I’m Sorry – Andy Brown (Best of 2022)

Not exactly one of my most popular posts from this year, but I really like it! So I’m sharing it with you today. Hopefully you won’t have much cause to use this advice in the coming year, but just in case! 

I was thinking about apologising this week, not that there was a particular incident which I needed to say sorry for, but instead I was reflecting on how bad we are at it – generally speaking! Is that through lack of practise I wonder? We all make mistakes, and yet we often fail to apologise…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/02/03/im-sorry/

God’s Glory or Your Comfort? – Andy Brown (Best of 2022)

This was one of my most read Pearls of Wisdom from this year.

I hope you enjoy reading it again tody

Pearls of Wisdom God’s number one goal is NOT to make you comfortable Some Christian TV channels are great, but not all of their content lines up with Scripture. You do have to be discerning. If you tune in to the wrong show or preacher, you might be misled into thinking that God’s number one…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/01/19/gods-glory-or-your-comfort/

Then Wisdom (Proverbs 2:5-8) – Andy Brown (Best of 2022)

Over the course of 2022, I have written a series of posts in the book of proverbs. This particular post had the most views, so I share it with you again today as part of my best of the year. 

In yesterday’s post – If Wisdom – we saw and understood that wisdom required certain things from us. A choice was given to us, and we could opt to follow the path of insight or to tread the way of foolishness. What are the benefits of wisdom though? We posed the question yesterday, if I…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/01/18/then-wisdom-proverbs-25-8/

Preaching to the Choir – Andy Brown (Best of 2022)

Are you preaching to the choir? Is that wasteful, or does the choir need your encouragement as well? It was a great pleasure yesterday evening to meet (on video) a couple of fellow Christian bloggers, and lovely to share some of our stories, questions and experiences of ministering through this medium. It was humbling to…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/04/09/preaching-to-the-choir/

Poor Little Fig Tree – Andy Brown (Best of 2022)

On Tuesday, I wrote a post entitled Anything, which looked at the awesome power of prayer. Yesterday, I shared a post called – A Fig Tree – which picked up that theme, and was written by the excellent blogger Bruce Cooper. Some comments on these posts highlighted to me that many do not fully understand…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/06/23/poor-little-fig-tree/

Not me, but…Andy B Book launch update

I very much wanted to share this good news, but realise that straight away the title may cause confusion! This is not, in fact, a new book announcement from me! as much as I would like it to be…

Instead, this exciting news of a new book comes from another Andy… Andy of the Berry bunch.

If you are familiar with the site, then you will be aware of the two minute videos Andy frequently shares. These are great little nuggets of encouragement for every day. And what a great idea to turn it into a book!

I very much look forward to getting my hands on a copy, and hope you will grab one when it is available.

2 Minutes a day can change your world and Just a Thought… does exactly that! I’ve been working really hard trying to get everything finished for the …

Andy B Book launch update

Saturday Scriptures – 1 October 2022

Do you think about what you are thinking about? what I mean is, do you spend any time analysing your thought life?

Generally speaking, we humans spent a great deal of time thinking! Not all of that is productive however.

We can think about negative things, or we can think about positive things. We can imagine what can go wrong, or we can spend time developing our hopes and dreams.

Today’s scripture encourages us to think about pure, good and lovely things.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Don’t waste your mental energy thinking about things that will not benefit you. Think about good things, and if nothing else, you will feel much happier!

How will you spend your thinking time today? Enjoy your weekend!

Don’t Play With Fire (Proverbs 6:23-35)

After a series of posts on Proverbs 6, we conclude the chapter today.

This final section warns us about an important issue, and one which appears more than once in Proverbs – namely, adultery. Do not skip this section though, believing it to be irrelevant to you, as alongside the dangers of adultery, there are also other warnings and wisdom laced in you do not want to miss.

For the commandment is a lamp,

    and the law is light.

    Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,

24 to keep you from the immoral woman,

    from the flattery of the wayward wife’s tongue.

25 Don’t lust after her beauty in your heart,

    neither let her captivate you with her eyelids.

26 For a prostitute reduces you to a piece of bread.

    The adulteress hunts for your precious life.

Proverbs 6:23-26 WEB

I included verse 23 here as it is a joint thought with verse 24. We see, as discussed before, that the Law of the Lord is a lamp to us, showing us the way we ought to go. We discussed this last time in the general sense, but here verse 23b specifically links the reproofs which instruction brings to avoiding the immoral woman. Of course, God’s wisdom and teaching go far beyond this one issue, but it is a key theme given to us. For background here, Proverbs was probably written (at least in part) as a sort of study guide for a group of young men being taught by an elder. References to “immoral women” for example, are not representative of women as a whole but instead indicate the audience to which it is directed. What I mean is, a group of young men are likely to fall prey to such a woman if not careful. Immoral men are just as dangerous and wicked, but the warning here is against temptation of a sexual nature, and no comment on women in general.

Verse 24 warns of the flattery of her tongue, that is a warning against being taken in by her enticing words. Verse 25 warns against the beauty of such women, and the fluttering of eyelids. Young men, typically but not always, are particularly prone to temptation connected to the physical beauty of women so this is an apparent risk. Whether young or old, male or female, we must guard against such physical temptation. It can lead us down paths we do not wish to go, and have severe consequences for our lives and families.

Verse 26 takes the perspective of such an “immoral woman.” She sees her prey – these young men – as nothing but a means to gaining bread. She is hungry, has little means of earning and so relies on her beauty and charm to entice men into bed for financial gain.

27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap,

    and his clothes not be burned?

28 Or can one walk on hot coals,

    and his feet not be scorched?

29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife.

    Whoever touches her will not be unpunished.

30 Men don’t despise a thief

    if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry;

31 but if he is found, he shall restore seven times.

    He shall give all the wealth of his house.

32 He who commits adultery with a woman is void of understanding.

    He who does it destroys his own soul.

33 He will get wounds and dishonor.

    His reproach will not be wiped away.

34 For jealousy arouses the fury of the husband.

    He won’t spare in the day of vengeance.

35 He won’t regard any ransom,

    neither will he rest content, though you give many gifts.

Proverbs 6:27-35 WEB

These final verses in the chapter form a cohesive argument.

Verses 28 and 29 essentially warn us of a no doubt familiar turn of phrase – those who play with fire will get burned. The writer of Proverbs asks basically the same question. Can you scoop fire into your lap without it burning you? Can you walk on scorching coals and not burn your feet? No! Of course not! And so, we cannot indulge in adultery without reaping the dire consequences of it.

The point is driven home in verse 29. If you have an affair with your neighbour’s wife, you will find yourself in extremely hot water!

I think verses 30-31 are then set in contrast to the remainder of the chapter. Dropping the subject of adultery for a moment, we turn to theft. It points out that we might have a modicum of understanding for a hungry thief stealing a loaf of bread to stave off starvation, but how little compassion we have on adulterers. The text shows us that even in a situation where we understand the thief’s reasons for stealing, they are still required to pay it back in accordance with the law. There may be “good” reasons to break God’s laws of so we think at times, justifying our actions with excuses or deflection. Yet, to break the law is to break the law and the consequences are the same.

Theft in a situation of hunger is one thing, but having an affair with another man’s wife is quite another. Verse 32 essentially says you are stupid if you do it! You cannot be clearer than that! It will result in wounds and dishonour; reproaches that will never be taken away.

The jealousy of a husband is a terrible thing, verse 34 warns. Such a wronged man is full of fury, seeking vengeance and it may very well cost you your life! Verse 35 tells us that you won’t be able to buy this vengeful man off. He will not accept any ransom, nor can you turn him away with many gifts. If you dare to seduce his wife, you will reap the consequences. I wonder how many men, young or old, have perished at the hands of a jealous husband? We say beware a woman scorned, but no less so a man either.

If you find yourself battling temptation right now, then I urge you to run! Keep well away from its source, and get on your knees and pray that God will help you do what is right. Do not play with fire, and do not indulge your fleshy desires. Be it someone at work, a neighbour or even a digital someone in the form of pornography – stay well away and fix your thoughts on your own spouse, family or better still, on God and His ways.

The Law is Light (Proverbs 6:20-23a)

We have been working our way through Proverbs 6 over the last week, and there was just too much left to cover in one final post. Instead, I will tackle these few verses today and aim to finish the chapter sometime soon. While this final section should be taken as one, there are some points we can consider separately.

Let’s see what they have to say.

My son, keep your father’s commandment,

    and don’t forsake your mother’s teaching.

21 Bind them continually on your heart.

    Tie them around your neck.

22 When you walk, it will lead you.

    When you sleep, it will watch over you.

    When you awake, it will talk with you.

23 For the commandment is a lamp,

    and the law is light.

Proverbs 6:20-23a WEB

Sound familiar? I hope so. Earlier on in Proverbs, we are told more than once to keep the commands. Why repeat the statement? In fact, Proverbs revisits the same themes over and over, why do we need to hear similar instructions time and again?

Put simply… because we need to! If we could be told once, and then follow the instruction, that would be quite something! Yet that is not my experience either in my own life or in the lives of others. We learn a lesson, put it into practice for a while, then perhaps start to forget or get out of the habit. When this happens, we must re-learn what we heard before. Proverbs is fairly repetitive because it needs to be. There is rich wisdom stored in these pages, and a cursory read one time will not change our hearts and lives. Instead, we must soak in its precepts, hearing them over and over and allowing them to change and shape us.

Verse 20 reminds us to keep our father’s commands and not to forsake the teaching of our mother. Wise parents are truly from God, and yet too frequently the young think they know it all. When I was a teenager growing up at home, I was no different. Having virtually no life experience, I deceived myself into thinking I knew more than the combined wisdom of my mother and father. It is almost embarrassing to admit, but I suspect I am not alone in that admission! If you are young and reading this, do listen to your parents! You may think they do not understand you or what you are going through, but chances are they do. If you are blessed with parents who care about you, then learn from them and take their advice. You may not appreciate it right now, but one day you will look back and be grateful to them and to God!

If you have godly #parents who care for you, then thank #God! #Bible #Jesus #wisdom

Verse 21 instructs us to bind “them” around our heart and tie them about our neck. The “them” here is the commandments of the parents, and include (I believe) the wisdom of the Proverbs and also the entirety of Scripture. How do we bind things around our heart? This is clearly a figure of speech, and means to continually store up wisdom within our inner self. Meditating on the wisdom found in the Bible will renew our minds and change us over time. Studying God’s Word will save your life and your eternity, and is not a one off thing. You must endure, putting in the effort and studying the Bible over and over. Like eating or breathing, it is essential to life and something we must do day and night.

I particularly like verse 22, as it offers us such good incentives to studying the way of wisdom. Firstly, when we walk, wisdom will lead us. So often I find myself not knowing the way to go – and I do not mean literally, as in using a map or GPS! Instead, I mean that I face decisions of varying levels of importance, and it is not always clear which to choose. For instance, a while back I was reviewing the mortgage we have on our home and considering whether to fix the rate or not. It was not clear what would happen to interest rates at the time, and so it looked like a “gamble.” Since then, the interest rates in the UK have increased almost every month. In hindsight, it is easy to see which choice was the right one, but not so easy when the decision is in front of you. Wisdom helps us decide, and even then we must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom also watches over us while we sleep. I interpret this in two ways. Firstly, that wisdom means we can rest peacefully because we have taken necessary precautions. If you lay down in a warm bed, in a safe home, having locked the doors and checked all is well, then you will likely sleep far more easily than if you left the front door wide open or ignored the gaping hole in the roof! Also though, I think wisdom watching over us means that we have turned to God, properly fearing Him and even if we lack physical safety, we can rest easy knowing that He has our spiritual safety in hand. We cannot realistically guard against every potential threat to our physical safety, but even if the worse should happen, we know that we will be ushered into His presence at the end of our lives. That gives us true peace.

Verse 22 thirdly points out that when we are awake, wisdom talks with us. So often the word “wisdom” in Proverbs can be replaced with the word “God.” Wisdom “talks” to us as it instructs us in how to live. As we walk and breathe, we can consider wisdom’s ways and apply them. Likewise, God is willing to speak with us each day and in all situations so that we know how to live to please Him.

If I asked the average person if “commandments” are a good thing, I suspect I would get a mixed set of answers. Our natural flesh is hardly excited at the idea of being commanded what to do, yet verse 23 describes them as a lamp. The Law, which bound many for generations, was in fact “light.” It may feel restrictive to have to follow various laws of the land, yet it also ensures we can live in freedom. In a similar way, we might find God’s law restrictive in our flesh, but it leads to spiritual freedom. This is perhaps better understood in an example. When someone is rude to us, our flesh wants to be rude in return. Yet, God’s law of love requires us to repay evil for good and instead offer kindness instead. This may make our skin crawl! Following the command however, leads (hopefully) to an end to the conflict or at the very least, no way of accusing us of wrongdoing. Being rude back may have caused escalation, and so avoiding that does indeed give us freedom.

The Bible and the wisdom it offers us leads us to light. It is a lamp to our feet, showing us the way to go and helping us avoid the traps of life.

Bind the Bible about yourself. Put Scriptures in your home, your car and in places you will see it often. Follow social media accounts that share the Word of God, and keep it before your eyes night and day. As you do, the wisdom of the Word will change you and lead you to Jesus.

Be Wise… like an ant? (Proverbs 6:6-11)

Having warned us against offering collateral, and of being tied up by our own words, Proverbs 6 moves on to a subject it will return too fairly often – laziness.

Go to the ant, you sluggard.

    Consider her ways, and be wise;

7 which having no chief, overseer, or ruler,

8     provides her bread in the summer,

    and gathers her food in the harvest.

9 How long will you sleep, sluggard?

    When will you arise out of your sleep?

10 A little sleep, a little slumber,

    a little folding of the hands to sleep:

11 so your poverty will come as a robber,

    and your scarcity as an armed man.

Proverbs 6:6-11 WEB

Verses six to eight begin by pointing to the ant as our example. This is, on the surface, a rather strange comparison. What can we – humans created in the image of God – learn from the humble ant? Quite a bit it seems!

Verse 6 is addressed to a lazy man – a sluggard. He is directed to look at the ways of the ant, and to “be wise.” You may not think of yourself as a “sluggard,” but a wise person does indeed look around, consider other ways and learn from them. Even if you are not lazy, do not skip over these words – instead, be wise and learn!

Verse 7 tells us that the ant has no chief, overseer or king. This is important because it shows us that despite this, the collective group of ants  – a “colony” I’m told – appears to operate collaboratively and as one. Take the same number of people, set them a task and don’t elect a leader, and you will have chaos! Somehow, the colony of ants know what needs to be done and they work together to achieve it. it is as astonishing miracle when you think of it. God, as Creator, has given them the ability to work together in this way, and to even plan ahead. These are lessons we can all learn.

Verse 8 is key here. It tells us that he ant provides her food in the summer, and gathers in at harvest time to see herself through winter. Under God’s sovereign control, the ant enjoys the good of the summer and yet plans ahead to see itself through the harder winters.

To be like the ant, we must do the same. I imagine an individual who is self-employed. They may be enjoying a time of abundance right now, with lots of work and good money coming in. a wise person would not just enjoy this time, but would prepare for times when the income may fall.

My father-in-law is a butcher and runs a village shop. He knows that in the run up to Christmas, he will make a lot of sales and be extremely busy. Likewise, in the summer, he knows he will sell much produce for barbeques and parties. He also knows that January and February are quiet months, with little trade. To survive, he must ensure that the summer takings and Christmas abundance see him through the more difficult winter months.

Enjoy the good times of course, but store up in preparation for the bad times #wisdom

Verses 9 and 10 then go on to warn of the dangers of “sleep.” Now, to be clear, these verses are not saying sleep is a bad thing and we should not do it. Clearly, it is right and biblical to get sufficient amounts of rest. The warning here is against sleeping too much – it is about lazing about instead of getting up to work. I reiterate that rest is important, but so is putting in a good day’s work. There is danger in the extremes; too much rest and you fall into the temptation of laziness, too little rest and you risk making yourself ill and unproductive.

Verse 10 does say “a little sleep,” implying that even a little sleep is dangerous. I may be incorrect, but would qualify this as a “little sleep at the wrong time…” is dangerous. If, for example, my boss walks into my office and sees me asleep at my desk, then the argument that I was only asleep for a few minutes probably won’t wash. A good eight hours of sleep in bed at night is a good thing, but even 8 minutes when we should be working is bad.

Verse 11 concludes the section giving quite a stark picture of poverty. Laziness leads to poverty; particularly in a society where you were dependent on working the land for survival. If you do not work, you do not eat, because the land will not yield its fruit to you unaided. To be lazy is to allow poverty to creep up on you like an armed man. When faced with a robber holding a weapon, you have little choice but to do as they say. In a similar way, laziness leads to poverty, and this leaves little choice in life.

For us in the modern world, this danger may not seem so real. Many have access to credit cards and loans, and so if one loses their job, they can rely on debt to see them through. Similarly, if loans and credit are not open to you, then the Government provide benefits to help out. We can debate if use of credit or to rely on benefits is a good thing or not, but clearly these are intended to be temporary measures. You cannot live your life on credit, charging one purchase after the next, without it one day catching up with you.

I write this at a time when interest rates are rising, and energy prices in the UK are skyrocketing. I want to be clear that I am not saying you are lazy if you are struggling to pay your bills! Far from it! Many people are struggling financially right now, and are working extremely hard to make ends meet. The point here is that laziness leads to poverty, but that does not mean that poverty equals laziness.

Let each of us examine our lives in the light of God’s Word. We all have lazy days or times of lower productivity due to a variety of reasons. When laziness becomes a habit however, this is when it becomes a real problem. As I said above, the opposite extreme is just as risky, so we each need to work hard and rest well.

An ant may be a tiny thing, and yet it has much to teach us. Let us open our eyes, and learn from God’s Creation. We must “be wise” just like the ant!

Thanks for reading.

Trapped by our Words (Proverbs 6:1-5)

Proverbs 6 opens with a warning, and one that may not immediately strike a cord with you. When was the last time you acted as collateral for your neighbour? Not recently I’d wager, so does that mean we can ignore these words of warning? Let’s read them and see if there are elements which do apply to us.

My son, if you have become collateral for your neighbor,

    if you have struck your hands in pledge for a stranger,

2 you are trapped by the words of your mouth;

    you are ensnared with the words of your mouth.

3 Do this now, my son, and deliver yourself,

    since you have come into the hand of your neighbor.

Go, humble yourself.

    Press your plea with your neighbor.

4 Give no sleep to your eyes,

    nor slumber to your eyelids.

5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,

    like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Proverbs 6:1-5 WEB

Verses one and two describe a situation where someone has trapped themselves with their words. In our modern day world, we might imagine someone signing up as a guarantor for someone else. For example, when signing a rental agreement, you may need to provide a guarantor who will back you in the event that you cannot pay. The guarantor, like this person in Proverbs, is “trapped” in that contract.

Have you ever been asked to be a guarantor for someone else? If so, then the chances are it was a good friend or family member. In such cases, you may have been rather hesitant to sign up. How so? Usually it is because we do not want to end up footing the bill for someone else when we have our own bills to pay. There may, of course, be situations where it is appropriate to enter into such an agreement – most commonly in my experience, this is when a parent acts as guarantor for their (adult) child.

What about a stranger though? What if someone you had never met before advanced on you, pen and clipboard in hand, seeking your signature on a contract… run my friend, as fast as you can!

Verses one and two describe becoming entangled in a situation with either a neighbour or stranger, and this risking your own situation to do so. In the time these words were first written, there were no bankruptcy courts, and no administrators to mediate between you and your debtors. You paid up what you owed, or could end up becoming enslaved. The warning is clear then, do not jump into such agreements.

Verse two in particular opens out the meaning for us here. It is our words that have ensnared us; our ill thought through commitments have led us into danger. While you may not be at risk of becoming someone’s guarantor any time soon, have you made commitments with your words that you now regret?

Do not be trapped by the #words of your mouth! #Bible #Jesus #Christianity #Wisdom

When I think back, there have been a number of times when I have committed to something in the moment, and later regretted it. “Yes, I can do that…” I say, and then the time comes and the effort, energy or cost is more than I wanted to offer.

I heard someone telling a story about a time they visited a city, met some new friends and casually said to them they should come visit with them “sometime.” Several weeks later, these new friends called up and said, “We’re ready to come.” “Ready to come where?” the individual thought… They had been hung by their tongue. It was simply not convenient, and not really something the person wanted to do. They even prayed for a way out of it, and God told them that they would indeed honour their own words, put these people up and show them around, and perhaps learn a lesson not to be so flippant with their invites in future. What a lesson!

What commitments have you made that you later regretted?

Verses three to five then turn to what we should do if we have entered into something we shouldn’t have.

Firstly, they advise us not to wait! Go now! Do not let yourself sleep, and do not put it off until tomorrow! Go! Resolve it straightaway!

It can be difficult to undo words we have spoken. Yet, it is better to put things right than to let other people down by not meeting our commitments. How often do people sign up for one church rota or another, and yet the tasks go unfulfilled? I know there have been times when I’ve signed up, and not done it. This isn’t the way excellent Christians should live.

It can be difficult to undo #words we have spoken. It is better to put things right than to let other people down #Bible #Christianity #wisdom

It is indeed difficult to admit we are wrong. Two little words in the midst of verse three are key here, “humble yourself.” It does certainly take humility to recognise our faults, and it can hurt our pride to tell someone else. I will let you in on a secret though… it will not surprise anyone else to learn that you are not perfect!

I have no small amount of pride, and am constantly wrestling with it. Admitting my faults is time consuming (he says, somewhat tongue in cheek!) but I must humble myself before God and others. If I trap myself with my words, like a gazelle (as above in verse 5) then it is right that I correct things. If it causes me some small amount of embarrassment, then that is a lesson to learn.

I want to close this post by picking up similar words of instruction from the Lord Jesus Himself.

Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’

Luke 14:27-30 WEB

Jesus’ words here refer to the cost of being a disciple. Of course, they do apply more widely than this, but in context are crucially important. Reflecting on the importance of our words, and not making commitments we cannot fulfil, are you prepared to fulfil the requirements of claiming Jesus as Lord? In my post – Lord, Lord! – I pointed out that it is one thing to call Jesus Lord, and yet quite another to live a life serving Him.

Do not let your words be worthless. Do not sign up to do something unless you are able to fulfil it. This applies to small things in life, but even more so to the commitment to follow Christ.

Saturday Scriptures – 17 September 2022

Although normal service has now resumed on the blog, whatever normal is! I thought I might continue to share select Bible verses for you to think about throughout the day.

How good are you at waiting? I have some patience, often it is tested at times!

What about waiting on the Lord? how good are you at that?

Waiting on God is not like waiting for a train however. Instead, waiting on the Lord is like waiting on a table. We do not stand with our arms folded and tapping our toes. Rather we are attentive and ready to serve.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Give this some thought today.