Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: December, 2019

Righteousness

‘See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness –

Habakkuk 2:4 NIVUK

https://bible.com/bible/113/hab.2.4.NIVUK

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’

Romans 1:17 NIVUK

https://bible.com/bible/113/rom.1.17.NIVUK

What is righteousness? Well for us to be righteous means for us to be right with God. God Himself is the Righteous One: he’s good and holy. The problem is that we’re naturally the opposite: unrighteous, bad and sinful.

So how can unrighteous people like us be made right with the Holy One, the God of glory? Well it’s not by the works of God’s law, because we all fail to keep it as we ought. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Thankfully, this verse gives us the answer. It tells us about the gospel: the good news of God. Righteousness is of the Lord, it isn’t intrinsic to us. So if we want to be righteous, we need to trust in the righteousness of God, not in the autumn leaves of our own righteousness.

How can we lay claim to the righteousness of God for ourselves? Well it’s not by earning it, because we never could. We gain righteousness for ourselves through faith in God.

It’s not that we start by faith and finish by the filthy rags of our own righteousness. We need to have faith in God to the end- because it’s only by His grace that we can ever be made righteous.

Lots of people have faith in their own righteousness to justify them before a holy God. That’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches us to live by faith in His righteousness, and then we will be justified by His great love.

What are you trusting in for life and eternity? Yourself? We as sinful human beings are foolish to put our faith in ourselves.

We need to trust in God to make us righteous and spiritually alive, through Jesus Christ our Lord and by His Holy Spirit.

Psalm 60: Rejection

Follow the link for my latest Psalm post, feel free to subscribe to Blogging Psalms too 🙂 …

https://bloggingpsalms.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/psalm-60-rejection/

Simon Peter “In His Own Words”

You’ve heard of conceptual music albums right?

Well an elder at church has told me his idea for a conceptual Easter service from the perspective of different Bible characters.

He along with David Ettinger, the excellent blogger, have inspired me to write this monologue as though I were Simon Peter, here it is:

Have you ever felt like you’ve messed things up beyond repair?

That was me more than once. The first time I was confronted with my sinful brokenness was when I met a carpenter turned teacher from Nazareth.

I was a fisherman of Cana in Galilee, a proud working man. I never liked to admit weakness.

But when this Jesus came to town, he asked me to go fishing. I’d been out all night and caught nothing, so I thought this clueless carpenter was having a laugh. But I humoured Him. And the most amazing thing happened. An epic haul of fish in the heat of the day- so many that my boat nearly sunk and I had to call for reinforcements to haul in the catch.

I was in no doubt, in my professional opinion, this was a miracle. All I could say to Jesus was “depart from me, Lord, coz I’m a sinful man”. I realised he wasn’t just some travelling hippie, He’s the Lord, the boss, the King of all!

I knew I wasn’t worthy of Him, but He was like a dog with a bone and insisted that I followed Him and became a fisher of men. I didn’t quite know what he meant but when he sent me out to preach His Kingdom I got the gist. Far from keeping spiritual immigrants out, I was to catch them, and bring them in to the Kingdom of God.

We had an amazing few years, too much to tell. But one time he fed several thousand people with a boy’s packed lunch. Obviously free food went down well and people wanted Him to be King. But then He started telling them to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which sounded really weird and crazy so a lot of people stopped following Him from then. He asked us His close mates if we wanted to leave too, but I said, “Lord, who else would we go to? You have the words of eternal life”.

Then there was this other time when He asked who people said He is. There was the usual kind of answers, a good teacher, a religious guru, a wise prophet. But I cut to the chase and declared that He is the Messiah, the Saviour, the Son of the Living God.

He blessed me and said that upon the truth of that statement He’d build His church.

I was feeling pretty good with myself but then He said He was going to Jerusalem to die and we’d abandon Him. I arrogantly told Him off but He rebuked me.

I didn’t really learn my lesson because the night He was betrayed I told Him I’d never abandon Him, but He said I’d deny Him three times. Sure enough, when the rubber hit the road, I chose to save my skin rather than to die with my Messiah. I denied Him three times with cursing, but one look from Him was enough to break me again. I cowardly ran away and wept bitterly at my denial of my Lord.

We were all gutted that He’d died, but when I heard rumours from the women that He’d risen, me and John were the first to run to the tomb. John’s faster, but I barged right in to the tomb when he lingered outside. Jesus was gone!

We were still moping around days later when I decided I may as well go back to fishing. Some of the others came with me. We caught nothing, I must have lost my touch. But at dawn a man on the beach invited us for breakfast, barbecued fish.

Somehow I knew it was Jesus so I dived in and swam to join Him. To be honest, breakfast was pretty awkward when I remembered my denial. But Jesus took a walk with me. He asked me if I loved Him. Of course I did. He asked me to feed His sheep. He asked me again. I said “yes, okay” again. The third time hurt because that was the number of times I denied Him. But by asking me to feed His lambs, Jesus was restoring me, not to return to the day job, but to become a shepherd of souls.

And that’s what I’ve done to this day, and that’s why I’m telling you my story. I’m encouraging you to meet this Jesus and have your life transformed like mine has been. You’ll never regret putting your trust in Him!

Further Reflections On Wisdom…

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:18‭-‬31 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/1co.1.18-31.ESV

This post is a bit of a departure for me. It’s not one of my regular “watches daily at wisdom’s gates”. Neither is it a Biblical reflection on some topic that comes to mind, one of my more spontaneous posts.

It’s a reflection on one of the main themes of this blog: wisdom. I know in my daily readings today I blogged about wisdom from James’ letter. But it set me to thinking about how godly wisdom is different to worldly wisdom, and brought me to meditate on this passage.

The message of the Bible isn’t, at its core, a message of glory, of prosperity, of health, wealth and happiness. That would be what we would assume in our worldly wisdom.

The message of the Bible is, at its core, the message of the cross. It’s not about man made religion, how we try and earn God’s favour by our wisdom.

It’s about the subversive, topsy-turvy wisdom of God. If our wisdom is “deep magic”, in the words of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series; God’s wisdom is deeper magic.

God subverts the wisdom of the world. The world says that if you work hard, all your dreams will come true. God says that our work is never enough. We need to trust in His work of salvation for us on the cross.

Religious people want to see miracles from God. Jesus said that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah- as he came out of the belly of the whale, so Christ came out of the tomb in defeat of death after His crucifixion for our salvation.

Secular people are “theologians of glory”, as Martin Luther would put. They glory in humanity and our own intrinsic wisdom. The idea that God’s eternal Son died for us and rose again victorious over death is foolish to them.

But God’s wisdom will ultimately expose all human wisdom as folly. The world says that dead people don’t rise again. God says “nothing is impossible” for Him. In His wisdom He will raise us all up for judgement- some to be judged righteous through faith in Christ, and others to be condemned as we all deserve to everlasting punishment.

So the “wisdom” in “watching daily at wisdom’s gates” isn’t, I hope, worldly wisdom, but divine wisdom. We might be foolish in the world’s eyes, but as long as God’s Word makes us wise for salvation, we’ll be “reyt” as we say in Yorkshire (“alright”). We can be justified- made just as if we’d never sinned. We can be reconciled to the Holy One, Almighty God Most High.

Are you wise for salvation? Or do you need to wise up? I pray that God will impart His wisdom to all who read this blog, myself included!

God bless,

Robert

Psalm 59: Deliverance

Follow the link for my latest Psalm post:

https://bloggingpsalms.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/psalm-59-deliverance/

Wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

James 3:13 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/jas.3.13.ESV

Here’s a good verse for “Watching Daily At Wisdom’s Gates”- the title of these devotionals. We often think of wisdom and understanding as purely cerebal. We think that if you have a high IQ you’re wise. Not necessarily, James would insist.

Biblical wisdom isn’t just all in our heads. Biblically, if we’re wise and understanding in our heads, that’s going to impact our heart and our hands too- the whole of us. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”! – do our lives give off a godly flavour?

We often think of wise people as know-it-alls, proud and arrogant. But James equates wisdom with meekness- similar to humility but meaning that we don’t insist on our own rights. Wisdom realises how little we know compared to the omniscient God.

With good conduct and works, the wise man humbly puts his wisdom into practice. It’s not necessarily arrogant to do good, it’s just the right thing to do. But we ought always to remember that any wisdom and goodness in us is ultimately a gift of our gracious God.

“Most wise God, thank You for imparting Your wisdom and goodness to us when we ask. We pray that being made wise and good we wouldn’t become arrogant but would meekly serve You our great God. For Your glory, amen”

3 End of Year Journaling Prompts and Happy Holidays! 🎉

Courtesy of YariGarciaWrites- thank you!

https://wp.me/p9DbVg-uS

Let’s see if I can remember them off the top of my head!

1. Greatest lesson in 2019:

How to be a good dad

2. Greatest regret from 2019:

That I haven’t been the greatest husband I could be

3. Biggest hope for 2020:

That I’d be the best husband I can be

And now to answer the questions from a blog related perspective:

1. Greatest lesson in 2019:

Don’t idolise blogging

2. Greatest regret in 2019:

Idolising blogging!

3. Biggest hope for 2020:

That I wouldn’t idolise blogging!

Finally, an explanation of what I mean by idolising blogging. The warning sign was in my new year’s resolution for 2019, to not be obsessed with stats. Tbh, I haven’t kept that resolution. I’m too concerned about visitors, likes, follows and comments etc. and not enough concerned for my own family!

Don’t get me wrong, blogging’s great, and it helps in my relationship with God. But this is part of the problem: I love it too much and my relationships with my family have suffered.

I sometimes mention “the expulsive power of a new affection” (still can’t remember where it’s from!). That’s the key for me- not just to negatively stop checking stats, but to positively love my wife and daughter, and prioritise them over what is essentially a hobby for me (good as it is for my spiritual life).

I started December scaling back my posts to one a day, but didn’t keep to that for long! Maybe for January I will have to resolve to only publish maximum two posts a day. I want to complete blogging Psalms and then potentially park any more blogs through Bible books until I’ve got my house in order.

If I don’t manage my house well, what’s the point having a well-managed blog?

Where I’m at on Christmas…

Last year I think I posted about how I was at the least very ambivalent about Christmas. I’ve been influenced by stuff that emphasises the pagan trappings of the festivities. But I’m also aware that if that is stripped away we’re left with a celebration of the greatest Gift: The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

So I’m less legalistic about Christmas than I was this time last year. At the very least, it’s a good evangelistic opportunity to tell people about the incarnation of God’s Son for the salvation of mankind.

So for example, this morning I went into the local old people’s home to sing Christmas carols with/to them. Well Christmas carols are basically songs of praise to God who humbled Himself to become one of us, so that we could become part of His family.

So I picked up on words and phrases in the gospel lyrics of these advent hymns and used them to explain the advent of Immanuel: God with us.

When else in the year could I have gone into an old people’s home and shared the gospel with them? Even at Easter, the people who might remember hymns about the passion of the Christ are rapidly dying off, so Christmas is one of the best evangelistic opportunities we have to share the good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As for the pagan, materialistic trappings? Well we can dispense with them. But as God gave us the greatest Gift of His Son, there’s nothing wrong with giving each other gifts as far as I can see.

And even the days of the week are partly named after pagan Viking gods- do we really have to rename the days of the week? I think we can be pragmatic and say that just because we say “Thursday” (Thor’s day) doesn’t necessarily mean to say we worship Thor. And just because we might give gifts on the 25th of December doesn’t necessarily mean to say we’re worshipping Mammon (stuff/materialism) in my opinion. I believe that’s just an expression of love to loved ones, a feeble reflection of God’s love to us in Jesus.

Will you be celebrating Christmas, and I’d so how? If you don’t, don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater”! I know we don’t need a specific day to celebrate Christ’s advent, but neither do we need to avoid celebrating Jesus’ birth for one day of the year.

I do believe that wherever we stand on Christmas, this is a matter of Christian liberty: we’re not “damned if we do” and/or “damned if we don’t” celebrate it.

If you do celebrate, I hope you have a good Christmas and all of you a blessed new year, should Christ delay His second advent!

Stars

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Daniel 12:3 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/dan.12.3.ESV

What’s the point being wise? After all, the same fate of death comes to both wise and foolish, as Solomon pessimisticly observed in Ecclesiastes. Daniel however had a clearer vision of the ultimate fate of the wise.

For Daniel, the wise shine like stars in the universe. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 2. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain.”

If our God-given righteousness shines like stars in the sky, we’ll turn many others to righteousness as well. Just as stars light up the night sky in the wilderness, so believers in God light the way for those who seek after Him. Oh that we truly would turn many to righteousness!

If God makes us righteous, we become like stars forever and ever. Stars themselves aren’t eternal. But when we shine for Jesus, we’ll even outlast the sun!

“Heavenly Father, may we shine bright in the righteousness You have given, and may that light draw many into Your Kingdom, which shall outlast the sun. For Your honour and praise, amen”

Journaling Scripture

I’ve been inspired by Tim Challies‘ guest blogger the other week to invest in a journalling Bible to have as a family heirloom to pass down to my daughter when I’ve completed it.

The rather blurry photo is my first attempt at journaling Scripture, in Psalm 1.

So the idea is that you jot down thoughts in your journaling Bible with your child in mind, and then you present them with it when you’ve completed it.

Although it could be argued that blogging Scripture is basically digitally journaling Scripture, there is something more tangible, enduring and precious about a hard copy of Scripture to journal in and to pass down to the next generation.

I trust my daughter will come to faith in God and His Word. But what’s going to be more appealing to her: a URL of my blogs, or an actual, physical Bible, lovingly and specifically handwritten with her in mind?

Okay, so my writing’s scruffy, but I’m sure it will be more special to my daughter than some impersonal blog posts I’ve made over the years.

I suppose having kids makes us to start to think about our legacies and the heritage we’re going to pass on to the next generation.

If I can inspire in my daughter a love of the Lord and His Word, I will be content.

Of course, her success, health, wealth and happiness would be a bonus. But as the old song goes, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”

Do you have any family heirlooms? What are some of your most precious possessions?

Thanks for reading, and God bless.

Robert