Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: September, 2018

Multiculturalism is an opportunity; not a threat

People seem to be kicking back against multiculturalism. Brexit is happening in the UK, and Trump with his great Wall of Mexico is happening in the USA.

But let’s just take a step back from the political rights or wrongs of multiculturalism, and review things as they are, warts and all, from a spiritual perspective.

Firstly, God made us all from Adam and Eve. We’re not evolved primates, with some more equal than others. We are all equally made in the image and likeness of God.

Secondly, since the fall, humanity is divided, not by culture, but by faith. Believers in God and His Biblical promises are spiritually alive; unbelievers are spiritually dead.

Thirdly, Israel was never, and wasn’t meant to be, a primarily political, ethnic or cultural entity but a spiritual nation under Jehovah God.

Fourthly, Jesus didn’t come 2000 years ago to some ethnically or culturally homogenous society. He grew up in “Galilee of the Gentiles” as Isaiah prophesied 700 years previously, under Roman occupation. The more culturally “pure” Jews of Judea and Jerusalem looked down on the country bumpkin Galileans almost as much as the Samaritans, who they saw as bastards.

Fifthly, and finally for now, the multicultural Roman Empire was the perfect harvest field for the growth of the early church.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Colossians 3:11 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/col.3.11.ESV

Colosse was a multicultural city with a multicultural church, which was united in Christ.

In Christ, there can be true unity in diversity on earth, as it is in heaven, where peoples from every tribe and language and nation will worship God together in perfect harmony, forevermore, amen!

That time I got punched by a far right thug!

Seeing as I’ve noticed that some professing Christians, especially in America, are apologists for Tommy Robinson, the founder of the Neo Nazi English Defence League (although I believe he has since distanced himself from them); I thought I’d help them to see the unhelpfulness and naivety of such an attitude.

I’ve a feeling that there’s a series of posts brewing from my political education background (about which maybe more later), but for now I want to share an anecdotal story which hopefully shows we should be peacemakers rather than partisan political people.

Just to show I’m not some naive liberal bashing naive conservatives, I come from the hometown of the ringleader of the 7/7 London bombings. This means I’m more likely to be (and am) aware of the dangers of people practicing what Mohammed practiced and preached.

But although I hate Islam, I’m not some far right thug. I love Muslims, and want them to recieve the good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

To that end, several years ago, I and a local pastor were sharing the gospel with a lovely, friendly Muslim in the town centre. Suddenly about 10 far right thugs appeared, unfurled some racist, inflammatory banner and started shouting racist abuse.

The men I was with wisely started walking away and encouraged me to do the same.

But I rather foolishly confronted them, who were terrorising my hometown.

I asked them the kind of thing they’d tell the indigenous Muslim population: “Why don’t you go back to where you came from?”

One of them replied, “I’m from Blackpool”! (A town about 2 hours away from mine).

The ringleader said, “I think you’d better walk away, mate”, but as I did, he followed and punched me. Obviously I jogged off and thankfully someone had called the police who quickly cornered the thugs and presumably kicked them out of town.

The moral of the story is that what the towns and cities of Britain need isn’t Islam or fascism but the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Only Jesus can make diverse communities “cohesive”. He is the great unifier of zealots and tax collectors alike and he can make the Mohammeds and Tommy Robinsons of this world embrace and become brethren in Him!

Murder

Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,

Acts 7:52 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.7.52.ESV

Stephen was on trial for his life. The Jewish leaders hated him preaching of Christ crucified and risen again. They were determined to have him killed for turning the hearts of the people from them and their religiosity to Jesus and His salvation.

Stephen could have defended himself. He could have promised to focus on social justice- feeding the needy, that his office of deacon demanded. But he wasn’t going to keep quiet about the motivation of all his good works- the Lord Jesus Christ.

“A hungry stomach has no ears”- but if you don’t preach the good news to those you serve, your soup kitchen has no eternal value. Stephen relinquished his right to defend himself and determined to preach Christ, and Him crucified. And he wasn’t afraid to press for conviction in the hearts of those who betrayed and murdered the Righteous One.

For all Stephen knew, his hearers would repent and trust in the Lord, as many of Peter’s hearers did on the day of Pentecost. As it was they were furious at his indictment of them, and rushed to condemn him to death. But whether they would believe or not, Stephen did the right thing.

“Righteous God, help us to declare Your good news to all, even if it should cost us everything. May You and Your glory mean more to us than life itself, that You may be exalted even as we are humbled. For Jesus’ sake, amen”

Sun

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.84.11.ESV

The Lord God is a sun. As the sun gives light and heat, so the Lord illuminates and warms our hearts. Not only so, but God also shields our hearts from the attacks of the evil one with the gift of faith in Him.

The Lord bestows favour upon His people. To know the favour of God is to walk with a spring in your step and a smile on your face. God also honours His people. We can walk tall with confidence and dignity because God looks favorably upon us and honours us.

“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly”- a private jet’s a good thing right? So is this verse saying that if you’re good you’ll get a private jet? The Bible is a spiritual book, so when it talks about good things it primarily means things like divine protection, favour and honour.

Jesus goes as far to stay that you cannot serve both God and material stuff. So if you come to God for a private jet, He’s not your God, the private jet is! If you have a private jet you need to be prepared to sell it, give to the poor, and follow the Lord!

“Lord our God, help us to get our priorities right. Please help us to be far more concerned with the sunshine of Your divine protection, favour and honour than with stuff that will only rot and rust. For the honour of Your name, amen”

Peace

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:7 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.9.7.ESV

Isaiah prophesied of a Son to be born, from Galilee of the Gentiles His light would shine forth. And He would govern. “Jesus never became governor of Roman Palestine”, you may protest, but as He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world”. He governs in the hearts of all who trust in Him.

The Son came to bring peace. “But Jesus said He came to bring division, not peace”, you may protest. Christ has brought division into the world, but peace in the hearts of all who believe in Him.

He is a just and righteous King, in a spiritual rather than political sense. He is just and the justifier of the ungodly, through His substitutionary death on our behalf. And He is our righteousness who have faith in Him.

God’s kingdom will never end. And the zeal of the God of angel armies will accomplish this. Not only is God willing, but He is also able to establish His kingdom in the hearts of His people. And because His kingdom will never end, neither will we, but have eternal life.

“Father God, how we praise You for Your Son in whom we have peace, justice and righteousness forevermore. To the praise of Your glory, amen”

Wait

I will wait for the Lord , who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.

Isaiah 8:17 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.8.17.ESV

Isaiah didn’t just have the double whammy of toughness I’ve already touched on in other devotionals. He didn’t just have a message of judgement for God’s rebellious people. And it wasn’t just that the people weren’t going to take his message in.

In this verse we discover that on top of everything else, the Lord seemed to be hiding His face from the house of Jacob. It’s like when Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord that night, he never got to see His face. So as Isaiah ministered faithfully, it felt like the God He served was far away.

But Isaiah remained faithful to the Lord. “I will wait” for Him, he declared. He’d already had a vision of Him on the throne, so even if it didn’t feel like it, Isaiah knew that God is in control. We too, as we await Christ’s return, would do well to do so patiently and faithfully.

“I will hope in Him”, Isaiah declared. Maybe he’d almost given up hope in that present time of writing. But he had faith that he would come to hope in God again, even if at that moment he didn’t feel it. We aren’t to be governed by our feelings but by the facts of Christ’s death, resurrection, and eventual return to call us His people home.

“Oh Lord, even when we don’t feel like it, we ask that You would help us patiently wait for You. Even when You seem to be hiding from us, please help us to hope in You. For Your honour, amen”

Deacons

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.

Acts 6:3 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.6.3.ESV

This chapter describes pretty much the first church council, when the entire fledgling church was gathered to establish the deaconate. The apostles, forbears of elders/pastors/overseers, knew that their role was to pray and to preach. So they established deacons to look after the needy in the church.

There are three requirements mentioned here for deacons. Firstly they are to be men of good repute. If someone’s got a bad reputation- of being greedy, having a bad attitude to women, or lazy for example, they aren’t to be deacons.

Secondly, deacons have to be full of the Spirit. Not only are they to be born again, spiritual people, but they are to be fruitful in their spiritual lives. They are to be motivated by love to help the needy.

Finally here, deacons are to be full of wisdom. Not everyone who claims to be needy is so. Even those who are often have families who should be looking after them. Do deacons need to be discerning as to who truly needs the church’s help to get by.

“Heavenly Father, we thank You for instituting the role of deacons. We praise You for faithful deacons amongst our churches who serve the needy among us. In Christ’s name, amen”

Misunderstanding

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Isaiah 6:9 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.6.9.ESV

Isaiah was a willing volunteer to be sent and to go to the people of the triune God. Once the Lord went on to tell him his commission, he might have regretted his initial enthusiasm. We’re not told that though, Isaiah, unlike Jeremiah, doesn’t seem to have wrestled so painfully with his calling.

Imagine God telling you that you’re going to be a preacher. “Great!”, you might think. But if He goes on to say that no one’s going to understand you, maybe you’d be less enthusiastic. What’s the point of people politely hearing you, but not understanding what you’re trying to say?

It was like Isaiah was speaking another language to his hearers. He may not have had the same hostility Jeremiah had, at least initially, from the people who rejected his message. But it will have still felt like his efforts were pointless, falling on deaf ears.

It’s not that he was speaking another language. People could see what he was trying to say, but they couldn’t perceive what it meant to them. Isaiah was warning of coming judgement and calling to repentance, like any good preacher. But he may as well have been some insipid worship leader strumming his guitar and singing love songs, like God warned Ezekiel he would be like.

“Dear Lord God, please help us be willing to serve You whatever the cost. We ask that You would help us to live for You for Your own sake, not for any earthly recognition. In Christ’s name, amen”

Holiness

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Isaiah 6:3 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.6.3.ESV

Isaiah didn’t just have a vision of the Lord on His heavenly throne. He saw myriad seraphim surrounding Him and praising Him to one another. They had wings with which they shielded themselves from the glory of the Lord.

These seraphim aren’t like Christmas card angels, or cuddly Valentine’s cherubs. They are awesome and powerful fiery beings. The sight of one would be enough to floor you. The sight of innumerable seraphim will have been terrifying.

But the seraphim paid as much attention to Isaiah as we might to an ant. They were taken up in adoration of the Lord, of whom they cried thrice holy. In Hebrew, there’s no bold, italics or underline; so to emphasise something a word would be repeated. To repeat thrice is almost unheard of, and very powerful.

This is why repetitive mantras are so powerful, and dangerous in brainwashing people. If thrice holy is awesome, repeating some empty phrase hundreds of times is going to immunise someone’s being to the truth of the thrice holy God.

Father, Son, and Spirit, You are thrice holy, and we worship and adore You. Please help us to have the right reverence for You, for Your honour and praise, amen”

Lordship

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Isaiah 6:1 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.6.1.ESV

King Uzziah was a good king in Judah. He reigned for a long time, and Judah prospered under his wise rule. So the year that he died will have been like it will be when Queen Elizabeth II of the UK dies (unless Christ returns first). It will have been a time to take stock and be concerned for an uncertain future.

Young Isaiah the prophet had already begun preaching his messages of judgement upon the people of God. But it was now, in the year that Uzziah died, that he saw the Lord enthroned in the temple. What an awesome sight, and despite the terror, it will have been a comfort to know that God is on the throne of heaven.

Although Uzziah had been a generally good king, he had at one stage tried to take on a priestly role in the temple of God, for which God had struck him with leprosy. He had spend the rest of his reign in seclusion with his son as regent. To see God enthroned above the temple was to remind Isaiah who was really in control of God’s people.

The temple of God in Jerusalem was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was built by king Solomon in the golden age of Israel. But massive and majestic as it was, the train of the Lord’s robe filled the temple, so great is our God.

“Oh great God, please give us a glimpse with spiritual eyes of Your greatness and glory. May we be conscious of Your sovereignty over all that goes on in this world. In Christ’s name, amen”