Some of us are prone to overwork. We work so hard that we might achieve more if we slowed down a bit.
If that's you, you don't need to read on. Please come back for next week's blog.
For the rest of us, the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about laziness. Some of the one-liners are there to make us laugh as well as think:
The door turns on its hinge; the lazy person turns on his bed.' (Proverbs 26:14).
My favourite is Proverbs 22:13:
The lazy person says, "There's a lion outside. I'll be killed if I go out."
Have you heard about the person who was so lazy they put their hand in the bowl but couldn't bring it back to his mouth?*
Here's Proverbs 18:9, which may get you thinking:
The one who is slack in his work is the brother of one who destroys.
Just in case there are people still reading after I told them not to, there is a verse in the Psalms about people who get up early and work until they go to bed late. People like that really do need to learn that sleep is a gift from God too.
Hope to see you Sunday.
* Proverbs 19:24
Suppose God cares ... about the hungry bring fed ... about the state of the environment ... about fair trade ... about our safety ... about racial justice ... about honesty ... about poverty ... about domestic violence ... about prejudice ... about greed ...
Be sure of this: the wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free. (Proverbs 11:21, NIV.)
The book of Proverbs* calls us to an unflappable optimism, that there is everything to gain if we try to please God. It's always worth pushing through to build a relationship with God. It's good to care about the things he cares about. It gets results.
The desire of the righteous ends only in good. (Proverbs 11:23, NIV.)
I think there is a couple of challenges here. The first is to line up with the optimism when it's easy to be cynical and to get tired of doing good. The second is to work out God's priorities.
The first verse of Proverbs 11 says that God hates dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favour with him. So there's one of God's priorities: don't cheat. Honesty is not just the best policy; it's the way to God's heart.
More on Sunday ...
* It's the 20th book of the Bible.
The Book of Proverbs has some good advice for people who want to look wise.
Here it is ...
Sometimes it's best to hold your tongue, or at least to wait a bit before you say anything.
Here's some wise advice from the book of Proverbs:
* if you speak before you listen it's your stupidity
* it's better to keep your cool and hold back your words
* if you guard your words you preserve your life
* a stupid person expresses all their feelings; the wise person holds back
Like all proverbs you can take this too far. A word correctly spoken is like a golden apricot in a silver setting. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it sounds good.
Let's practice wisdom this week. Try holding back your words a little. Check you've understood before you speak. Keep quiet until your anger dies down. Ask for time to think if you need it.
You may find it takes you closer to God.
Anyone fancy a driverless car?
I'm told that with new technology they will be safer than today's cars. I'd like to believe that.
My problem is that today's technology sometimes gets it wrong. From time to time my satnav sends me the wrong way up a one way street or down a barely passable dirt track. Rarely, but enough that I know that I need to keep my brain awake. Then there's that series of mini-roundabouts in Swindon which come so fast that my satnav can't keep up.
Most of the time I trust the satnav. Sometimes I overrule what it says and then plunge into a traffic jam. But I wouldn't trust it to navigate a driverless car. I guess the day will come when I do.
Proverbs 3 tells us to trust in the Lord and he will direct our paths. We are not driverless cars; we are told to listen to the heavenly satnav.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)
Sounds good, doesn't it?
Proverbs 3 says that trust in the Lord is about love and faithfulness. It's about binding them to ourselves so they become part of us. Hold on to love. Hold on to faithfulness. This is God's character. This is the direction of the heavenly satnav.
If you'd like some more practical instructions ... do good to people ... don't put it off if you can do it now ... don't plot harm against people ... don't make false accusations ... don't be envious ... don't be violent. This is what trust in the Lord looks like in practice. Every time we do these things we are trusting in him. We are letting him lead us. This is the route to intimacy with God.
Some cars drive past our church at ridiculous speeds. If it's you, please stop.
I'd like to say that I am talking about skilful drivers but a couple of recent accidents suggest otherwise.
If I could, I'd like to give these people just a little bit of fear, not enough to stop them from driving, just enough to persuade them to drive a bit more carefully.
The ancient scriptures say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Without a healthy fear of God we will be like the people who career down Mills Hill Road. There's a lot more to wisdom than fear, but fear is the healthy starting point.
The Bible is full of frightening stories: terror at an empty tomb, someone hiding his face because he was afraid to look at God, someone else talking gibberish because he was so frightened. The list of examples seems almost endless. These people move quickly through the fear but they are changed in the process. They learn to listen to God. They become wiser.
The book of Proverbs tells us to search for wisdom so that we will understand the fear of the Lord. This means that we focus on Jesus Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. The one who delighted in the fear of the Lord.
More on Sunday ....
I heard about a church whose new building project was about to be opened by a member of the royal family. The minister of the church thought it was great, as it seemed that everyone in the church was inspired to take action. The building was cleaned. Weeds were removed. Rooms were painted. Minor repairs that had been waiting for years suddenly mattered. There's an old joke that the Queen thinks every building in the land smells of paint, because they are all redecorated just before she arrives.
Two thousand years ago, baptism was something like that. The King is coming. Get cleaned up. Show that you meet his standards. Prepare the way for the Lord. Give him a clear road.
The royal in our story did not stop at the shower room and say she needed to be cleaned up. We'd be astonished if she did. Get that picture in your head and you'll see why John was astonished. Jesus had come to be baptised. It didn't make sense. Jesus doesn't explain himself; he politely tells John that it is right to go ahead.
And when he does ... the Spirit comes down upon him, and a voice from heaven tells him that he is God's beloved son. God is pleased with him.
This Sunday we will celebrate the baptism of a believer. We pray that as people are baptised God will fill them with his Spirit, that they will know that they are God's deeply-loved children. There's no better place to be than that. Yes we do need to be cleaned up. we do need to think about the way we live. But the great news today is that God welcomes us as he welcomes Jesus.
We are his children and we are deeply loved. Like Jesus is.
Timothy was a good man. He genuinely cared for people. He was an effective Bible teacher and church leader.
People didn't take him seriously because he was young, and he was a bit timid.
Timothy needed to know that the Lord was with him, if he was to be effective.
So Paul, the experienced leader, writes to him and reminds him that the Spirit of God is on him. It's time for Timothy to overcome his natural timidity and fan the gift that God has given him into a blazing fire.
It's not our job to start the fire of God in us, but it is our job to maintain it.
The Spirit of God in our Spirit brings love, power and self-discipline. We need all three. This is one of those cases where two out of three is bad, or at least inadequate.
More on Sunday .....
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Paul's letter to the Romans 15:13, NIV)
I suggest that you read the text a few times. Slowly. Let it sink in. Read it a couple of times more.
When I was a child I used to hope that my team would win the Scottish Cup. They never did. I got really excited the year the made the quarter finals but that was as good as it got. (They did win the Scottish League Cup in 1994, but that's a different story.) At a certain age I realised that they would never match Celtic or Rangers and my interest waned.
Hope on its own is pretty useless when it has to face the facts. Reality kicks in.
Yet here we are being told that we can overflow with hope, not by trying hard or by avoiding reality but by the Holy Spirit. This is not an instant work. Paul, the great first century missionary, wrote that hope comes through suffering, perseverance and character building, and above all the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The person who truly hopes is a masterpiece, and masterpieces take a while.
Even so, let's bless each other with the words of our text. Speak this text out for the people you love, for the people who need it. Paul believed that these words would make a difference. So do I. Try it and see.
The Lord Jesus Christ - slow down for a second and think. It is an amazing title. If you come to Mills Hill you are asked to say it just about every week at the end of the service.
We believe that Jesus is Lord. He is generous; that's what the word 'grace' means. But he is also Lord. The Bible say that we must all appear before his judgement seat, so that we may receive what is due to us. That's why we make it our aim to please Jesus.
So here's the big question: what pleases Jesus? The writings of the early church warn us that it is easy to make up a different Jesus. Easy to do, but not good.
The Baptist Union Declaration of Principle says:
That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.
So here are a couple of thoughts:
* If Jesus liked something 2000 years ago he will probably like it on the day of judgement.
* If Jesus didn't like something 2000 years ago he will probably not like it on the day of judgement.
So what did Jesus like? What did he dislike?
More on Sunday ...
Blessing is about becoming small so someone else can become big.
It's about kneeling down before someone. It is good to kneel down before God, good to remember that he is bigger than greater than we are, too wonderful for us to understand. It's good to get lost in the vastness of God.
There are lots of songs that help us to bless God. 10,000 Reasons has become a classic. If you don't know it please do check it out. It will do your soul good, as will any way that you bless the Lord.
Now here's the bit that may surprise you. Blessing is a two way thing. We bless God and God blesses us. He becomes small so that we can become big. He comes down to our size and welcomes us into his vastness.
Many years ago the priests were called to pray God's blessing on people: 'The Lord bless you and take care of you. The Lord shine his face on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his face to you and make things go well for you.'*
Try to imagine it for moment: God stooping down to us, giving us favour, shining his light upon us.
Sounds good, doesn't it? We are going to explore this at our all-age service on Sunday. We'll start with 10,000 Reasons and take it from there.
* Numbers 6:24-26