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.

Sharp Words

We are often discouraged from using sharp words when talking to others. It is usually meant by this that we Christians should talk to people with gentleness and humility, and not to be rude, hard or harsh. This is all quite true, but not the point of my post today.

I instead want to think about another form of sharp words:

For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 There is no creature that is hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.

Hebrews 4:12-13 WEB

The Bible, here called the Word of God, is a sharp word. While it is never intended to be harsh, it can be a difficult pill to swallow at times.

These verses tell us that the Word is both living and active. To be “living and active” means that the Bible is not some ancient, dead or irrelevant work with no bearing on life today. The culture may have changed, but the Word has not, yet this does not make it outdated. God does not change, and neither does His Word. Our design and purpose as humans has remained the same, even if the world around us is different from what it once was.

If you want to know your purpose, and if you want to know how to live well on this Earth, then you will need to engage with this living Word. It teaches us who God is. It tells us how we ought to live. It instructs us in how to please our Creator. It sets out how we can be saved from our sin, and be united with Christ for all eternity. There is nothing more relevant; nothing more necessary.

The Word of God is sharp, indeed sharper than a two-edged sword. It can pierce. It can divide.

When we venture into sin, the Bible can pierce our hearts. That stab of guilt and shame we feel as we face our sinfulness is found only in knowing we have fallen short of God’s standards. The Word does not condemn us, but it does convict, prompting us to change. Condemnation leads only to death, but conviction through the Word and the Spirit leads to life. Practically, if your feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin lead you away from God, then that is condemnation. If they spur you on to live better and follow Him more deeply, then that is conviction.

The Word of God can divide. It separates flesh from spirit, showing us when our desires are selfish or selfless. It discerns, as it says above, between the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. This is a key point. Too many of us do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. We pray loudly and earnestly in front of others, hoping they will think us saintly. We sing loudly and robustly in church, while at the same time wondering what we will eat for lunch. We bless our brother or sister in Christ, then tear them down with gossip over coffee the next day.

The Bible reveals all such things to us. It is a mirror that we can gaze deeply into, and as we do, it will show us not just where our actions fall short, but where our heart does as well. The wonderful thing about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (from Matthew 5-7) is that He shows us that the thoughts of our heart are every bit as important as our actions.

If you look lustfully on someone who is not your spouse, then you commit adultery. Even if you do not physically go near them, your heart betrays you as you have gone there in your mind. To hate your brother is the same as killing them, as surely to hate is to wish someone dead. Such thoughts are every bit as bad as their corresponding actions.

Verse 13, quoted above, tells us that we are naked before Him to whom we must give an account. This means there is no place to hide. We cannot push our sins under the rug and hope He does not notice them. All will be uncovered; the good we did with wrong motives, and the good we did not do for similar reasons.

That is why the Bible is a sharp word. It forces us to face ourselves and a level of honesty most of us do not dare enter.

If you find this difficult, then that is exactly right. If the thought of exposing your heart makes you uncomfortable, then you are feeling precisely the correct emotion. If our sinfulness does not make us squirm, then we have not fully understood it, nor our need for a Saviour.

If our sinfulness does not make us squirm, then we have not fully understood it, nor our need for a #Saviour. #Jesus #Bible #Christianity #sin

The poisonous feelings of guilt and shame must lead us to the antidote – and His name is Jesus. As we gaze into the Bible, it shows us of our need of rescue and points us to the One who indeed saves.

The sharp words ought to make us turn more fully to God. We cannot approach Him in our own merit, but instead come to Him cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.

As you study Scripture, try not to stick with your favourite passages or books. Look at the parts of the Bible that challenge you. If you notice you are falling short in some way, rejoice that God has shown you and then work with Him to come up higher. Instead of feeling guilty about your failures, turn them into reasons to praise God for sending His Son to save you.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16 WEB

Praise God that He has given us His precious Son that we might be freed from all guilt and shame. Thank God for His Word, sharp as it may be at times, that shows us the way of salvation.

Have a blessed day!

Don’t Speak Out of Your Pain (Best of 2021)

You have probably heard it said that people don’t always mean what they say when they are angry. Perhaps, you’ve even said things you didn’t mean when emotions were running high? Among other things, I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul had such things in mind when he wrote these words from Ephesians: Be angry, and…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2021/05/07/dont-speak-out-of-your-pain/

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/

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

#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