Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: November, 2018

Confidence

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And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.
2 Thessalonians 3:4 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/2th.3.4.ESV

Paul and Co. wrote 2 Thessalonians to try and reignite hope into the Thessalonian church’s hearts. They had been expecting the imminent return of Christ, but it hadn’t been forthcoming. And some false teachers were telling them that Christ’s return had already happened.

But 2 Thessalonians isn’t some desperate attempt to redress the balance, with little hope of success. Paul and Co. had confidence in the Lord about the Thessalonian church, that they would take the letter on board. It’s like I have strong Christian friends on other sides of the world, but even if we don’t hear too much from each other, I have confidence in the Lord that they’re doing well spiritually.

This was now the second letter Paul had written to the Thessalonian church. But he had confidence they were taking on board his exhortations, despite the fact he’d had to write a second letter because of troubling false teaching. It reminds me of the fact that the beast in Revelation could even deceive, if were possible, the elect. But if you’re elect, none can pluck you from God’s hand.

Paul was confident in the Lord. that the Thessalonian church would take on board his teaching in his second letter. He was required to write some correctives about laziness in anticipation of Christ’s imminent return. But he was sure by God’s grace that he would be able to redress the balance.

“Dear Father in heaven, may we be the kind of people who inspire confidence in the Lord. May we take on board the teachings and commandments of Your word and live as people of the Book, for Your honour, amen”

Security

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And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbours who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.”
Ezekiel 28:26 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/ezk.28.26.ESV

“Then they will know that I am the Lord their God” is like a chorus in the book of Ezekiel- it keeps reoccurring. It’s almost always in the context of God’s judgement, but not in this verse. CS Lewis wrote about the megaphone of suffering through which God communicates to us. But He sometimes whispers blessings to us.

When the northern tribes of Israel were invaded by Assyria, it was the end of them. They were taken away and assimilated into that empire. But by the grace of God, the southern kingdom of Judah managed to retain their unique identity as the people of God, even in exile in Babylon.

Furthermore, after seventy years, God began bringing them back to the promised land. It was only by the loving-kindness and power of the Almighty that this could come about. And God knew that His people would recognise this.

Security is one of the most basic and fundamental needs of humanity. To be able to settle down and dwell securely; to be able to enjoy even more foundational needs like food, drink and shelter, are all gifts of God. Even when those things are taken away, it may be because we found our security in them, rather than the Lord our God.

“Lord our God, forgive us, we pray, for times we have sought security in anything other than You. Help us to realise that You are the true source of security, even when our circumstances might be insecure. We acknowledge You as our Lord and God. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Hope

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I hope for your salvation, O Lord , and I do your commandments.
Psalms 119:166 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.119.166.ESV

What do you hope for? An easy life, a successful career, a happy family? Some of the things we might hope for don’t sit well with a life of faith. The love of money for example is a root of all kinds of evil.

David hoped for something worth emulating: the salvation of the Lord. Do I need to hope for it? you might question, seeing as it has now come in the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s a sense in which Christians are saved in the past tense, because our salvation is guaranteed. But it doesn’t reach fruition until Christ returns and calls us home.

We might feel like the second half of the verse doesn’t fit with the first. If we’re hoping for God’s salvation, surely we don’t need to bother attempting to keep God’s commands? Just because we won’t perfectly keep them doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t try.

Salvation is of the Lord. So is sanctification. But He uses His law to help us be sanctified. We become more like Christ the more we love God, and love others as we love ourselves.

“Our Lord, we acknowledge that salvation is all of You. We long for its fruition in glory. But we also recognise that we should live according to Your commandments to love You and one another. Please help us in this, for Jesus’ sake, amen”

Truth

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The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Psalms 119:160 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.119.160.ESV

How would you sum up the word of God? Maybe with John 3:16, or the commands to love God and one another. Some would accuse it of being fake news or fairy stories, but there aren’t any fairies in the Bible!

David summed up the word of God as truth. It is all about love as well but if it’s not true it’s just a parable at best, or lies at worst. Even parables are earthly stories with true reflections on heavenly realities. Paul said to speak the truth in love. Yes we must warn people of hell, but also lovingly point them to eternal life.

This verse goes on to say that every one of God’s righteous rules endures forever. That seems to create a problem for the kosher food laws that Jesus repealed. What about the old testament sacrificial system that was done away with at the cross of Christ?

Some of God’s rules are righteous- we call them the moral law. This is enduringly true. Other aspects of the law of Moses, like the food laws and the sacrificial system, were more cultural or time bound respectively. They had relevance for that time and place, but not for today.

“Lord our God, give us the discernment we pray to distinguish your righteous rules from more cultural, time-bound regulations of Moses’ law. Thank You for the enduring truth of Your word, please help us to live in obedience to it, for Your glory, amen”

Contempt

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Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you.
Ezekiel 22:7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/ezk.22.7.ESV

Why did Judah go into exile? Some of the reasons are listed here by Ezekiel as he reveals the word of the Lord. One of the ten commandments is to honour our parents, but the Jewish people of the time were treating their parents with contempt.

Another indictment God had against His people was that the sojourner was suffering extortion in their midst. In other words, God’s people were ripping off immigrants. Immigrants often have the most menial, low paid jobs, but the fact that asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work and are made to live on subsistent government handouts in the UK isn’t good.

The fatherless were also vulnerable in Jewish society, as they are to this day. Without a dad to provide and look after you, life is hard as a child. In Jewish society orphans were meant to be looked after, but before the exile it wasn’t happening.

Another vulnerable group in Jewish society were widows. There were no social security payments to look after them after their husbands had stopped bringing home the proverbial bacon, so they relied on the charity of wider family, friends and the state. Sadly, widows were also being let down in Jewish society at the time.

“Heavenly Father, may we take seriously Your commandments to look out for parents, foreigners, orphans and widows. Forgive us if we have contemptuous attitudes towards any of these groups that You love, for Jesus’ sake, amen”

Tattoos

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You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord .
Leviticus 19:28 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/lev.19.28.ESV

What do we make of this verse, and levitical laws in general? Most Christians know that kosher food laws don’t apply any more. But what about tattoos?

To be honest, it feels like we cherry pick levitical laws as Christians. This verse is becoming increasingly debated, but the previous verse is about cutting our hair and beards- most of us are happy to do that. The next verse is about not prostituting our daughters- No Christian would dream of doing that!

So where does that leave tattoos? Well the most famous verse in Leviticus is “love your neighbour”. Everything else should stem from that. Do tattoos enable me to love my neighbour? Not really, to be honest.

A friend of mine got a tattoo of Moses’ snake in the wilderness and told the gospel to the tattoo artist as he got it done. But we don’t need to get tattoos to validate sharing the gospel with tattoo artists.

Another friend got a Bible verse tattooed on his arm (not Leviticus 19:28!). But God said He’d write His law on our hearts, not tattoo it on our arms, and even that verse isn’t literal but spiritual of course. I don’t see Christians with God’s law tattooed across their chests!

We’re not under law, but under grace.  We have Christian liberty. But Jesus’ new commandment raised the bar higher than Leviticus- “love one another as I have loved you”. Jesus didn’t get a tattoo to express His love for us, He sacrificed His life for us.

Why get a tattoo? It seems to me to be more about conforming to the pattern of this lost and dying world than being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Did God not do a good enough job of creating our skins? Do we have to improve on His handiwork? I don’t think so!

The Canaanites may have made cuts on their body for the dead (which we don’t do) but even in the Levitical verse, tattoos are distinguished from those cuts for the dead.

Obviously, tattoos aren’t unforgivable, and if someone got them done before they were saved, God will understand. But I think there’s no Biblical justification for getting a tattoo.

Finally,

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19‭-‬20 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1co.6.19-20.ESV

We’re not our own, we were bought at a price, so we can’t do whatever we want with our bodies- they belong to God.

Do tattoos glorify God, or improve on His creations? I don’t think so!

What do you think?

 

Knowledge

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And you shall know that I am the Lord , when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God .”
Ezekiel 20:44 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/ezk.20.44.ESV

God is the Lord; He is the boss; He does whatever He pleases. He isn’t answerable to us. He owes us no explanation for what He does. We can only bow in awe before His awesome sovereignty.

God deals with us His people according to His own will. God relates to us by His own standards. He is the one who sets the precedent. He can only do what is in keeping with His character. The Lord works to His own terms.

We might think we want God to work according to our own terms. But that is a recipe for disaster. The problem is, we are by nature evil, and if God deal with us according to how we deserve, we’d be in hell right now. So we need God to deal with us for His own name’s sake.

The scary thing is, that if we are not the people of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus the Messiah, God will in the end deal with us according to our corrupt deeds and condemn us as we deserve. That’s why we need to plead with Him to treat us for His own merciful and gracious name’s sake.

“Lord, admittedly, we know we deserve Your condemnation. But we plead with You to deal with us not according to our evil, corrupt ways; but according to Your great mercy and grace. For Jesus’ sake, amen”

Christmas is coming!

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To be honest, I’m about as enthusiastic about Christmas as the dog in the picture! But before you accuse me of being the Grinch or Scrooge, let me explain myself…

My unenthusiasm is for a similar reason as I’m unenthusiastic about Halloween (which I blogged about). In theory Halloween is about remembering the saints who have gone before us. In practice it’s a celebration of evil. In theory Christmas is about the birth of Christ. In practice it’s the worship of materialism.

Furthermore, both Halloween and Christmas are Roman Catholic appropriations of pagan festivals (the winter solstice in Christmas’ case). As a born again Christian who’s come into the light, I don’t want anything to do with the darkness of the kind of pagan fertility cults that plagued believers in Bible times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not strictly Puritanical about Christmas. I might eat a few mince pies (although Cromwell banned them!). I might put up some fairy lights in honour of the advent of the light of the world.

But to be honest, Christmas trees are beyond the pale for me. They’re too reminiscent of Jeremiah 10 (obscure I know, but look it up!). I know that in and of themselves they’re pretty harmless, but again their origins are in paganism, to do with fertility.

Again, I’m not all dogmatic and Jehovah’s Witness about it. I celebrate the coming of the Son of God into the world to save me. But I don’t need to syncretise with a pagan festival in order to do that.

To be totally honest, I enjoy cheesy Christmas music. One of my favorite Christmas albums is by Relient K. They have a lyric which says, “I celebrate the day that You were born to die, that I might one day pray for You to save my life”. That pretty much sums it up for me 🙂

What are your opinions about Christmas? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment 🙂

 

Justice

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“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
Ezekiel 18:25 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/ezk.18.25.ESV

In context Ezekiel has been teaching that it’s not so much what you’ve been that matters, but what you’ll become. In other words, it’s not enough to be good if you’re becoming bad. And even if you’re bad but God makes you better, He’ll be merciful.

Israel sadly was on a bad trajectory. So they didn’t like this teaching. God was saying through Ezekiel that it’s no good starting well if we end badly. It’s better to start badly and end well. “All’s well that ends well”, as the saying goes.

As far as Israel was concerned, this way that the Lord reckons us righteous if we repent isn’t good. Someone could live a moral, upstanding life in the outward appearance, but if they fail to repent, they’re hopeless. Religious people hate this truth of God.

God’s reply is that Israel’s way wasn’t just. They thought they could break treaties with their Babylonian oppressors and it wouldn’t matter. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because someone’s oppressing you doesn’t mean to say you can break your promise with them.

“Lord God Almighty, forgive us if we ever doubt Your perfect justice. If we do, help us to realise that it’s really us who are unjust, and You will assuredly make everything right in the end. Please give us a new heart and Your Spirit to serve You aright, in Christ’s name, amen”

Grace

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It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
Philippians 1:7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/php.1.7.ESV

In context, the way that Paul felt about the Philippian church was that He who began a good work in them would carry it on to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. We might feel like works in progress, but because it’s God who works in us, we will progress. We will be made completely perfect when Christ Jesus returns.

Paul held the Philippian church in his heart. He loved them dearly. Because some of his writings are very deep, profound, and hard to understand, it may be tempting to think of Paul as a dispassionate academic up in his ivory tower. But that wasn’t the case at all.

The Philippian church and Paul alike were partakers of grace: they had recieved “God’s riches at Christ’s expense”. And having been given such blessings, the Philippian church shared with Paul even in his imprisonment. No doubt they were with him in spirit, and likely helped to provide for his material needs.

If we walk in the grace of God, receiving His goodness and putting it into practice in our lives, we confirm the truth of the gospel. The evidence of the good news of Christ Jesus is transformation of sinners into saints. Can the same be said of us?

“Dear Father in heaven, we’re so thankful that having begun a good work in us, You’re going to carry it through to completion. Please help us to keep walking in the light and to reject the darkness that crowds in on us, in Christ’s name, amen”