Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: February, 2019

Wealth

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“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Luke 6:24 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.6.24.ESV

Jesus was not a prosperity preacher. He didn’t preach health, wealth and happiness. Quite the opposite! He pronounced woe on the rich!

At another point, Jesus said it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. To be fair, He did go on to say that what is impossible with men is possible with God. Still, as with the parable of the sower (and Ecclesiastes), riches are deceitful and add to the cares of this life.

Jesus gave a reason for His pronouncement of woe upon the rich. He said it’s because they’ve recieved their consolation. To be honest, most rich people are seeking consolation in their riches, and admittedly, riches provide a measure of security.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to seek security and consolation in riches. He wants us to find true security and consolation in Himself. That’s why the poor are blessed,ย because theirs is the secure and consoling kingdom of God.

“Heavenly Lord, we pray that we would find our consolation in You, not in riches. May we recognise our poverty of spirit so that Your Holy Spirit can make us spiritually rich. For the glory of Your name, amen”

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New blog!

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Hi folks, hope y’all well.

I know I’ve got a few blogs on the go atm (including a few dormant ones!), but there’s a new blog on the block!

This is a much more personal, more classic kind of blog about my experience as a house husband.

Check it out at http://www.househusband.home.blog

Hope you like it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Proclamation

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The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord , the Lord , a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
Exodus 34:6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/exo.34.6.ESV

What is God like? Well for a start, God is. He always has been, He consistently is, and He always will be. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. “The Lord” is Yahweh or “I am”, the self sufficient one.

God is merciful and gracious. Not only does He not treat us as our sins deserve, but He also treats us as our sins don’t deserve. He forgives and reconciles all at once those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

Yahweh is slow to anger. Yes, He does get angry at unlovliness, at anything that is inconsistent with His holiness. But He doesn’t lose His temper. He doesn’t have a short fuse.

Steadfast love and faithfulness abound in the heart of Yahweh. If He sets His love upon us, He will not remove it. He keeps His promises to never leave or forsake us. He is faithful to keep us even through death and into eternity.

“Yahweh, the great “I am”, how we worship You for Your unfailing consistency. You never let us down Your mercies are new every morning. You’re longsuffering with us- please continue to be so until we reach eternity. For Jesus’ sake, amen”

Love

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As for you, O Lord , you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
Psalms 40:11 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.40.11.ESV

I think sometimes, especially when we’re feeling down, we think that God might restrain His mercy from us. Maybe we’re feeling bad because we’ve messed up again, and we think, “surely God can’t forgive us now!” But David was confident that the Lord wouldn’t restrain His mercy from him.

God is full of steadfast love. It’s not just that He’s merciful- not treating us as our sins deserve. He’s also gracious- giving us what we don’t deserve. Above all, He loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.

The Lord is also faithful. He doesn’t give up on us. When we blow it once again, He doesn’t rule us out. He sticks by us through thick and thin. Thankfully, His faithfulness isn’t dependant on our performance but upon His great love.

The love and faithfulness of God will always preserve us. We may not think of love and faithfulness as particularly powerful things. We might think of a pet dog as a loving, faithful friend, but it can’t exactly preserve our lives! But God’s love and faithfulness are infinite and able to keep us safe in His care for eternity.

“Oh Lord our God, how we praise You for Your love and faithfulness! Thank You for Your mercy to sinners like us, and that You’ll never give up on us, but look after us forever. Amen”

God’s kingdom Vs Mankind’s kingdoms

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I know I usually post about the Bible, and I will continue to do so, but I’m going to get a bit political in this post.

Really my aim is to emphasise that being a member of God’s kingdom is better than being a member of the European Union, British, American, or anything else.

Let’s compare God’s kingdom and mankind’s kingdoms for a moment. Augustine wrote an epic book on this called Civitas Dei (The City of God). I’m going to try and be a bit more succinct.

Let’s look at America first, where a political holy cow is the right to “bear arms” or carry a gun.

What about the kingdom of God?

He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore;
Micah 4:3 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mic.4.3.ESV

When the kingdoms of this earth become the kingdom of our God, there’s going to be a gun amnesty. There won’t be any wars any more. There won’t be any police brutality. There won’t be any mass shootings. There will be peace and harmony at last.

Having said that, Jesus did sanction His followers to arm themselves for their own security in this fallen world until His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

Secondly, the European Union, whose Parliament building is modelled on a Renaissance painting of the tower of Babel. Why would they model a key institution on a failed human project to reach up to God?

The kingdom of God isn’t some manmade project doomed to failure like the EU. It’s about God coming down to earth to reconcile mankind to Himself. We can’t work our way up to God’s level, but He’s come down to our level in order to bring us into His everlasting kingdom.

Having said that, the free movement within the EU affords a great opportunity for gospel workers to travel freely to share the good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, much like the Roman citizen Paul could freely travel throughout the Roman Empire to help add people- citizens and barbarians alike, into the kingdom of God.

Having dared to criticise the polities of America and the EU, I now zoom in on my own country of the UK, currently up a creek without a paddle in this “Brexit crisis”.

After what I’ve said about the EU and the tower of Babel, you’d think I would say Brexit is a good thing. Well let me nuance that by acknowledging that most people voted for Brexit because they’re xenophobic. Theresa May has actually succeeded where Donald Trump has thus far failed, by building a wall in Calais to keep those pesky immigrants out.

But in the kingdom of God, everyone’s welcome.

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

To give a contemporary paraphrase- in God’s kingdom it’s not about being cultured or uncultured, religious, christened or otherwise, pacifist or gun-toter, rich or poor. It’s all about Christ. He is everything.

Christ is everything to the gun toting American Christian (forgive the stereotypes here). He’s everything to the jet setting European Christian. And He’s even everything to the country bumpkin Englishman.

So if we’re part of God’s kingdom, we’re to especially love each other whatever our politics, ethnicity, nationality or language may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dove

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and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:22 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.3.22.ESV

Jesus had a unique baptism. What happened to Him when He was baptised hasn’t ever happened to anyone else, and never will. Didn’t He already have the Holy Spirit? Yes, but this was like His anointing, His commissioning, His equipping for His public ministry.

This is a very trinitarian verse. We have the Holy Spirit of God, we have the beloved Son of God, and we have the voice of the heavenly Father God. They’re all in harmony. The Holy Spirit descended on the beloved Son from the Father God like a seal of approval.

Baptism symbolises the washing away of sins. Jesus didn’t have any sins. So why was He baptised? In another gospel He said it was to “fulfil all righteousness”. In other words, in order to be our perfect substitute, He needed to model for us not just water baptism, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

We won’t have the Holy Spirit descending on us like a dove. But when we’re baptised in Him He does come to dwell in us. We do become dead to sin and alive to Christ, like the symbolism of going into the water/death and coming out alive/resurrected.

“Heavenly Father, thank You that when we trust in Your Son we recieve Your Holy Spirit. We praise You for Your beloved Son’s perfect obedience, and pray that we may follow His example in our lives. For the honour of Your name, amen”

Is being a house husband Biblical?

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(Please note this is a jokey choice of photo!)

I remember having this debate with a previous pastor’s wife, as I contemplated marrying my professionally successful wife. As I’ve never had a career as such (I don’t think “tent making” or even occasional preaching and evangelism count in my case), I kind of knew that becoming a house husband was a real possibility for me (if it’s Biblical).

I said that I felt the assumption has always been (traditionally) that the man goes to work and the wife stays at home. Even the Proverbs 31 woman, industrious as she was, worked from home.

But I don’t think we need to limit ourselves to 1950s gender stereotypes when considering the will of God for men and women, or for me specifically.

The pastor’s wife (and he often works from home) pointed out Deuteronomy 6 as a potential challenge to the stereotype…

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:4โ€ญ-โ€ฌ7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.6.4-7.ESV

This is not a picture of a bloke so sold out to his work that he’s got no time for his kids.

Admittedly the context was very different to today, but the principle remains: dads should be present in their children’s lives.

For me personally, I also think of this verse,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/ecc.9.10.ESV

Although I’m working part time, the lion’s share of my work will be to bring up my child. Is that so unbiblical? I personally don’t think so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazement

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And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Luke 2:47 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.2.47.ESV

This verse is set when Jesus was a twelve year old boy, visiting the temple with His family for a Jewish festival. There He was in the centre of Jewish learning, asking insightful and probing questions. “And all who heard Him where amazed at His understanding and His answers”.

Asking questions is the mark of an inquisitive mind. Most kids will ask lots of questions in their quest for knowledge. But the irony of Christ is that the all knowing God became a child who as it were had to learn everything all over again.

Having said that, this verse suggests that although Jesus asked the religious leaders questions, He had all the answers too. They were amazed at His understanding, to ask the kind of questions He did. But they were also amazed at His answers to His own questions that stumped them.

We’re not told what Jesus asked. Oh to be a fly on the wall! But I suspect He was investigating what the state was of His Father’s house- the temple of Jehovah. Would He find true faith there, or had they lost their way? The rest of the gospels strongly suggest the answer to that question.

“Jehovah God, when You come to question us, may You find true faith. May we be dazzled by Your understanding of us in Your word, and humbly submit to Your will for our lives. For Jesus’ sake, amen”

Make the most of every opportunity!

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making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:16 NIVUK
https://bible.com/bible/113/eph.5.16.NIVUK

I often hear this phrase in the context of evangelism- witnessing to people of the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s a correct reading of the passage, which is about walking as children of light in a dark world- “letting our little lights shine” if you like- reflecting the light of Christ into the gloom of a lost and dying world.

But whenever I’ve heard people use this phrase in the context of evangelism, they’ve tended to be very passive in their reading. It’s as though we have to wait for opportunity to knock and open up the door for a “gospel conversation”.

This would seem to fit with Peter-

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1 Peter 3:15 NIVUK
https://bible.com/bible/113/1pe.3.15.NIVUK

Peter was writing to Christians suffering severe persecution. His advice would be especially applicable to the “persecuted church” today. God doesn’t expect us to invite persecution. But when we get asked why we’re hopeful (which we should be and should happen!) we should rep our Lord even if we know it will probably result in persecution.

Other Scriptures call us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. We’re told to preach Christ to all creation. Interestingly however, the early church only seriously took that command when they were persecuted and forced to flee from their comfort zones.

Back to making the most of every opportunity. I don’t think that spiritually making the most of every opportunity is so different from humanistically making the most of every opportunity.

Humanly speaking, success isn’t handed to us on a platter. We can’t just wait for opportunities to come our way, we have to go out and make opportunities. If we’re capable of going to university, it’s not enough to rest on our laurels before we’ve even graduated. We have to apply ourselves and work hard.

Why would we expect the spiritual realm to be so different? Instead of passively waiting for opportunities to witness of Christ (and not getting many), why not go out there and create them?

Think of lifestyle bloggers and self help gurus telling you to make the most of every opportunity to serve yourself.

Well instead of being all selfish about it, why not make oppotunities for the kingdom of God, rather than the kingdom of self?

Let me give you an example, to encourage you rather than to show off.

Yesterday I was in my “tent making” job, emptying a shipping container of scented candles with such scents as “calm, relax, unwind”… and “peace”.

“I don’t think you can get much peace from a candle”, I laughed with my colleague.

Then I said, “are you calm/relaxed/unwound… at peace?”

Sadly, to this last question my colleague replied “no”. They went on to explain why they weren’t at peace and how they thought they’d find it (sadly way off the mark).

Having heard them, I could go on to explain how God can give us peace with Himself, one another and ourselves. I gave a salty sample of the gospel to my colleague, and I hope it leaves them thirsty for more of the living waters of Christ.

So there you are. You might not often get a “peace candle” opportunity to share the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus, but I encourage you to be creative in your context to be a bright, shining, proactive ambassador for Christ.

Peace out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help

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The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
Psalms 37:40 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.37.40.ESV

This verse is about the righteous. They are righteous through faith in the “imputed righteousness of Christ”. In other words, God exchanges our sinfulness for Christ’s righteousness: that’s how He sees us.

We’re helped and delivered by Jehovah. We may think of a helper as a humbling role, but Almighty God is happy to help His people. Not only so but He delivers us not necessarily from all our troubles, but through them.

God delivers His people from the wicked. David, like many believers in Jehovah, had enemies who were out to kill Him. Persecution is the normal Christian experience. Jesus told us to expect it. But God saves us, not just from our sins, but also from our persecutors.

Why does God help, deliver and save His people? It’s because we take refuge in Him. If you take refuge in anything other than God, it’s only going to let you down. But God saves to the uttermost, for all eternity, those who put their trust in Him.

“Jehovah God, we want to thank You for Your help, deliverance and salvation. Help us to always take refuge in You, all of our days, and so to know eternal peace and security. In Christ’s name, amen”