Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: January, 2019

Evil

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For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
Mark 7:21 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mrk.7.21.ESV

Jesus was explaining to the religious people that under His new covenant, there is no clean and unclean food. After all, food passes through our systems. Instead, He explained that what makes us unclean is what comes out of our hearts.

Spirituality isn’t about abstaining from certain foods, but about God giving us a brand new heart, because naturally we’re evil. Eating unkosher food doesn’t make us unclean, but having evil thoughts does. If we’re proud and arrogant towards others, our diet isn’t going to help us spiritually.

Sexual immorality (Greek: porneia) comes from the heart. If you struggle with proen, you can put blocks and accountability on your smartphone. But unless God changes your heart, you’ll still have a porn addiction.

Theft, murder and adultery also come from the heart. In the nature Vs. nurture debate, Jesus is under no illusions as to our sinful natures. Theft, murder and adultery don’t happen in a vacuum, they happen when someone resolves to do them in their heart.

“Oh Lord God Almighty, have mercy upon us we pray for our evil hearts. Please wash them in the blood of the Lamb, and give us holy hearts by Your Spirit. In Christ’s name, amen”

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Strong Bible Women

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Once again inspired by http://www.whitneyibeblog.wordpress.com I’ve decided to do a similar post to my Emotional Bible Men one, this time about strong Bible women.

I guess you could say I’m challenging gender stereotypes one post at a time!

If we don’t often associate emotions with men, we might not associate strength with women. Certainly traditionally (not in the Bible), women were known rather uncharitably as the “weaker sex”. Women may not tend to be as physically strong as men, but they’re often more emotionally strong.

Eve

Eve was created because Adam wasn’t complete without her. He was lonely without her and needed her help to look after the creation that God had placed them in. Genesis paints Eve as a strong woman who was looking forward to her promised Descendant who would undo satan’s curse upon mankind.

Rebekah

As a young woman, Rebekah displayed great faith to be willing to marry a man she’d never met in a far away land. When God promised her younger son would be more blessed than the elder, she schemed with Jacob to outwit Isaac and Esau.

Miriam

As a young woman, Miriam outwitted the most powerful man in the world to save her brother Moses, with whom she grew up to be a leader of Israel. Sadly, her record was marred by her racism towards Moses’ African wife (Numbers 12).

Rahab

Rahab was a pagan prostitute who had the faith to renounce her old life and commit to the God of Israel.

Deborah

Deborah led Israel in the absence of any men with backbone. She wisely led them to victory against their enemies.

Ruth

Was a pagan Moabitess who with the help of her equally strong mother in law Naomi, managed to marry a great man (who was Rahab’s son).

Esther

Married the most powerful man in the world and persuaded him not to destroy her Jewish people, inaugurating the Jewish celebration of Purim.

Mary

Although I cringe at Roman Catholic Mary worship, she generally comes across in a good light in Scripture, and was part of the early church of followers of her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, having had the strength to have to witness His brutal execution.

 

 

Wait

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Wait for the Lord ; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord !
Psalms 27:14 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.27.14.ESV

Waiting isn’t easy to do. It’s much easier to rush ahead and do something, than to stop and wait. People prefer having cars to waiting for public transport for example.

Your stereotypical strong person wouldn’t wait, they’d just power forward. But David calls us to find our strength by waiting for the Lord and His might manifest in our lives. It actually takes more strength to be patient than to rush ahead.

Letting your heart take courage isn’t an optional extra in the believer’s life. Revelation goes as far as to say that the cowardly go to the lake of fire rather than heaven. But we take courage not by finding it within, but by having God implant it in us as we wait for Him and His strength.

Hebrew doesn’t have block capitals. So if writers wanted to emphasise something they would repeat it. So wait for the Lord again! Don’t rush ahead, like a child into the busy road of life. Stay holding your heavenly Father’s hand until He leads you across in safety.

“Dear heavenly Father, please give us the patience we need to wait for You, be strong and to take courage. Please guide us through life’s treacherous routes. For Your name’s sake, amen”

Emotional Bible Men

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I’ve been inspired by whitneyibeblog.wordpress.com to consider Bible men and their emotions, to try and encourage myself and my fellow men to get in touch with our emotional sides.

So here’s an introduction to some Bible men and their emotions…

Adam- loneliness and fear

Surprisingly, the first human emotion recorded was a negative one, considering that God created a good cosmos. We’re told at the beginning of Genesis that Adam was lonely, he needed someone to come alongside and help him live life to the full. This doesn’t mean to say that every man needs to marry a woman to not feel lonely, but women are a blessing to help men out in our lives and to befriend us.

After mankind messed up by disobeying God, the next recorded human emotion was fear. Adam heard God walking in the garden and hid because he was guilty, ashamed and fearful.

Jacob- romantic love

Jacob was a pretty soppy character. We’re told that when he first met Rachel he wept aloud- talk about love at first sight!

David- depression and happiness

David talked to himself in the Psalms. You may think that sounds like madness, but he was actually reasoning with himself not to be depressed but to hope in God.

At other times David was full of exuberant praise to God- singing, shouting and dancing his happiness at God’s goodness

Elijah- suicidal

To be fair to Elijah, evil queen Jezabel was trying to kill him, so it’s understandable that he felt so grim. Rather than judge him, God sent an angel with food and encouraged him to get some rest

Jeremiah- weeping/complaining

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because he had a largely negative message of judgement for God’s people. Interestingly, we’re never actually told that he cried, even when God said he wouldn’t marry; but he did moan a lot!

Jesus- sorrow and rejoicing

Jesus is emotionally complex. He didn’t just have a stiff upper lip. He wasn’t frigid. Isaiah described Him as a man of sorrows and familiar with grief. But we’re also told He was very sociable and rejoiced when He saw spiritual progress in His disciples.

There’s just a snapshot for you. Dig into Scripture to find what I’m referring to. And men, don’t be afraid to be emotional!

Generations

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God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord , the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
Exodus 3:15 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/exo.3.15.ESV

God was sending Moses to help deliver His people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. He revealed Himself as the Lord, the great “I am”, the self existent one. He didn’t need Moses, but graciously wanted to use him to fulfil His purposes.

God is the God of Abraham. He took him from worshipping the moon in pagan Ur of the Chaldeans, and brought him into the promised land of Canaan. Even more significantly, He promised that Abraham’s Descendant would bless all peoples of the world.

The promise was renewed to Isaac and Jacob, narrowing down through whom this Descendant would come. Jacob was renamed Israel, the prince who wrestled with God until He blessed him. Despite these promises, the people of God were languishing away from the promised land in Egyptian slavery.

God always is. He is the God of all to whom He has promised blessings, throughout all generations. God’s blessings come to the world through Israel’s Descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Lord, God of our fathers in the faith, we praise You for the blessings You have lavished upon us in the Lord Jesus Christ, especially for the salvation we enjoy in His name, amen”

Teaching

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Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Psalms 25:5 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.25.5.ESV

When people talk about being progressive, I wonder what they mean they’re progressive in (for that matter, what are conservatives trying to conserve?). As far as David was concerned, he wanted to be progressive in God’s truth. He made this desire his prayer.

Who is your teacher? You may have finished your formal education, but we all continue to learn, for better or for worse. For many, the media is what informs and attempts to teach us how to interpret the information it gives us. Hopefully we have the foresight to read between the lines! David wanted God to teach him, and so should we, by His Word and Spirit.

Why should we trust God not to lead us into and teach us “fake news”? Because He is the God of our salvation. He has saved us from the punishment we deserve for our falsehood and folly.

One thing that God leads us into is patience. He teaches us it and saves us in order that we might be patient. So David said he waited for the Lord all day long, and so should we!

“Oh God Almighty, how we praise You for Your leading, Your teaching, Your salvation, and the patience You’re developing in us. For the honour of Your name, amen”

King

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The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Genesis 49:10 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/gen.49.10.ESV

Jacob had already described his son Judah as a lion. We know from Revelation that Jesus, their Descendant, is known as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In this verse he is described as a king.

Kings have scepters. But Judah wasn’t even the firstborn, never mind the authoritative Joseph, ruler of Egypt! Reuben slept with his dad’s concubine and lost his birthright. The next two sons Simeon and Levi were mass murderers which ruled them out. So Judah inherited the firstborn’s blessings.

Judah would have the honour of being the ancestor of the Lord Jesus, not the beloved Joseph or even Benjamin. God often chooses the unlikely characters of this world to shame the wise with their assumptions about who God might bless. After all, Judah was the one who slept with his daughter in law because he mistook her for a prostitute!

But Judah changed. He was prepared to put his life on the line for Benjamin. His Descendant Christ did put His life on the line for all God chooses to save. Jesus is the King of the Jews to whom tribute and obedience shall come from every people in the world.

“Oh Lord our God, praise is due to You for Your Son, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the King of kings. We bring our tribute and obedience today to our Lord of lords, to whom be all the glory, amen”

How to Brexit Biblically!

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Disclaimer: if you think this article is going to tell you how you should (have) vote(d) regarding Brexit, you’ll be disappointed.

Jesus’ disciples included a (former) tax collector for the Roman overlords (Levi/Matthew) as well as a (presumably non active) Zealot (a nationalistic Jew who wanted to overthrow the Romans- Simon “the Zealot”).

In other words, Jesus has always run a “broad church” in terms of political spectrums. There’s room for Brexiteers and Remainers in the kingdom of God.

But we can’t help but ask WWJD if there was a referendum for Palestine to leave the Roman Empire?

For enthusiasts about politics like me with my degree in International Relations, the Bible can sometimes seem enigmatically apolitical.

I suspect that to those who would want His opinion on Brexit, Jesus would opaquely reply, “Give to Brussels what is Brussels; and to God what is God’s”.

To be honest, Jesus had a pretty ambivalent relationship with the politics of His day, to say that the Romans would eventually crucify Him for claiming to be the King of the Jews- apparent blasphemy.

In fact, when the Jews tried to get some treasonous response from Him on paying taxes to Caesar, He simply replied, “Give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”.

Let me think outside of the Biblical box for a moment though. If money has Caesar’s face on it- then Caesar should get the money. Pay your taxes, and stop moaning about it, Jesus would say. But pounds sterling have the Queen’s face on, not some faceless eurocrat, so why should we pay Brussels any money (asks the eurosceptic in me).

It goes back to the old American revolution: “no taxation without representation”! But Biblically, whether we as Christians feel represented by the powers that be or not, we should still pay our dues.

Let’s flesh this out a bit with Romans 13.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.
Romans 13:1‭-‬7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.13.1-7.ESV

How do we Brexit Biblically? Firstly by obeying the powers that be. Didn’t German Lutherans use this to justify obeying the Nazis? Well okay, we should obey the powers that be insofar as they allow us to live as good Christians.

So as long as we’re still subject to Brussels, we should be good European citizens. And if we ever finally leave we should be good citizens of the United Kingdom.

Bear in mind that Paul was writing about the tyrannous Roman Empire that would probably have him and most early church leaders martyred. He wasn’t calling for an independent Judeo-Christian Judea; he was calling for obedience to the pagan Roman overlords.

Our kingdom is of heaven, not of earth. The new testament calls us to be circumspect and philosophical about perceived political problems we may face.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Romans 13:8‭-‬10 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.13.8-10.ESV

Secondly, we Brexit Biblically by loving our neighbours, whether they’re Brexiteers or Remainers; Polish or Pakistani! A good neighbour doesn’t constantly berate his neighbour about who he is or his lifestyle choices, he’s just kind, friendly and helpful whether he agrees with him or not.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Romans 13:11‭-‬14 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.13.11-14.ESV

Finally, we Brexit Biblically by getting things in perspective. The dawn of heaven breaks, so we need to be holy as God is holy. Would Brexit or remaining in the EU make us more holy? Well neither to be honest, so let’s focus on the things that matter- salvational things.

If we’re proper Christians, we believe we only get into the kingdom of heaven through the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what we should be telling people, not whether or not they should have voted for Brexit!

Peace out, to Britain, the EU, and the world!

Forgiveness

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Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
Mark 2:9 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mrk.2.9.ESV

Some men brought their paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed. But He was surrounded by such a crowd of people that the only way they could get to Him was to break through the roof! First century Palestinian roofs were flat.

But when they finally got to Jesus, He initially just said to the man, “your sins are forgiven”. No doubt the man and his friends were a bit bemused- expecting a miracle. The religious people present were outraged- it seemed to them blasphemy because only God can forgive sins.

Jesus’ reply was to question whether it really was bad of Him to forgive the man’s sins. In a sense, anyone can pronounce forgiveness of sins (although ultimate it’s God who does it). But to heal a paralytic would definately need divine power.

Of course, to prove that He has the authority to forgive sins, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your mat and walk”. And he did! It was a miracle, not just for the man’s sake, but to evidence that Jesus is God.

“Lord our God, Your Son truly is divine, for none other could forgive sins. Thank You for the compassion He showed the paralytic, and that He shows us too, in His name, amen”

Offspring

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You who fear the Lord , praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
Psalms 22:23 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.22.23.ESV

It seems strange that this verse calls us to simultaneously fear and praise the Lord. We don’t tend to associate praising someone with being afraid of them. But think of it as like a young child who fears their father’s wrath if they do wrong, but praises their consistent love.

The Psalmist calls the offspring of Jacob to glorify God. We might assume that the offspring of Jacob refers to the Jewish people, and it probably does. But Biblically, Jacob symbolises and represents sinners who are nonetheless loved by God. Surely that is cause enough for us all to glorify God.

Next, the offspring of Israel are called to stand in awe of the Lord. Again, it could be taken literally, to refer to Israelite people. But “Israel” is a spiritual nickname that God gave Jacob after wrestling with Him and insisting on a blessing.

Israel perhaps needed to learn a lesson in the awe of the Lord, who only needed to touch his hip to dislocate it, and refused to share His name because it was too wonderful. Still, God blessed him. And God will bless us too if we hold Him in the awe that He deserves.

“Lord, we fear, praise, glorify and stand in awe of You. Thank You for being our God and blessing us, even though we don’t deserve it. In Jesus’ name, amen”