Holiness

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev 20 v11-15

 

Recently, I found myself particularly frustrated with the injustices of the world, and was praying for justice to be done. It was during that that He directed my attention to Revelation 20, and helped me see that He has a very, very good handle on justice.

It was as if I had forgotten; that I was again trying to get into the drivers’ seat and make sure God knew all about these wrongs. As if He had somehow overlooked what was happening.   As if His mercy and kindness rendered Him impotent, and I had to stand in the gap.

He showed me Revelation 20, and the very clear fate of all who do not have their name written in the Book of Life. Immediately, I am sobered. I am reminded of my place, and reminded that whatever evil passes for now, the final place of the evildoer is terrible.

I am reminded that our Lord is a HOLY God, and in His light we would all be destroyed due to the evil carried in our hearts. His Goodness would burn us into the lake of fire and the second death because of His nature, and of ours.

Like I said, sobering. No, I do not need to remind Him of wrongdoing, or to petition for justice. That will indeed be fulfilled, how could it be any other way, with God being who He is?

I think it is good for us all to realise how HOLY, how GOOD God really is; how absolutely and finally every vestige of evil will be judged and expunged.

And, in the light of that, how wonderful, how awesome is the sacrifice Jesus made for us.  That He literally becomes our righteousness and enables us to stand before a God so Holy that I would burn up in a tiny fraction of a second without the righteousness of Christ.

Unless you can see God and know his righteous judgment, how much can Jesus mean?  To see just a little of that is to see why Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.  Truly, there is no possible way to our Father God but through Him.

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What is to come?

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Rev 14 v12.

There exists in the West an increasing intolerance to the Church and to those who genuinely try to live and stand up for Christ. This is likely not a new thought for anyone who has kept their ear to the ground, but for those who have not, here are a few examples:

Gary McFarlane, Lillian Ladele, Shirley Chaplin, Nadia Eweida, Richard Page, Svetlana Powell, Keith Bullock, Tony Rollins, Caroline Petrie, Dr Richard Scott, Olive Jones, Duke Amachree, Andrew McClintock, Vince Pauline Matherick, Eunice Owen Johns, Dr Hans Christian Raabe, Philip Lardner, Chris Grayling, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, Fr Mark Morris, Tim Farron, Rocco Buttiglione, Sarah Kuteh, Dr David Mackereth, Felix Ngole.

Now, this is not persecution, certainly not as experienced by many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. But this is how it begins.

Values that were once mainstream become marginalised, along with the people that hold them.

The ability of Christians to participate in the public square is diminished, as categories of professions become closed to those living for Christ. Legal, Medical, Teaching, Political, even Religious all become proscribed.

Christians and their beliefs are belittled, marginalised and mocked. Living your faith becomes controversial and not fit for polite society.

 

But it won’t stop there, as our nations are slouching back to the pagan conditions that Jesus’ first followers experienced. Bear in mind that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers – and these powers hate Christians, because they hate Christ.  And, knowing that their time is short, will do everything they can to hurt the Church.

 

By Christians, I am referring to those who will remain faithful to Christ, not those who accommodate themselves to the culture. To those that choose to bow the knee, and offer the pinch of incense in order to save their careers, their standing, their family…perhaps eventually their lives…to them Jesus had something to say:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
Matthew 16 v25.

Only pray that by the grace of God we will be found in the latter group and not the former.

 

Marginalisation, belittlement and mockery are merely a step on the way. We have seen from history that you cannot treat a people evilly until you have dehumanised them.  Once they are isolated, made vulnerable, and regarded as unworthy of even basic consideration, then a persecution can truly begin.

 

Now, persecution will be only part of the story. Along with a time of persecution will come a time of revival.  When we are forced out from behind our four walls, from our Christian ghettos, when the price of obedience becomes public opprobrium, we will no longer be able to hide and at last the Light will be made visible for those around us.  Many will hate the Light – but some will be drawn to it.  That will be our opportunity, perhaps an opportunity for one last great harvest.

Simply put – we will be sent to ‘the least of these’ as we will become ‘the least of these’.

 

Ultimately, persecution won’t stop until we have entered into Christ’s passion. Until we have been through that fiery furnace.  Once the pressures of losing social standing, jobs, money and possessions have done their refining work, the remnant that remain faithful will likely have to follow Christ to Golgotha.  Our very presence will have become an offence.

They came for the Jews, and they will come for us in the same way.

 

Why say this now? Because we must get prepared.   Too easy we close our eyes to the changes around us, hoping that if something does happen, it won’t happen to us.  We go to our Christian festivals, our Church gatherings, our meetings and we ignore the gathering storm around us.  We hope it will pass us by.

The news, and the point of this word, is that it will not pass us by.  The world where it was possible to be a comfortable Christian is passing, and we are all going to start to count the cost of following Christ. What will you be willing to sacrifice? Who, or what, is the God at the centre of your life?  Upon what will you make your stand?  Living Rock, or shifting sand?

That is the challenge before us now, may the Lord open our eyes to it.

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The cult of moloch

They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to false gods.
They shed innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
    and the land was desecrated by their blood.

Psalm 106:37-38

In ancient Canaan, the worship of the god moloch was accompanied by the sacrifice of children. This barbarism was rightly condemned in the Bible as a desecration. We might like to think we have outgrown such practices, however, this cult is alive and well in the West and with satanic efficiency we have got much better at it – the sacrifice of millions: hidden, unseen, sanitised mass killing of the weakest and most helpless of us all.

Now Ireland have got in on the act.  After all, what is the cost of death, dismemberment, pain, anguish and regret against the blessing of personal autonomy?  My body, my choice.  It’s the woman’s right to choose….though it’s telling that this is a sentence that is never completed.  The right to choose…what?  Where to work?  Where to live? Who to marry?

The ever hanging sentence can’t be finished, because the full sentence reads “It’s a woman’s right to choose to kill her baby”.  And that is a little less palatable said out loud.

It was somewhat different in Ireland’s case – rather than abortion by court ordered fiat, this was abortion chosen and approved by the majority of the country.  No hiding behind another organisation or structure – this time the blood is on the hands of those who voted for it. Truly, we are barbarians, savages hiding behind our technology and supposed enlightenment.

 

So, where does it leave us?  Are we to expect the judgment of God, wrath poured from the skies?  Well maybe….but rather it seems to me that the real judgment is self-inflicted.  You choose death, and death chooses you.  A culture that once valued life, no longer does.  And it will not end well.

So what is the right response?  Anger to some degree yes, but it’s very hard for humans to be righteously angry – better to leave that to God.  I think better to receive something of God’s heart in this – the deep sense of grief for a people marching into the night, away from what was good, what was holy.  Away to a future where the strong will increasingly tyrannise the weak.  Because the value of a person will be assigned by what the strong command.  All good…while you are yet one of the strong.

Better to realise our real state and become one of the weak.  Better to trust in the One who “will never leave you nor forsake you” Deut. 31v6b.  Better to remember that, even in this, we are more than conquerors.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8 v31-39

 

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Repentance

I was thinking the other day about Jordan Peterson, and why his message of “get your life together” is so attractive to alienated young men.  Why is he – a secular prophet – able to speak so well into peoples lives?  And why is the church seemingly unable to speak the same way?

Jordan has a message. He articulates the problem well, however the solution “sort yourself out”, while having some impact, ultimately falls short.

But, it is a message that resonates.  And, it resonates because it is the secular version of the call to repentance.

And that matters.

Because we know we are not all that we should be, and we want to be more. And, to be honest, a lot of us want to be challenged to be more than indolent dissipating failures.

So, where is the church falling short? Why can Jordan reach people with a partial message, whereas we have a message of real hope?  I think the answer can be encapsulated in that one word – Repent!  To often we skim over the problem, the mess we would really rather not look too closely at, in order to quickly arrive at the solution.

In other words, we want our grace free, and cheap too, thank you.

We don’t want to see the real and lasting damage our sin does to us and all those around us.  Because facing up to that is too painful. Better to give it lip service and move on.

Only, we can’t. Because it is not that easy. It has been said that the deepest human need is to be forgiven.  Not food, not shelter, not love (all of which are essential).  But rather to be forgiven.

“Whoever has been forgiven little loves little (Luke 7 v47)”  Yes, but that is not because they did not sin much. But because they have not really understood how much they needed to be forgiven in the first place.

So, the Church which proclaims the solution – Jesus, who bore all our sins – without ever fully articulating the problem, is a Church that is not bringing the full gospel to a hurt and needy world.

If you don’t face people with who they are, the real and lasting pain of all our sin, then you can never profess Jesus in a way that makes any sense.

In short – for the Church to proclaim Jesus, we must first call all to repent. Then, and only then, do we have a message that will speak to everyone’s deepest need.

 

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord

Acts 3 v19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Saviour,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.
Ps 25 v1-7

It is Easter again, and I am only just beginning to get my head around it.  For so many of us, Easter is a welcome respite from a long, hard work week – an extra day in a weekend to recover from everything we have had to do, all that life has thrown at us.

But Easter is so much more.  It is literally the pivot point of history, a kairos moment that turns darkness to light, death to life, despair to hope.  Before, we were lost in a mess of our own making, straining unsuccessfully to reach for the light we had lost.  After, we found a Way had been made for us, forgiveness bestowed, the light Himself had come down to rescue us.

To get there though, we cannot skip Good Friday.  We all want the Good News of Easter Sunday – He is Risen! – but we shy away from the full reality of the cost paid on Good Friday.  The physical description of crucifixion is bad enough, but that was a pale shadow of the real sacrifice Jesus paid – the one that culminated in, with a loud shout – It Is Finished!

crown of thorns2

At that moment, He had taken on the fullness of our sin, and in so doing found Himself separated from the One with whom He had enjoyed communion before the founding of the world.  I can only begin to imagine that cost – immense, unimaginable, soul crushing, heart breaking.

As the Holy Spirit continues to illuminate my heart, I begin to see more and more His gift.  On the surface, I live a pretty ‘good’ life – but there is still, even after all these years, such darkness to plumb.  Selfish, unloving thoughtlessness – the Trinity I often de-facto worship is the one of Me, Myself and I.

Those who have been forgiven little, love little.  Those who have been forgiven much, love much!  Only, we have all been forgiven so much, if we only have eyes to see.  The debt that Jesus paid was not trivial.  There is no such thing as a venial sin – only sins of which the essential offensiveness have not yet been fully comprehended.

We can only fully appreciate the sacrifice made on Good Friday when we have our own hearts revealed to us – and it is the same realisation that brings the hope and joy of the risen Christ on Easter Sunday.  Now that is Good News!

easter-1443348_1920

 

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The Silent Judgment

Fifty years and 8 million murders later, and that just in the U.K. What is it that we have made of ourselves? How can we avoid judgment?

Then I reflect, who says that we have? I look at our society, its increasing totalitarian secularism, its weak sinful leadership, the madness by which we tear down our own houses – and I think, no, we have not avoided judgment. It is just that we are too blind to see that we have been left to it – our will be done.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

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On Prophetic Speaking

The one who speaks prophetically to a culture is rarely subtle, and almost never popular. Not for him the parable, whose message is aimed in (appropriately) a parabolic arc behind the audience’s defence line; there to stage a sneak attack of truth, for those with ears to hear.

No, a prophetic judgment is more akin to a straight-out, all guns blazing, attack on the main defence line. It is resisted fiercely, and often successfully. There are exceptions, but the rule is that this kind of prophetic word is rejected by the recipient/s, up to and often after its fulfillment.

So, why bother? Two reasons. Firstly, truth must be proclaimed, however unpalatable, and warning given – whether heard or not. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the other part of this kind of prophetic word.

While the enemy is being fast engaged and the battle raging, behind comes a second team. That team is charged with planting a garden in the midst of the battle. Where it rages the strongest: a flower here, a plant there. To leave something behind in the resisters’ heart – the hope of something better. That when their plans have come to nothing, and all has fallen to ash – the memory, the hope remains – that all is not lost.

A prophet is called upon to pass the judgment of God – but that is only really the starting point. Beyond that, a prophet’s true mission, once all things have been revealed for what they really are, is to bring the message of hope. That beyond the battlegrounds and desolations of the human heart lies a garden of Hope that is tended by the Carer of our souls.

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