Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: June, 2016

Marriage

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready
Revelation 19 : 7

Popular culture’s image of heaven is saint Peter at the pearly gates, clouds, harps and wings. The Bible pictures heaven as a wedding feast, and everyone’s invited! In fact, we can become the Bride of the Lamb!

It all sounds very strange! The Lamb is Jesus: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The bride is the church, who looks forward to spiritual union with Christ in heaven. The bride is clothed in fine linen which is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Marriage is an illustration of the heavenly union of Christ and the church. One of the main reasons God gave us marriage is to give us a taster of heaven! If you’re married and not part of the church, think what you’re missing out on: not just a lifetime with your beloved, but an eternity with one who loved you so much that he died so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

So what should our response be to the prospect of union with Christ? We should rejoice and exult and give him the glory. We should be like a fiancee looking forward to her marriage. And like that fiancee, we should make ourselves ready, clothing ourselves with goodness to mark ourselves out from the world. If Christ is ours we should be faithful to him.

“Lord God Almighty, I rejoice and exult at the prospect of spiritual union with Christ. Help me as I prepare for that day, to be patient and to live a holy and righteous life. For Jesus’ sake I pray, amen”

Judgement

And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgements!”
Revelation 16:7

God’s judgements are coming on the earth. These include sores on people with the mark of the beast who worship its image and the waters becoming as blood. These judgements are just because they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets: it is what they deserve.

Other judgements that follow include a scorching sun, darkness, drought, and the greatest earthquake there’s ever been. People’s response will be to curse God and to continue to worship the beast. God will gather them for battle with himself at Armageddon.

It will be like the plagues on Egypt before the Hebrew slaves could be freed and go to the promised land. Before God’s people can go to heaven there’s going to be a lot of tribulation. But to know that God is judging the world for its persecution of Christians is a source of reassurance to us.

As we worship the Lord God Almighty we declare that his judgements are just and true. The world on the other hand curses him, like Pharaoh, who’s heart the Lord hardened to reject Him and His people. God doesn’t want us to be surprised at the opposition we face, he’s made it clear that it must be so.

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgements! The world might not recognise them as such but thank you that you are looking out for your people and that there is justice for us. Thank you above all that through the Lamb you are the justifier of the ungodly, and such are we. We trust you to work your justice out, in Jesus name, amen”

Persecution

If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for endurance and faith of the saints.
Revelation 13:10

Some Christians hope and teach that Christians will escape the “Tribulation” or a time of intensified turmoil and persecution. The teaching of Revelation however is a sober wake up call to the church from it’s earliest days to the present and beyond if Jesus delays: that we will face intense persecution before Christ returns.

The early church was thrown to the lions. In the Medieval times we were often burnt at the stake. Nowadays the prefered method of martyrdom seems to be beheading.

How are we to respond? With endurance. If we didn’t believe in the perseverance of the saints by the grace of God, we would be hopeless. But our endurance doesn’t depend on ourselves but on the grace of God at work in our lives.

We are to respond to increased persecution with faith. This world isn’t all there is thankfully. We look forward to the world to come, the new creation, when people are united in worship of the Lord. We have faith in the Lord to enable us to persevere to the end, and then to inherit an eternity in heaven.

“God of heaven, help me in these increasingly hostile days to endure and to have faith in you to get me through. I pray especially for my persecuted brethren throughout the world, that they would not love their lives so much to shrink from facing death, and then an eternity with you. Thank you that you are building your church, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, amen”

Compassion

The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to nothing.
Psalm 146:9

Probably the most vulnerable people in any society are immigrants, single mums and kids in care. A test of how good a society is would be how they treat such people. Ancient Israel was called to look after the disadvantaged in the Law, often they failed to do so.

Of course, it’s within the rights of a sovereign nation to limit numbers of economic migrants, but as far as refugees are concerned, we have an obligation to provide refuge, and not turn people away when we can help. Whatever government policies may be however, the truth is that the Lord cares for the stranger, even if they are badly treated in the place they find themselves in. Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt!

Widows in Israel were very vulnerable. There was no welfare state as such so they were in danger of being exploited and taken advantage of. Unless they had extended family to support them, they would find it very hard to make ends meet. But the Lord upholds them. Jesus even brought a widow’s son back to life, meaning she wouldn’t be left destitute.

The fatherless now, as in ancient Israel are marginalised and vulnerable to abuse. Maybe they’re in care or going from foster home to foster home. But if they know God as their heavenly Father and the church as spiritual siblings they can be part of the best family.

As for the wicked, the Lord brings their way to nothing. They may even prosper at the expense of others, gaining wealth by oppression and exploitation. But what is wealth when you can take none of it with you, in the light of an eternity in hell?

“Lord God, thank you for your heart for strangers, widows and orphans. Please give me your compassion for them, to fight against the injustices that oppress them. Forgive my wickedness and make me like Christ, in His name I pray, amen”

Unity

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands
Revelation 7 : 9

In Christ and his salvation is true unity for all peoples. At Babel and many other times in world history since, men have tried to unite the world politically, in opposition to God. Ultimately God has always thwarted them, because he has his own plan for unification and that is Jesus.

How does God unite us? By saving us from the judgement we deserve for our rebellion against him: we have “washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. He saved us by his broken body and shed blood on the cross. The political and religious powers of the day united to crucify him, but it was ultimately for our sins that he was crucified.

For what purpose does God unite us? Ultimately to worship him, to praise him for his salvation, and to attribute to him blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might eternally. But it isn’t just for his own sake, when we’re united by God he becomes our good shepherd, sheltering, feeding, watering us, and wiping every tear from our eyes.

There’s going to be an innumerable multitude from every nation, and tribe, language and people worshipping God together at the end of time. But when the saints go marching in, do you want to be in that number? Then come to God through the Lamb who was slain and he will become your good shepherd for eternity.

“Living God, I trust in the Lamb who was slain for my salvation, and ask that he would become my shepherd. I want to be in that innumerable multitude giving praises to you from every people group on earth. I look forward to the day I can shelter in your presence and have my tears wiped away, amen”

God’s on the throne

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever”.
Revelation 5 : 13

So the UK left the EU in a divisive vote. But there is a time coming when the whole creation will be united. It won’t be an institutional, political or economic union. It will be a spiritual union of the Lamb who was slain for people from every tribe and language and people and nation.

In days of fear, uncertainty, and turmoil, remember that the Lord in heaven, and he’s seated on the throne. He is holy. He is set apart from our partisan political preferences. He is worthy of our worship as our creator and sustainer. And the Lamb was slain to ransom a people for God who will reign on the earth.

What does the future hold? The world says the only certainty is uncertainty but as believers we look forward to the return of the King to set his rule and reign. To that end we pray. We pray maranatha, come Lord Jesus. We want more souls to be added to his people so we pray for a lost and dying world. We are a kingdom of priests, interceding to God for the tribes, languages, people and nations of the earth.

Those “under the earth”, in hell, may fall short of worship, but they will be compelled to attribute blessing and honour and glory and might to God and the Lamb (Jesus). There will be no appeals of any miscarriages of justice in hell. Far better to gladly worship the one who was slain for us to be his royal people.

“Lord and God of heaven, I attribute all blessing and honour and glory and might to you. You are on the throne and I trust you with world events. Thank you for the Lamb who was slain for me and people from every tribe and language and people and nation. Please add to our number until we are a countless multitude unites in worship of you. For your glory, amen”

Lukewarmness

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realising that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Revelation 3 : 17

The Laodicean church had very much imbibed the spirit of the age. They thought they were strong, independant, self sufficient and self reliant. Maybe they were to a large extent materialistically. But they mistook material prosperity for spiritual blessing.

Maybe they had pundits saying “we’re the 5th biggest economy in the Roman Empire!” Maybe they had a Laodicean Independance Party. Perhaps the denarius was performing well against the shekel. But even in the Old Testament, temporal riches aren’t easily equated with God’s favour.

At one point God describes giving the Israelites their daily bread, but a leaness in their souls. And we’ve heard of the fact that man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. The Roman Empire may have had bread and circuses, but it was spiritually bankrupt, in fact it soon began to persecute Christians.

What of us with our passion in the referendum? Are we as passionate about Revelation? What about our enthusiasm for the football? How does it compare with our faith in God? Are we more concerned about being better, more Christlike, or about having a bigger bank balance?

God’s verdict on the Laodicean church is that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked? What would his assessment of the UK and European churches be, of our individual churches? His letter to the church was a wake up call, a warning. But it was also an invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”.

“Lord God, I hear your invitation today. I repent of my lukewarmness and ask you to come and set me on fire for you. Forgive me for idolising the good things you give me and fill me with passion for you and a desire to know and enjoy you better. For your glory, amen”

The Return of the King

Behold, Jesus Christ is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him ”
Revelation 1:7

Today, the UK votes whether to leave the EU. But whether there’s a European Union, United Nations, or even the antichrist on his throne, nothing can stop Christ from returning to judge. There was another time in world history when tribes united to build a godless system. God came down then and confused their language and they were scattered.

When Christ came the first time we pieced him. When he returns he will judge us, and we will mourn for what we have done. But for those who have faith, he was pieced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities.

Many people scoff at the idea of Christ’s return, others are fearful. But it is a source of great hope to those who believe. Empires rise and fall as they oppress the people and swallow each other up. But a day is coming when Christ will return and judge all injustice.

People question how there can be a God in a bad world. But God will call the bad to account: there is no real justice outside of his reality. This should concern us because we are all bad, but we can have hope in the one who was pierced to save us from our sins.

What matters today is not that you put your faith in empires or superstates. What matters is that you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who will call us all to account and save those who trust in him. Our faith isn’t in politics for a better life. Our faith is in our Sovereign Protector for eternal life.

“Sovereign Lord, your will be done in the EU referendum today, whatever our personal opinions. But ultimately, maranatha: come Lord Jesus! We are longing for the day when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God, when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen”

Wholeheartedness

But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.
2 Kings 10:31

As the UK votes tomorrow whether to leave the EU, it would be helpful to consider the kind of rulers that God expects. The referendum debate has centred around the economy, but as far as God is concerned, material prosperity isn’t necessarily a sign of his blessing. At one point he describes God’s people as materially rich, but with a leaness in their souls- a bit like the church in Laodicea who thought they were rich but were pitifully blind and naked.

Immigration is an other issue. Apparently there are two words for immigrant in Hebrew, one denoting the oppressed and marginalised who should be welcomed unequivocally, and the other financially independant economic migrants, who were in danger of drawing the Israelites after false gods.

Sovereignty is another issue. Israel was constantly fighting for her sovereignty against different superpowers: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Greece for Judah, and ultimately Rome for what became known as the province of Palestine. Biblically, a loss of sovereignty was a mark of God’s judgement on the nation.

Ultimately however, none of the above issues are God’s concern for his people. What really matters is whether their leaders walk in the law of the Lord, not the laws of Brussels or Westminster. If that is our consideration then we’re probably chosing between the devil and the deep blue sea!

Jehu had overthrown the evil Ahab and his Sidonian wife Jezabel. He got rid of the worship of Baal the moon god. But he failed to reject the syncretic religion of Israel ‘s first king, who rejected the worship of the Lord in his temple in Jerusalem for a couple of idolatrous golden calves.

If we’re going to rule, in fact if we’re going to live a fulfilled life, we need to wholeheartedly follow the law of the Lord. So we need to love him with all of our being, and love our neighbour as ourselves. Why should we love the Lord? Because he loved us, and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Who is our neighbour? Whoever we might meet: the British nationalist, the Polish plumber, the Syrian refugee.

Ultimately the referendum result is in the hands of the Lord. We can have opinions about what would be best for our country and continent, but ultimately what matters is that God’s will is done and he isn’t politically partisan. Whoever our leaders are we should submit to them, pray for them, and trust that righteousness will be exalted and wickedness punished.

The early church lived through the persecutions of the Roman Empire, getting thrown to the lions for their faith in Jesus. In later centuries many of us got burnt at the stake. Nowadays in the Middle East our brethren face beheadings by their persecutors. Whatever the result tomorrow, we thank God for religious liberty in Europe, and trust that he will enable us to live godly and quiet lives as we serve him, and trust him for the outcome.

“Lord, God of Israel, thank you that you are sovereign over all that goes on in our nation, continent and world. We trust you with the outcome of the referendum tomorrow, however we may personally vote. Thank you for the freedom we enjoy, long may it continue, and may we make the most of it to tell a lost and dying world the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, amen”

Assurance

“whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything”
1 John 3 : 20

A few years ago I really struggled with assurance. I keenly felt the weight of my sin and wasn’t sure that God had forgiven me. I still went to church, but I was often emotional and tearful. For a Christian, the worst feeling is that God doesn’t love us.

But when I stumbled across this verse I was greatly reassured, and I came to know that I was of the truth. Sometimes as Christians, our hearts may condemn us. We may have an acute sense of our sin, and of the holiness of God.

But it is important as Christians to not primarily listen to our hearts. As the prophet Jeremiah says, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can understand it”. If we navel gaze and just look to our hearts we’re going to get depressed.

Even when our hearts are transformed from stone to flesh in Ezekiel ‘s terms, we can’t trust them to know how we stand before God. God on the other hand knows all things, he is greater than our hearts, so we can trust him.

If God promises “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”, we must take him at his word. He who began a good work in us will carry it through to completion upon the day of Christ Jesus. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our performance but on his faithfulness.

Having said that, if we want assurance we need to have faith, trust and obedience towards the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to love God and love others. Then we will have confidence and answered prayer.

“Father God, please give me confidence in you, your Son who gave himself for me, and your Spirit who dwells in me. Don’t let me be deceived by my heart that I don’t belong to you, but help me to renounce sin and obey you. And thank you that you are greater than my heart, in Jesus’ name, amen”