In due course, the question is going to be asked – the one as old as humanity itself. Why? Why is this pandemic upon us? Why are so many people dying? Do we deserve this? Is God there, is He cruel, does He care? Or is it anathema to even think in that way?
There are so many questions wrapped up in that, and though we will certainly not get all the answers we are looking for – our understanding will always be incomplete – maybe a bit of perspective will help.
The first thing I’d like to tackle is the Christian apologist position. The one that says that God did not cause this, but does allow it. I understand the argument and perhaps it does hold some water. But here is the thing – it seeks to remove responsibility from God at the cost of bringing up the question of impotence and indifference. And God is neither! I think we need to be very careful in using this argument, lest we inadvertently dethrone Him, trying to intercede when He needs no such ‘help’.
The ancient Hebrews probably had a better grasp when they wrestled with the problem of pain in the book of Job without seeking to dethrone the one who is the Lord of all things.
So on to perhaps the key question – how can a loving and caring God allow, or cause, such a disaster to happen?
First thing – we perhaps need to be careful not to be making God in our own image, but allow Him to remake us in His image. What we understand by love, care and goodness is very limited and warped! Spend some time in the Bible, let it read us, and we will begin to understand our limitations in comprehension.
Second thing – let’s turn the whole question around. Why would God not send this as judgment? Do we really have a good sense of the society in which we live? Can we see, or are we yet blinded? Do we understand that evil, blood and darkness dwells in the heart of our enlightened, tolerant, inclusive and diverse modern Babel?
Is it perhaps not more of a miracle that His hand has stayed thus far, in mercy and forbearance? Would it maybe be love that causes Him to act now? Remember He is also a God of Justice. Which is not opposed to love, but rather a facet of it. And, do we not see yet that this may well be the beginning of a mercy judgment?
Another question that might be asked is, Why did God allow X to die, they didn’t deserve it? I know these are potentially very emotive questions, and forgive me for not being a pastor, but let’s turn it around again. Did X deserve life in the first place? Did they do something wonderful to be awarded life as a reward? No – and conversely neither does death have to be seen as an explicit or implicit judgment upon them.
Remember, all men are appointed to die, and then the judgment. The One who gives us life, can also take it. He doesn’t actually owe us anything, and it is a conceit to think otherwise.
Maybe enough from me for a bit. Time for a word from my sponsor. Jesus faced the same, implicitly stated question.
Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Luke 13 v4-5
Perhaps this would have been the perfect time for God Himself to answer the question that had been dogging humanity for millennia. But – He did not. Rather, He turned round the question and addressed it to us. Where do you stand? Will you stand against Me? Or repent and turn?
Let us be clear. He is not in the dock, we are. We do not have standing to judge, He does.
Sometimes we think we get to test Him, to see if he is worthy of our time, our respect, our belief. It is not that way. Rather, we are the ones who will come before Him, and who will be questioned.
And we need to submit to the reality that He chose not to answer the question. Perhaps because we are not equipped to understand the answer at the present time, perhaps for other reasons. But the question that does need answering is, in the midst of trouble, will you trust or walk away? Those are the paths open to us.
Let’s paraphrase Jesus’ response in the light of current events.
Or the thousands who died during the Covid-19 pandemic—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living throughout the world? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
These are not kind, pastoral words. But, they are words of life, and for those that respond they cut us deeply and bleed us into salvation.
In the midst of our current troubles, we have new opportunities to choose between life and death. As ever, our Father desires that we choose life, and indeed the good news is that some are, waking up and realising that we are not, after all, gods – masters of our own destiny.
But it is a tragedy that some are using this time to extend the tentacles of Moloch worship. I believe that one of the reasons the nations are under the judgment of God is because of our wanton sacrificing of millions of our children, the very least of these, to the flames.
New Zealand has used this time to ram through an extreme abortion law. Now, the UK has got into the act. As it is currently harder to sacrifice our sons and daughters at officially approved Moloch temples, we have been given dispensation to set up our own altars at home, in order to keep the flames of evil and death burning brightly.
As I’ve said before, if we choose death, death chooses us. And I am not so much meaning physical death here, though that too. But the spiritual death, the second death. The coarseness, the stripping away of humanity, and the descent to hell that comes with all such heinous acts.
I am desperately sad to see it – a shaking to life, leads some nations to turn their back, and embrace death more firmly – hiding from God in hatred of all that is good. Am I overstating things? Maybe…or maybe it is that we do not see the horror of what we, as nations, do and have allowed under the blood-stained banner of ‘choice’.
I can only think that more shaking is going to be necessary, and delivered. Because God is love, and He is sovereign. He made a Way when there was no way. He is able to overcome, and He will be glorified. In the end, every knee will bow – worshipers and rebels alike. Maranatha!
On from my previous post, I just wanted to add a little more in light of the updated guidance from the Church of England (which I know is a specific example, but also possibly indicative…)
In this they say that the:
Church of England strictly observes the new guidelines on staying at home and only making journeys that are absolutely necessary, such as shopping for essential items and to take daily exercise.
Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own.
This only reinforces my sense that the response is unbalanced, focused on the secular response and not properly considering things of eternal value. Daily exercise is essential, but a spiritual response can be put aside.
To be clear – I do not think church buildings are an essential part of the Church’s mission – we are the people of Christ, not the buildings! That said, they serve as a nexus, and to completely close them to any activity says something.
As I said to someone recently, my hearts’ cry, or perhaps the Lords’ cry within my heart, is that we mourn what is removed from us in this season. That we understand at a gut level the blessing and precious value of ekklesia worship and communion with Him! I am desperate to hear, for the Lord to hear, how much we value that and how much it costs us to lose that for a season.
That for me is what is missing in what I hear from the Church.
So, we have entered a period of shaking, one of perhaps many to come. Where what is normal is suspended, and our lives appear to be upended. Where fear leads to panic, and we find ourselves in uncharted territory.
It is not the possibility of death that leaves me fearful. But rather how we as a Church respond to the shaking that has been prophesied (and for the most part, roundly ignored) for many years. How are we doing? Are we fully clothed, sober, alert and ready for the times? Or we are we rudely awakened, panicked, throwing on clothes and rushing about trying to catch up? In which kingdom do we find ourselves, and in what or whom, is our trust?
Suddenly these don’t seem like idle concerns anymore.
I’ve read the church leaders responses to the pandemic, and while much in there is laudable – there often seems to be something, or someone, missing.
I completely understand the need to do everything possible for those who are physically vulnerable and the people who are treating them. The Church has a duty to care and to be responsible. And the call to us as a nation to a day of prayer may well prove to be a kairos moment.
But at the same time it seems as if we as a church have been too ready to accept the implicit judgment of the secular authorities – that we are not essential, that in times of emergency we can simply stand aside. This is the first ever closure of public worship! And, in listening to what is said, it can start to sound a bit like physical safety and security are the real things, and the coming together of the ekklesia to partake in communion with Christ, an optional extra.
Don’t misunderstand me – I am cognisant of and generally supportive towards the decisions that are being taken. But I can’t shake the feeling that we have surrendered something so precious without much of a second thought. As if Health and Safety comes before Salvation.
I do realise that these are really hard calls to make! The leaders having to make them have my sympathy.
But – in the times we are living – what about life?! Where were we in the deepest and darkest pandemics of our times? The orgy of pornography? The death of marriage? The murder of millions of innocents? What have we said in these times of such evil and barbaric destruction???! A few voices perhaps – muted and mostly ignored. We have already entered the gates of hell, and the Church turned over in our sleep and hit the snooze button again.
So now we have another wake-up call – a mercy judgment. Our lives have been changed, almost overnight. And perhaps the enforced dispersal into our local communities give us, as the Church, the opportunity to shine, to be that light set on a lampstand. Now is the time for the ‘ordinary’ believer to be salt and light, and to be a blessing in a world unhinged by anxiety and fear. To meet the challenge, and to overcome.
He is still Sovereign, and in the midst of judgment is entwined mercy. May we gather those threads and be the light of that mercy in the coming times.
Jesus is the Hope of the World, and Who we carry is more precious than anything else could ever possibly be. Live a life in the coming days in light of that truth!
Recently I have written that we need to Wake Up, and Understand the Times in which we are living. There seems to be now a synergy with many of the warnings delivered prior to the 2008 economic crash. There is also perhaps analogies with birth pangs, waxing and waning, but getting closer together and stronger. Each time, we become momentarily alarmed, only to fall back to sleep in the world’s arms once the immediate crisis is past.
With that in mind, I wanted to repost a word from 2007:
The Mercy Judgment Last September the Lord spoke into my heart; these were the words given:
It is the twilight of the current age, and we bask in its fading gleams. Much that can be shaken, soon will be.
With apologies to those who are not Tolkien fans, this is what informed my hearts response:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I, said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
So, what is to happen, and what are we to do with the time that is given us? Probably the best explanation would be to read a word given to me at the turn of this year:
A storm is coming This is a word I must bring to you, a word for 2007. Indeed, this is something I have alluded to a number of times before, but the hour grows short, and the word more urgent.
Friends, a storm is coming.
The nature of this storm is not immediately important, although I could make some educated guesses. As a summer storm comes upon you, the air grows sultry, clouds gather, thunder is heard in the distance and lightening can be seen – so it is now.
I see this gathering storm, gathering to break upon us. Many go to and fro, and the old gods, now resurfaced in all their malice and ugliness, dominate our culture. The Lord is not mocked though, and His hand is at the ready.
What is judgment is also blessing, though we will need eyes to see it. As the security of the world is revealed as a false crutch, so will peoples’ eyes be open to their true need. And that, friends, will be our opportunity. For, at present, there are many who have no ‘need’ of God, secure as they are in the wealth of the world. Until, that is, the whole pack of cards comes crashing down. Then the paths of despair or hope will open up before them.
And not just them, but us also. For we are just as entwined in the world. The cathartic action will be painful for us too, more or less, dependent on where we are with the Lord. This then is the counsel for the times: Trust not in what can be seen, but in what is unseen. Put your root down into the Rock of Ages. Then, when the topsoil is stripped away, you will not fall. Rather, you will have the opportunity to be a beacon, a lighthouse in perilous times.
Many will come to Him, if His Church is ready. That is what He is calling us to now. Be ready. Purchase oil that your lamps will not run out. See, the bridegroom is at the threshold even now! Therefore, put away your toys, your vanities, and gird yourself for the times to come. Then your light will indeed shine. Hear the Spirit of the Lord, He is crying amongst the churches! Wake up, wake up! A new day is dawning and you must be ready.
So, what kind of storm am I writing about? Well, that is something that is not yet revealed. Perhaps we might see terrorist acts? An economic crash? Times of war? Earthquakes, or floods? Persecution within the Church? Or perhaps something else entirely? I don’t know the details of what is to come.
Are we talking of the second coming of Christ? In this context, no. Of course, you cannot unbind events from each other, but this is not what I am directly writing about today.
Is it possible at this time we see some foreshocks of coming judgment? It is hard to say, but it is certainly necessary to be sober, alert and aware of the times. Consider the flooding that occurred in England on the 29th July 2007 and the statement by a number of Anglican bishops that this was God’s judgment on that country. Such things should not be said lightly, though one might ask why God should not judge nations that appear to be moving far from Him and descending into wickedness?
Also, one might look at the current turbulent economy and wonder whether there is judgment there? Or perhaps consequence would be a better word – the consequence of greed and living beyond our means?
As an illustration, consider whether we are just like the country of Grenada – “a nation that was not prepared for the storm – the hurricane – nobody expected it”. We saw the utter devastation of some buildings, including the churches.
Simply put, we do not know exactly what this storm will look like, or when it will occur. The reason this word is being given now is because of an increasing sense of urgency. How urgency translates to timing is less clear, especially as we serve a God for whom a day is a thousand years and a thousand years is a day. In His economy, timing and even the judgment itself is fluid – what concerns Him is our response. The only words I might be able to give you are ‘near’, ‘soon’, and ‘at the threshold’.
I’ve taken to calling this approaching storm the Mercy Judgment, in that what is Judgment will also be Mercy. What do I mean by this? Well, understand that what will be a difficult and chaotic time, a time where there will be suffering, will also have a redemptive and cathartic quality. Many things that are currently idols for us will no longer be idols – perhaps partly because they will no longer be present, partly because we will be able to see more clearly what is genuinely important. And if we have eyes to see and trust in our heavenly Father, we may be able to bring others currently enmeshed in the kingdom of this world, into the Kingdom of the world that is to come.
It should also be said that I do not see this to be cataclysmic destruction, but more of a severe judgment or judgments to chastise, simplify and ultimately purify. A genuine judgment, but one that will be ultimately to our mercy. Indeed, if God really wanted to destroy us, He would just leave us just as we are. We are doing, as a society, a pretty good job at self-destruction anyway. So, by His mercy He will not leave us just as we are. And through judgment and following persecution, we will get to bring the harvest home.
The Response of the Church So, the question that we need to ask in light of coming judgment is this: “what then do we do?”. If these things really are coming, how do we respond? How then shall we live?
Firstly – do not be afraid.
Fear is the weapon of our enemy, and nothing that I write is intended to cause fear. As it says in 1 John 4 v17-19:
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
Indeed, as Romans 8 v14-16 also says:
those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
So, I repeat again – Do not be afraid. If you are found in Christ, the source of your salvation, then you cannot be shaken, because He cannot be shaken. Indeed, in the times to come Jesus Christ will be the only secure place that can be found.
So, we are being shown these things ahead of time not to cast a shadow of fear, but to forewarn and allow us to prepare.
These things are quicksand to your soul. Divest of them, while you still have time.
Many live for transitory gains, gambling in the stock market, finding security in shares, or setting up RRSPs and GICs to provide for themselves a security apart from God. Granted, these things are not evil in and of themselves – but what we do with them often is. Always, the question is asked, where is your heart? Could you also be a rich fool – desiring to give God everything but the idol you worship? God had some things to say about riches – listen to this from Luke 16 v13:
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Who or what do you love more than Christ? Listen to Luke 14 v25-27:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ″If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Hard words, do you think? We need to understand what they mean.
Do we love our brothers and sisters more than Christ? Then we are not worthy of Him. Do we love our wives or husbands more than Christ? Then we are not worthy of Him. Do we love our children more than Christ? Then we are not worthy of Him.
Your family is not your salvation. Only Christ is. If He is not Lord of your life: your whole life – then He is no Lord to you at all. Is it difficult to hear this? Yes, but better the pain now than pain later.
Only when our whole life is under His Lordship, only then will we have both feet upon the Rock. And – I tell you the truth – the only place that will be secure in the coming days is to have both feet on the Rock of Jesus Christ. As the Psalmist said:
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Ps 40 v2
Everything else but Christ will fade, all else will fall into ruin. And the secrets of all hearts will be laid bare.
Please read this word given in January 2005.
What is hidden will be revealed I saw the Holy Spirit, brooding over the earth and the seas covering it. I perceived His plans for us. I saw Him dry up all the seas, and as this was done, what was hidden under the seas was revealed – mountains, valleys, plains and trenches.
My understanding was that the seas represented the Lord’s grace in the natural – that is, his physical provision for us. I saw that He will dry up this provision, and in doing so reveal the hidden natures of our hearts – both the highest heights, and the lowest depths.
I saw that this water – the Lord’s grace in the supernatural – would still be available as a source to be drawn upon by those who are based and grounded in the Lord.
What will this mean, and how extensive will it be? I do not know. Only that a time of natural adversity with supernatural blessing will occur, with the intent of revealing what has been hidden under the Seas of Plenty for many years. Both the best and the worst will be laid bare for all to see.
Thirdly, we are called – both now and in the days ahead – to be a lighthouse
– bringing light to an increasingly dark world. What is it that a lighthouse does? It warns of dangerous waters. It guides to safe harbours. It provides a community, a haven, a hope in the tumultuous seas of our world.
In relation to this, we would not go far wrong in coming before the Lord in an act of corporate repentance where we could confess before Him the ways we have fallen short of Him, both individually and as a body. This is very necessary before we can move forward into His inheritance for us.
Regarding the need for repentance, I then received a further vision. I saw the lighthouse; it was as if the light rays were shining out into the darkness. Then, it was as if I was inside the lighthouse itself, another layer being unveiled to the vision.
The light source was at the centre of the lighthouse, I became aware of who this Light represented – Jesus Himself. Perhaps that is a little obvious, but I saw it deeper that I had before.
We, as the church, are represented by the panes of glass that make up the lighthouse reflectors. When we are dirty and grubby, the light does not shine through us well. When we are cleaned, the light can shine through us and out into the world much more brightly.
This cleaning is the purpose of corporate repentance; that we might be cleaner, more transparent, and hence more able to be that which we are called to be – a reflector of Christ.
Indeed, if we are reflecting Christ in His fullness we may be able, in the times to come, to save those who have lost everything they once held dear. This may be our great opportunity, if we are alive in Christ enough to see it. As Jude says in verse 22:
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
I also saw that the Light of Christ is the centre of the Church, without His Light we are nothing, worse than nothing – a counterfeit – a building that pretends to be something that it is most evidently not as darkness falls. If the light in you be darkness, how great is that darkness – as our Lord said in Matthew 6 v23.
It seems to me that the sin of the Church has to be heinous and protracted before this happens – before the lampstand is removed from its place.
The grace of the Lord is deep, He is long-suffering and desires all to repent….indeed far more than we can imagine.
But yet, there comes a time when the lampstand is removed and then, well then, a dark lighthouse is a horrible thing indeed – the spirit of the antichrist.
So we come back to the question – “what then do we do?”. Be assured that this is Gods primary concern. He is eager, with the heart of love itself, to know how we will respond to His call. Are we to be indifferent? Disbelieving? Letting the more immediate things of this world take precedence? Or will we seek Him with our whole heart, wanting to know Him with a passion, wanting to know His will for our life and in this time, and earnestly desiring to put to death all that stands between us and Him?
This is the most important thing that we can do. For sure, we may listen to Him, and ask if there is anything in particular He would have us do in preparation. But what we do is very much secondary to what we are. Are we the Lords? Or are we play-acting? Going though the motions, if you like? Are we serious about the Lord whom we say we serve? This is the most important, the most urgent question before us now. By His grace, we have a window, a short window of time, to decide where our hearts priorities lie.
The truth is this – there is only one place where there is light, life, salvation and security. Only one place that can never be shaken -and that is in Christ. This place is free, but not cheap. It will cost you nothing, and will cost you everything. It offers you life abundantly, joyfully and eternally – and to enter it you must die. Indeed, there is no other way. If you have not entered this life – this Kingdom life, or you were once in the Kingdom and now find yourself once again on the grey plain of the world, then please – turn to Jesus Christ while you still can.
Please listen to this final word, The heart of winter, given to me October 2004:
Grey clouds scurry across a twilight sky. A cool wind blows from the North. The last of the leaves are blown from the trees. Dead leaves make patterns in the swirl of the wind.
Will you not come home to Me, my children? Will you still tarry outside? Winter will be upon you soon, and the heart of winter, winter’s heart, will fall upon you.
I have all things prepared. The lights are on, the fire stoked, the feast is laid. Will you not come home? I am here, to welcome you. How long will you tarry?
Will you wait until it is too late? Until the heart of winter is upon you? Until the snow is thick upon the ground, Until a shroud of ice is upon everything?
Until winter’s heart claws at your own heart? Until there is no life, no love, no peace and no purpose? Until the heart of winter will claim you as its own?
There is still time. Come home to Me – there is still time. Before the heart of winter grips you forever. Before it is too late. Come home to Me.
Come home to the one who loves you dearly, and has loved you from before the foundations of the world. Come home to the only sure foundation in the coming storm.
Let Christ be before us, Let Christ be behind us, Let Christ be below us, Let Christ be above us, Let Christ be within us, And let Christ be without us.
This is the only place to be, the only place that will endure. This is His call to us now, and in the coming times.
There is a Catholic blog that I keep an eye on, that also speaks to the times in which we live. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but I thought this was insightful:
The sense was that events around the world were going to unfold very rapidly. I “saw” in my heart three orders collapse, one upon the other like dominoes: …the economy, then the social, then the political order.
Now, the economic chaos of 2008 was kicked down the road a decade or so. But it didn’t go away; the brokenness, fracture, greed and fear of a world system that is unmoored from God. The house of cards, built on quicksand, remains. Could be kicked further down the road? Maybe, I do not know. But I know this – at some point it will all come home to roost. You don’t need to be a prophet to see that!
So, we were given another decade to prepare. But, maybe we used that just to hit the snooze button, because the bed of the world is just so comfortable.
When that day comes, we will be either fully clothed, sober, alert and ready for the times. Or we will be rudely awakened, panicked, throwing on clothes and rushing about trying to catch up. Our Father desires us to be ready, and is merciful, kind and forbearing. But this time will come, as surely as night follows day. It will come.
On that day, where will our trust be rooted? In our jobs? Our bank accounts? Our families?
Oh Father. I see the state of the world as it is at present, roiling with fear at calamities that have come upon us. Many are blinded by fear, and those that should be able to see are yet asleep!
What then to say – what is coming upon us, what will happen? Will things become worse, or get better? What comes next? What is God doing?
With all due respect to the questions, which I totally understand, they are misdirected.
Here is a truth. All men die. Whether it be by virus, by flood, by fire or simple old age, the end always comes. What matters is in what state we die. And that is where the Church comes in.
What, I wonder, would it take these days before man would be willing to humble themselves and pray? I think I know the answer to that.
So as the Church we need to become the lighthouse to light the way for the remnant that will turn. And this again is my perennial focus – are we awake, can we see? Are we ready??
I fear, not the calamities, but the answer to that question. Kingdoms rise, and kingdoms fall. Houses of cards are built, and knocked down. The Tower of Babel never lasts.
There is only one Kingdom that will endure. One Kingdom that will outlast all of our mud towers. And at the end of the day, all that matters is – of which Kingdom are you a citizen? Did you build on Rock? Or on sand?
The purpose of the Church is to ask this question of the world, in the hope of rescuing some. But we can’t do that if we’re asleep, building sand castles in our dreams! Or if we are paralysed by the same fears capturing everyone else.
We have to be sober, alert and ready! And, God help us, we are mostly not. God is merciful, kind, and has granted us more and more grace. But, there is also justice. And a tipping point where the weight of evil crushes a civilisation.
We may not know the day or the hour, but we should be able to discern whether it is day or night, and react accordingly. Oh Lord, please wake us up, before it is too late!
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9 v36
It is perhaps easy to see the evil that is done today and to feel anger, or despair, and to desire to withdraw from the mess that our society is making of itself. To see a world taking increasing shape where what is good is regarded as evil, and vice versa. To see sickness celebrated as health, wounds venerated, brokenness encouraged and darkness worshiped.
Now, to react in that way is not entirely wrong, but I would say that anger is not our best response. As I’ve said before, we are not very good at righteous anger. Rather compassion is a more holy response. To see the crowds who, like in Jesus’ day, are really harassed and helpless, tossed here and there by the winds of prevailing fashion.
Can we not see those who, at the urging of society, have heaped the coals of illicit pleasure into their laps, knowing no better? Whose houses are now on fire, and are told to dance in the flames – burning themselves and setting on fire all that they touch. And are told to revel in the pain.
Can we not see those who have navigated the waters as they were told, only to find themselves in dangerous shoals, the wind and waves rising against them, beaten against the cliffs – abandoned, lost, alone and wondering – how did it come to this?
What then is the Church to do? Can we really ignore those who are wrecked by our societies perverse destruction? Can we not be the lighthouse we are called to be – shining out more brightly in a dark world? Do we care more about the approval of the spirit of the age, than we do about the spirit of God? Do we desire the place of honour at the world’s table, finding ourselves ashamed of our Saviour, and our faith? Do we want to remain in a safe bubble, mute, quiet, while all around us destruction rages? Do we want to bury our talents, in the hope that our lack of courage will be overlooked?
It. Will. Not. Happen. Do not mistake it. God will not countenance, or overlook. He is Compassion, and he will continue to raise those who have real compassion. Those who will stand firm, to both speak and act against the satanic madness infesting our decaying society. Those who will be willing to be wounded in battle in order to rescue some of the sheep who are lost.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
John 15 v18-19
The truth is, the world will always hate us. That is a given. The question is, will we also hate the world? Or will we love that for which God gave His own life? At whatever cost to us?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
Leviticus 19 v2
What does being holy actually mean? This often seems to be unclear to us, and various images and thoughts can come to mind, often from popular culture, such as: Sitting on a cloud playing a harp…disconnecting from the world…unctuously pronouncing judgment from a ‘holier than thou’ position….
Even in Christian subculture, we seem to have various images: Revival meetings and ‘old time’ religion…prohibitions against various moral transgressions and outward displays of morality – honesty, purity etc. (Note, this is not to dismiss such things as irrelevant.)
Either way it seems to denote something that is painfully unachievable. Something that belongs to God alone, a bar so very high the only thing we can to is try to outwardly pretend to be meeting it. We all do this. I do it, you do it.
Our Father God understands.
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Matthew 23 v4
There is nothing new under the sun. We still try to achieve what is impossible for us. But God has our backs, literally.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11 v28-30
While I was pondering this the other day, what came to me is that to be Holy is to be Real. By this I mean that we only become fully ourselves when we are holy.
Consider those who have committed great wickedness over years. Typically such people become beasts – in treating other people as less than human, they become less than human themselves. It is as if their ‘consciences have been seared with a hot iron’. They become unreal, a dark shadow of the person they could have become.
But to be holy – this is to enter more and more into the heart of God, and to let His heart enter yours. His holiness makes you holy. ‘Be holy as I am Holy’ is not a demand, it is an invitation. It’s never something we can do in our own strength. Pretty much, all we can do is ask for help and surrender ourselves, warts and all, to Him.
And the strange thing is, as we enter in to Him, and journey into His heart, as we surrender ourselves more and more – we become more and more Real. This is the opposite of Buddhist thinking, where you lose yourself in the great other. This is God’s reverse creation, where as we become less, we become more ourselves.
One day, we will stand in His presence. That day, we will be fully Real, as He is Real!
Note, I am using men, or man, in the full sense as in Genesis 1 v 27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Over Christmas I found myself musing over the passage from Luke 2 that reads:
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men”.
Only that’s the popular version. The full version has something more.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”.
That version is less comfortable, with the implication that there are men upon whom His favour does not rest, and who will therefore not know His peace.
But that’s the thing, the Bible is not comfortable, God is not comfortable and Jesus is uncompromising. To quote Bonhoeffer – grace is free, but it is not cheap. To leave the sentence unfinished may give us warm gooey feelings and make us feel better, but it has all the spiritual nutritional value of candy.
Jesus was not born a man to make us feel better about ourselves, but to save us from the cold and dead hearts that make us enemies of God and estranged from each other. Jesus did not come to give us happiness, with all the transience that word implies, but a deep joy of a salvation and genuine transformation.
My prayer is that God will save us from a shallow Churchianity that serves to inoculate us against the real thing; that we would wake up to realise our true state, and the immense cost and value of His sacrifice on the cross.
That we would come to know Him and His salvation more deeply, which is both freely provided and requires the sacrifice of our whole lives.