Much

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Luke 7:47 (ESV)

God has put this verse before me this morning, and it is hard to put into words its impact. I definitely need to study this more, meditate on it and may be able to share some thoughts on it at a later date.

I had another post lined up for today, but felt strongly I should put this verse out there with my initial reactions. I hope it blesses you, and please comment below if it does.

While I was at university, I remember clearly discussing this verse with some Christian friends. Someone asked, “Does that mean those who are worse sinners can love God more than others?”

It seems to imply that doesn’t it?

As I read it this morning, the following thoughts moved through my mind. “I know I am a sinner. I know I could love God more than I do. When I reach heaven, I’ll see the depth of my forgiveness and will love Him fully then…”

These thoughts are true to some degree, but even as I thought them, I knew I had it backwards. My thoughts were an expression of seeing before believing. And that is not faith. Faith believes first, and sees later.

Am I a worse sinner than others? Perhaps, or perhaps not. We do tend to get all too hung up on comparisons to others. We somehow feel better if we can look on someone else and feel we are performing better than they. That’s pride and judgement, and don’t tell me there isn’t a small part of you that thinks that way at times. I confess it to you this day that I am sometimes (even often) guilty of this.

I love God little (that is, less than I should) not because I am not a terrible sinner, but rather because I don’t fully appreciate the depth of my own sinfulness. That is true for all. The more we realise how deep our sin is, the more we realise our need for God’s saving work and the more – certainly – we will love Him.

Mary was the subject of Jesus words above. She loved much because she knew she was forgiven of much. Her love was so astonishing that I cannot wait to meet her in heaven one day.

At the tomb on Resurrection Day, the other women fainted at the sight of the angels, and yet Mary said, “Where is my Lord?” Most people hit the ground in the presence of an angel, yet Mary was so focused on Jesus that not even the glory of an angel would deter her.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

John 20:11-13 (ESV)

I want to love God with all of my heart. If i truly knew how forgiven I am, then my love would abound. I’m guessing the same is true for you too.

While I do not think it healthy to focus on our sin all of the time, I think too few of us really consider how enormous God’s forgiveness is towards us. Examine your life, recognise your sinfulness yes, but lift up your hearts in praise to the One who has cleansed you of all unrighteousness!

Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection is the solution to all of our sin! Worship Him today and may your love grow as you realise what He has done for you.

You Thrill Me (Psalm 92 #2)

Yesterday I wrote about the first few verses of Psalm 92, and so today i thought I would just carry on and talk about more of this great song of praise.

You can read yesterday’s post here – Praise in the morning, praise in the evening.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening,
3 accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp,
and the melody of a lyre.

4 You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what you have done.
5 O Lord, what great works you do!
And how deep are your thoughts.
6 Only a simpleton would not know,
and only a fool would not understand this:
7 Though the wicked sprout like weeds
and evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

Psalm 92:1-7 (NLT)

All He has done

Verses 1-3 encourage us to worship God for particular aspects of His character. It points us toward God’s unfailing love and His faithfulness. Verse 4 turns our attention to the good things God has done as a result of His wonderful character.

I once heard it said that worship is about recognising who God is, whereas praise is about the things He has done. Perhaps the definitions aren’t so rigid, but it is a helpful way to look at it. The psalm, in that case, turns worship into praise.

The New Living Translation, quoted above, uses the word “thrill,” which is a powerful term. God’s work should thrill us! We associate the word thrill or thrilling with something like a roller-coaster or extreme sport. I suppose in some ways our Christian lives can be a lot like that at times!

We are thrilled, or excited, by god’s wonderful works. Think of all He has done for you! We can look at Creation and see its complexity and beauty. We can look at the blessings we receive on a daily basis. Most of all we can focus on the saving work of Jesus Christ and the immense grace shown to us who believe.

Again, we are encouraged to sing in response to the kindness of God. Not just sing though, but sing for joy!

Joy is something I feel I lack. I’m happy, don’t get me wrong, but I find it hard to grasp joy in my inner man at times. Even as I write these words, I hear the Spirit’s whisper that it is because I do not do what the psalmist is instructing us here. I do not consider what God has done often enough. All too frequently I am caught up in the concerns of this life – work, family, or even recreation, and not nearly enough on the things of eternity.

The solution to lack of joy:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 (NLT)

Does this apply to you also?

Flourishing Evil

Verses 5-7 are really quite interesting. Verse 5 directs us to consider how deep the thoughts of God are. I am truly humbled by the times I have questioned God or what He has done. How dare I even imagine that I could fathom His reasons or actions with my limited mind?

When my children repeat over and over, “Why, dad, why?” I try to explain as best I can, but sometimes the answer is simply because I know things they do not. I cannot ask my six year old to understand the economic impacts of COVID-19 nor explain to my two year old about genetics or astrophysics. Some things are just beyond them.

The same is true for me. God’s thoughts and ways are sometimes so far above our comprehension, it is rather comical that we try to figure it out. God wants us to use our brain and to understand what we can, but we must also know our limits.

Verses 6 and 7 have some tough words for us. It says that only a simpleton would not understand this – that evildoers may flourish like weeds but they will be destroyed forever.

The psalmist is adamant. He tells us it is as plain as day! Yes evil may well flourish around us and be as abundant as weeds in a neglected garden, but they will not get away with it. Evil will not go unpunished. Why not? Because there is a just God in heaven!

Some people ask how a loving God could punish people in an eternal hell. The answer is simple, if not easy. A loving God must also be a just God. If God were to simply ignore sin and evil, then the result of that would not be “loving” for all. Imagine if someone committed a horrendous crime against someone you dearly loved, and the police just let them go. Would you feel loved? No, you would want justice!

The problem we have though, is that we are all guilty of sin and evil. So God, to be just, must punish us all. But thank God for His mercy and “deep thoughts”!

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

God has done something astonishingly amazing. He could have just left us to face the punishment of our sin but He didn’t – He had a plan. God came down and became human. We call Him Jesus. He never once failed to do good, and never once sinned against God or man. Yet He took the full punishment we deserve. He became our substitute so we can go free.

This thrills me!

God’s justice is fulfilled in Christ’s death. God’s love is demonstrated in the same way. Only a fool or a simpleton would accuse God of injustice or a lack of love towards His creation.

Evil may flourish for a lifetime on Earth, but eternity is a very long time.

Let the God of love and justice thrill you this day! Sing for joy for the things He has done! And another day we will complete this stunning psalm.

Have a great weekend!

Praise in the Morning, Praise in the Evening (Psalm 92 #1)

Part of my Bible reading this morning was in Psalm 92. It is a wonderful psalm of praise and thanksgiving, and I think we need a good dose of that right now. In fact, we always do, but times of struggle seem to require an extra boost of worship.

The psalm is one for the Sabbath day. In case you are not familiar, the Sabbath was a day of rest, dedicated to the Lord which the Jewish people celebrate from Friday evening to Saturday evening. No work is done on the Sabbath, and the intention is that the time is spent in praise to God, resting our bodies and souls.

While Christians do not celebrate the Sabbath in the same way, the principles are still very much needed and it would not hurt us one bit to dedicate a day to the Lord to rest and worship. We do not need to make it a law, and whether you do it on a Saturday, Sunday or any other day perhaps does not matter. what matters is that we spend dedicated quality time with God.

The psalm begins like this:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening,
3 accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp,
and the melody of a lyre.

Psalm 92:1-3 (NLT)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord

Amen to that!

It is indeed good to give thanks to God, and something we all lack at times. Too often we are asking for more from God, while neglecting to thank Him for all He has already done.

Thankfulness is less of an activity, and more of a heart attitude. I mean that we ought not to just thank God for a set time, then move on, but rather make thankfulness an integral part of our lives and who we are.

Times may well be tough right now, but can you find things to be thankful for? Knowing Jesus is no small thing if it be the only thing you can think of immediately.

Sing praises to the Most High

I love music, but have never been specially musical. I play guitar, but it has always been a bit mechanical rather than any natural musical ability. Singing, like my guitar playing, is not a natural talent of mine. Where I have learned to play the guitar, I have also learned to aim my voice in the general direction i wish it to go!

Whether you are tone-deaf, or a top suprano, we can all sing praises to the Most High God. In church or at home, we can all lift our voices and unite in singing about the goodness of God.

Verse 3 encourages us to use instruments to accompany our voices. Whether you play or not, many of us can play background music to sing along with. I mentioned in my post on Wednesday – The Blessing– how we had been playing a lot of worship music lately. This is good to do, and helps us focus on our relationship with God and not on the worries of the world.

In the morning and in the evening

Verse 2 tells us it is good to proclaim God’s love in the morning, and His faithfulness in the evening. While I do not think these two specific things are literal instructions i.e. that we should only proclaim Gods love in the morning, and the evening is reserved for His faithfulness, I think the principle is clear. We should start and end each day in worship to God.

If you are like me, then you tend to start your days rushing around getting children ready, grabbing a coffee and then dashing to work. Days end in a similar way, but in reverse and with less coffee!

The ideal is to put God first, right at the start of the day. Jesus did this. We see many times in the Gospel accounts of Jesus rising early in the morning to spend time with His Father.

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.

Mark 1:35 (NLT)

Days can end in a similar way. As we prepare for bed, what if we took the time to give thanks for all the good that happened this day. I imagine our sleep might be a fraction more peaceful having dedicated some time to recalling the good, and not worrying about the bad.

I want worship to be an integral part of your life, but do not want it to be a chore you schedule into an already packed routine. Focus on different aspects of God’s character each day. Keep it fresh by using different songs or even different places where you worship. Most importantly, worship while you work, clean or shop.

Never stop giving praise to the Most High!

The Blessing

We have been playing a lot of worship music in our house lately. We do normally I suppose, but now that we are all home most of the time, it feels like it is more than usual.

One song in particular has caught my attention, and it is “The Blessing (Live)” and is sung by Elevation Worship, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. If you are not familiar with it, I’m sure you can find it on YouTube or your music streaming service of choice! It is essentially a sung version of the “Aaronic Blessing” or “Priestly Blessing” from the Bible.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

This is a beautiful blessing, and so the words also make a beautiful song. I do love worship music which uses the words of the Bible. I really believe that songs have a theology, and where we sing them over and over, it’s important they are biblical words which build us up.

So a worship song which quotes directly from the Bible should be fine, right? Well…

For starters, this is a sung blessing and so the words are sung by the congregation to the congregation. That is fine, and a valid expression of our faith. Worship is of course singing to God, but singing about God to other people is worship in another sense.

While this particular song doesn’t sing words of praise to God directly, worship is implied in the fact that His blessing is so richly sought by His people. If God was not God, then His blessing would not be so valuable.

In a previous post I wrote, called “Christ is… Enough?” I discussed worship songs at some length. I won’t cover that same ground again here, but do feel free to go back and read that one.

One concern I do have about “The Blessing” as a worship song is its construction. It was recorded in a mega-church setting, with many people gathered (not that this is a bad thing). It starts softly, and slowly rises to a huge crescendo at the end. The music, the lights, the smoke etc. all combine to take you on an emotional journey. It’s wonderful on one hand, but is it God?

My worry is this: are we mistaking the presence and power of God for a manufactured experience of worship? What I mean is, is the height of that emotional journey really God’s anointing, or is it just the environment and music which has led us there?

I’ve experienced settings like this in the past, and it is easy to get swept along by the atmosphere and the highly polished presentation. We should always give God our best of course, but participating in worship is not the same as being entertained at a concert.

Imagine that exhilarating feeling of being present at one of these events. Thousands of voices singing, melodic music, hands raised in celebration. Then, you return to your “normal” church setting, and there’s one individual with a piano and no lights, sounds or smoke. It is all too easy to think, “God is not in this church…” And you would be wrong.

Enjoy beautiful music by all means. Don’t however mistake it for the presence of God. These hilltop experiences can lead us to forget that God is with us in the everyday. He is present when we sing in the shower, or hum a tune while washing the dishes. Those who chase emotional mountain-tops will struggle to enjoy God in their ordinary everyday lives. I don’t want that for you.

God will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus has promised to be with you until the very end of the age.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV, emphasis added)

You will find Him not in the neon lights, but in the still small voice.

Let me leave you with this prayer from the Priestly Blessing.

Heavenly Father,

I ask you to bless every reader, to keep them, and to turn Your face toward them. May You be gracious unto them in their everyday lives, and give them peace.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

It Takes Time (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

If it took years to get your life into a mess, then it may take years to get out of it too

Don’t expect God to fix all of your problems overnight.

Sometimes we come to Christ and expect Him to make all things right in our lives in a matter of days or weeks. However, it may have taken you your entire life to get into the situations you find yourself in, and you cannot ask God to just wave that all away.

If it took 40 years to get into a mess, then it may take just as long to get it straightened out.

Don’t get me wrong, God can and does do miracles, and it is not wrong to ask for them. Often we don’t need a miracle though, we just need discipline.

Take debt or dieting. You can’t over-eat for ten years and expect a week’s worth of dieting to fix it. You can’t max out four credit cards and then expect to pay off your debts in a couple of months. If you’ve overeaten for any length of time, you’ll need to under-eat and exercise to make it right. If you’ve overspent, the same is true. You will need to spend less than you earn for a while to pay it all off.

What do you want to change in your life? Is it a longstanding habit? IF so, it may take time. Give God as much time to undo it as you gave to doing it in the first place.

Whatever you want to change, it may take time, but just take one step after another. If you make good decisions consistently, then sooner or later you will reach your goal.

Be blessed as you live out wisdom in your life.

#Prayer video #3

Watch as Andy gives a quick update on some of the prayer requests we prayed over in recent videos. Some good news and some bad news unfortunately. But we rejoice that we can pray and praise the Lord together in this way.



Prayer is a wonderfully powerful thing that we can all do. If you have anything you would like prayer for, please do get in touch so Andy can pray for you. You can comment below, or use the Prayer page to send a note. 

If you would like more videos like this, then please hit the Like button and even better, leave a comment. You can subscribe to the blog to follow the latest posts, and please also share with anyone you think might be interested. 

The Challenging Word of God

I love it when the Bible catches you off guard. And especially so when it is a passage you think you know well.

That very thing happened to me this morning. I was looking over the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5. I cannot say I was actually reading it, but was more just scanning through a few verses. I certainly wasn’t doing any quality study!

One of the statements Jesus made really hit me. I am not even going to say which one it was, because that’s not the point of this post. It was just a vivid reminder that God’s Word is alive and God so often is wanting to speak to us through it.

God’s word is living and full of power. It is more sharp than any sword that cuts on both sides. What God says cuts through and divides the mind and spirit. It cuts through and divides the place where the bones are joined, and the part inside the bone. What God says is able to judge the things people think and plan in their hearts.

Hebrews 4:12 (WEB)

There was a real challenge for me in the words of Christ which I read this morning. It was as though the Holy Spirit lifted the curtain slightly, so I could see how far I still have to go. It was convicting, but not condemning. I didn’t walk away feeling depressed or deflated, but the prick of pain I felt from my own shame has caused me to dive deeper into God.

Jesus’ words often take us to a much higher level. The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of this. Jesus tells His audience to “go the extra mile,” or “to hate is to murder,2 or “to lust after a woman in your heart is the same as adultery…” These are difficult teachings to take in.

When we think we are doing well, then there is always another, deeper level we must strive for. I don’t mind confessing the sin of pride to you today. At some point, I must have thought I was doing well on my Christian journey. But of late, God has shown me a number of areas in which I’m falling rather short.

God’s Word is like a mirror we can study ourselves in.

But obey God’s word. Do not just listen to it. If you just listen to it, you fool yourselves.

23 Anyone who just listens to the word, and does not obey it, is like a man who looks at his face in a looking glass.

24 He looks at himself and goes away, and right away he forgets what he looked like.

James 1:22-24 (WEB)

In a physical mirror in your bathroom, you take a look at yourself and make sure you are presentable before leaving the house. Now I know your mirror may be underused during this lockdown period, but you catch the meaning! The mirror shows you if anything is out of place or needs fixing. You cannot look directly at your own face, so you use a reflection to aid you.

The Bible is just like this. It allows you to look deeply into it and show you things that are out of place. When you compare your life to that described in the Bible, you can begin to see areas where you need to change. We cannot change simply by our own effort, because that is called “works of the flesh,” meaning doing it in our own strength. Instead, we need to pray and study, and the more we rely on God, the more He can change us.

The Word of God should challenge us.

All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right.

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

Paul uses four separate words here to describe why God’s Word is useful to us.

For teaching – God’s Word teaches us how we should live. It shows us the way to conduct ourselves to please God with our lives.

For training – Training goes beyond teaching. To teach is to share knowledge, whereas training is to fully equip them with practical knowledge to do a particular task or job. God’s Word teaches us about Christ on the one hand, and trains us to live for Him on the other.

For reproof – Reproof is not a word we often encounter in our daily lives. To reprove someone is to sharply reprimand them. In this case, God’s Word can bring about discipline and rebuke us for our sins.

For correction – To reprove is to point out the wrong thing we have done, but to correct is to give a steer to show us the right way to go. Reproof and correction go hand in hand. One teaches us what we’ve done wrong, and the other what to do differently in the future.

God’s Word has challenged me today, as it so often does. It drives me forward to change, and leads me to want to please God in every way that I can. It could never do this if I did not take it seriously and regularly read and understand it.

Learn to love God’s Word today and everyday!

The Bible can a little difficult to get to grips with at first, and will take your entire life to master. I suggest you start reading the book of Luke and then Acts. These tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ, and how the church was born. 

For some other resources, I also recommend Understand the Bible

Don’t Give Up Giving

Giving can be a tough subject to discuss, and particularly at the moment with all the other issues going on in the world. However, a Christian who does not give is like a Christian who does not pray. Christians should be generous givers.

There are many individuals and groups struggling because of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown. Churches are not immune to this, and I am conscious that many churches will see a large drop in gifts and offering to them. Churches depend on this giving, and so I want to encourage you today to not stop your giving just because you can’t physically be there.

Of course, if you have lost income because of the virus and its restrictions, then you must change your giving accordingly. No one expects you to be able to continue giving based on an income you no longer receive!

Let’s see what the Bible says, and do a short study of this passage from 1 Corinthians.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come. 3 When I arrive, I will send whoever you approve with letters to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem

1 Corinthians 16:1-3 (WEB)

Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, gives some basic instructions about their giving to the work of the saints. He gave the same instructions to the churches of Galatia, and so I think we can apply it to our own church as well.

On “the first day of the week,” which was a Sunday, the people of the church should set aside the amount of money they wish to give. I believe that Paul chose the first day of the week for a reason. He wanted them to put God, and the offering to the work of the church, at the top of their priorities.

For many of us, giving is something of an afterthought. We arrive at church, rush in during the worship, and then scrabble around our pockets or purses to find a few coins to toss into the offering basket. This is not the way to give in a way that honours God.

Rather, Paul is encouraging them to prepare for giving, to pray about it, and to save the money in advance. In a similar way, we should be setting aside the money we want to give to our church and do that at the top of our budget. We should give first, then save, and finally spend.

Now we are not meeting together, we should not simply forget to give at all. We should be setting aside that money as before. If you can give by online means, then you can continue to give like that. If that is not an option for you, you can still save that money ready for when you can meet again.

Another version of the Bible translates verse two like this:

On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.

1 Corinthians 16:2 (NLT)

This is perhaps much clearer than the WEB version above. What Paul is saying is that we should give according to our means. Those who have more, should give more, and those who have less should give less. When Paul wrote these words, there were no set salaries like we have, and people’s income fluctuated depending on their trade. We tend to be paid the same amount each week or month in a salaried role, so it’s a little easier to manage our giving.

Those who are self-employed or who do not have a steady income can give depending on how much they have earned that period. Those impacted by COVID-19 may have had their salaries cut drastically, or may have even lost their jobs. Paul is telling us to give in accordance with what we have earned.

There is a lot more we could say about giving, but let me repeat my main point today. Don’t give up your giving. Just because you cannot be together as a church does not mean they no longer need your gifts. Pastors and ministers still need their wages, bills still need to be paid, and churches depend on its members.

Be a generous giver, especially in these difficult times. Churches want to be there to help those in need, but without your support, they cannot keep going let alone help others.