The Glory of the Lamb – Revelation 5

In my previous post I looked at Revelation 4 and the wonderful picture of the glory of God contained therein. It is truly an amazing passage and speaks of the glory of and the worship of God.

In Revelation 5 the message of glory and worship continues, but in this chapter the focus is the Lamb. (The Lamb is Jesus Christ, and, besides showing how gloriously worthy He is, Revelation 4 also shows the error of those who deny that Jesus is God the Son.) I share the passage below so you can read and be filled with wonder yourself.

The Glory of God

Revelation 5 – (NKJV)

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

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The Glory of God – Revelation 4

Scripture has certain passages in it which are simply mind-blowing. The book which is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the Biblical books is Revelation, yet in this book are some of the most glorious descriptions in the whole of Scripture of God’s omnipotence and glory. As such, I am currently reading through Revelation to gain a greater knowledge of God rather than try to ascertain or surmise upon the fulfilment of the prophecies contained therein.

Early in the book there is one of those “mind-blowing” passages declaring the glory of God and the worship given to Him. In this post I am sharing with you Revelation 4. My next post will be on Revelation 5. In chapter 4 we see God’s glory and the worship given to God, whilst in chapter 5 we then see the glory and worthiness of Jesus and the worship given to Him. They are two gloriously inspiring chapters.

The Glory of God

Revelation 4 – (NKJV)

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

11 “You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

(See my post on the Glory of the Lamb – Revelation 5 here.)

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What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace – Review

What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace, by Richard D. Phillips, is a very valuable book exploring the primary doctrines of Reformed Theology.

My own journey into the doctrines of Reformed Theology began early in my Christian life. I developed a belief in the sovereignty of God, became convinced of the need in a Christian walk to have a firm faith that the God who saves us is also able to keep us as His – and saw this backed up in Scripture – and had a view that God had chosen me, not the other way around, and that grace was the how and why we were saved, not salvation based on our merit.

It was only fairly recently that I discovered that there was a systematic theology which encapsulated these doctrines, and was also so much bigger than I imagined theology was in day-to-day life. That system is Calvinism, or Reformed Theology, and since discovering some of the riches of this grace-filled and God-centred belief system I have begun to find a new, albeit at times faltering, freedom in my Christian walk.

To the Doctrines of Grace

I was pointed towards this book by a friend of mine on Google+ (we have a small community there on Reformed Fellowship) who shared a link to a free copy of the e-book version. The book is fairly short, easily one to read again and again, and within its pages it packs quite a punch.

Starting off with the doctrine which underpins the whole of Reformed Theology, the Sovereignty of God, the book then covers the famous TULIP set of doctrines: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints.

Each has a chapter devoted to itself and the format of each chapter takes the form of a Scripture passage, an investigation of that passage and a bringing in of other verses in the Bible which show the truth of that particular doctrine. The initial Scripture passages are very well chosen for each chapter, and the Sovereignty of God chapter is a prime example at the start of the book:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. – Isaiah 6:1

Richard Phillips then goes on to explore the great vision of Isaiah described in his book in chapter 6 verse 1 through to chapter 7 verse 14, showing how the vision he experienced transformed him and showed him that God is the Almighty, Sovereign Lord, rightly to be feared.

The additional Bible passages in each chapter show how well supported, Scripturally, each doctrine is, and with an amazingly good approach Mr. Phillips devotes some time in each chapter to show how great and wonderful that doctrine is, and how it is a doctrine to be loved and embraced for its bringing of great freedom and joy to it adherent.

I really only have one gripe with the book and that is in the chapter on Limited Atonement. Generally the book is exceedingly well balanced between pointing out where Arminianism falls down and showing where Calvinism is of a great strength. In the chapter of limited atonement, however, there appears to be too much emphasis on saying why Arminianism is wrong, rather than pointing out just how true and great the doctrine of limited (or particular) atonement is. This is a shame, as the other chapters are handled so well – and it is perhaps more striking because the other chapters are handled so well.

That is a small gripe, however, and is certainly no reason to pass over the book or even pass over the chapter.

An Impact on Me

This book has not solved all my problems. Also, we must remember that no book or doctrine can replace our personal relationship with Jesus and our Father in heaven. Having said that I have been greatly, and positively, influenced by this book. It has firmed my beliefs in God’s sovereignty, my security in Christ and my freedom to walk in the path God has chosen for me. It has also brought moments of great joy and a much more secure peace for a much greater part of the time.

I would thoroughly recommend that you get yourself a copy and give it a read. I for one certainly plan to read it again.

(You can purchase the Kindle version here. I receive no reward or commission for this link.)

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The Incarnation – A Christmas Message

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 5:2-11 (NASB)

Birth of JesusThe Incarnation gives us such a wonderfully glorious insight into the nature of God. It is often said in Reformed circles that God’s highest desire is to be glorified. Whilst this may be true – God is working in order to bring glory to Himself, for it is He who is to be exalted above the highest heavens – it is equally true that God is working all things for the good of His saints, and it is also very true that God is not a proud tyrant seeking fame, but is of a humble heart. We see this in the Incarnation.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God the Son, “emptied Himself.” He didn’t stop being God. No, that would have required Him to deny who He is, but what He did do was willingly leave the glory and unimaginable splendour of His heavenly home and come to be born as a babe, to average parents (for it was commonly supposed that Joseph was the father), in a strange town, in a place reserved for animals. Jesus took upon Himself all the frailties of humanity, yet was without sin.

As God, He could have called out to His Father at any time and have been immediately whisked back to heaven. Yet He did not do that. He remained on earth, first as a totally helpless baby, then as a child and then as an adult, until the time for His ministry had come. Then He taught, showed example and performed the miracles which showed He was, indeed, the Christ. Then, out of humble obedience, He suffered and died upon the Cross.

It is this humility of God the Son, who never sought glory for Himself but rather the glory of His Father, which we would do so well to learn from, as Philippians 2:5 directs us to do. How often we seek to gain some honour for ourselves! O how we want to shout out our rights and point out the faults of others. But this was not the way of Jesus. He sought not for His rights but the glory of God the Father and the good of His people. So, may we be like-minded this day in which we mark the Incarnation and throughout the year to come.

May God bless you all this Christmas!

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The Limitations to Spiritual Attack

In the Christian life we can expect many trials. It is not a life of cosiness and comfort in the pleasures of wealth, power and prestige. Those who teach that “you only need faith and everything will be okay” are like the false prophets of old who said “peace, peace” when destruction was coming upon Israel: they deceive with promises of comfortableness, blinding their hearers to the truth.

Tank

We are attacked as Christians, but there is a limit to what the devil can do.

Scripture says that: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12). Those who belong to Christ can expect attack from both within and without the Church. Oftentimes men of deceitful and violent hearts will enter the Church with the purpose to cause disruption and harm to the true, invisible Church. Jesus warned us to beware the false teachers and false prophets, calling them “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Like wolves they seek to devour the sheep. Others, openly hostile to God and His Church, will seek to ridicule, perform violence – sometimes literally – and cause other hardships to those who confess Christ.

We should not be arrogant in condemning these people, but rather we ought to “love our enemies, and pray for those who spitefully persecute us”. We need to remember that we also were once enemies of God, and, bar the grace of God, we would still be violently opposed to the purposes of God. No, we should not be arrogant in our salvation but rather humble, knowing that we are also sinners, though thanks be to God that we are now reconciled to God in Christ. We must acknowledge that it is not the people who are our real enemies, but rather we should heed the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:12

Having acknowledged that it is the devil who is behind the attacks that come upon God’s people, we might become discouraged at such hostility. How do we counter this? It is through knowing the position which the devil has and the position that God holds.

God is Sovereign, He is Almighty, and He is Omnipotent. He is not limited by anything other than His own character, and there is no event, however small, which He does not know of and of which He is not the prime director. Every word of God’s mouth is sure, every word in His inspired Word is infallible. His purposes shall be fulfilled and every promise kept.

Soldier on horseIt is not so with the devil. The devil is limited. First, he is limited because by his very nature he is a created being. He is not omnipotent, neither is he omnipresent nor omniscient. Second, he has been defeated by Christ. Just as the devil bruised Christ’s heel, so Christ has crushed his head. The devil is a poor old man in his dying days, having been disarmed and defeated at the Cross.

But the most profound aspect in which the devil is limited is shown in the book of Job. I will let my friend Richard Swartz make this point, for he did it so well (you can follow Richard on Google+):

Satan can do nothing without God’s divine permission. Not one thing! “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away.” (Job 1:21) It comes down to the sovereignty of God, each and every day and each and every way. Not a single purpose of God is ever thwarted. (Job 42:2)

In order for the devil to make an attack on a man he must first gain God’s permission. Then the rules of engagement are laid down by God, and finally the outcome is again determined by God. (see Job 1:6-12, Luke 22:31-32.)

As we have our trials and come under attack, whether physically or spiritually, we would do well to remember that the devil is limited whilst God is without limit, and that if we belong to Christ there is nothing that can happen to us that will ultimately harm us.

And to conclude, these are Jesus’ words on fear:

And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! - Luke 12:4-5.

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The Wonderful Liberty Given by a Sovereign God

(Image courtesy of SXC.hu)

(Image courtesy of SXC.hu)

I am discovering more and more about the wonderful and glorious liberty of the Gospel – a liberty which does not mean license to sin but does mean that I can trust God, even if I should sin.

This freedom comes about because of the wonderful doctrines of grace, so wonderfully espoused by Paul and yet for those doctrines he and godly men through the ages have had to contend against abominable heresies.

At present my focus is on the Sovereignty of God.

It is through my belief that God is Almighty and is the Sovereign Lord that I can trust Him – trust Him to keep me as being His just as Jesus said that no-one can snatch me out of His hand.

I have often been tormented with thoughts that “yes God, I know You have done Your best, but I am simply unable to live in obedience to You as my own best is sorely not good enough.” I had a God that “tried His best” to save me but was ultimately impotent in the face of my own iniquity. Such a view may be popular in some circles but it is the damnable heresy of Pelagianism and Semipelagianism, whereby we are the final arbiters of our salvation and can freely choose to gain or lose salvation through our own choices or frail mistakes.

God is Sovereign

To believe in a God that “does His best” to save us, as the aforementioned heretical systems teach and that the Arminian philosophy also teaches, denies that God is Almighty. He “tries” to save everyone but only succeeds with a few.

Yet to my mind the Bible is clear: God is Sovereign and if He has in His mind the purpose to bring a person into His Kingdom then there is no manner or means in which He will fail to achieve His purposes.

This brings a great comfort. For if God has so purposed to grant me mercy then I know there is no circumstance nor action nor any frailty on my part that would cause Him to repent of the mercy He has had upon me. I can, therefore, live in freedom from the fear of man and the fear of the present and the fear of the future, and place my hope and my trust fully into Him.

It is by grace that I have been saved

It is by grace that I have been saved. I did not earn it – I could not earn it. And so, because that grace was given by a Sovereign act of God, so I know and can fully trust that He will not rescind on His mercy. Therefore I have liberty – not to sin, to be a slave of sin – but a liberty to serve my Lord with peace and gladness of heart.

God is just. He is, through and through, a just God. But with a beauty which could only be formed in the glorious wisdom of God He has caused justice and mercy to meet at the Cross of Christ – that Christ bore my sin and my sins, taking the just wrath of God upon Himself, that I may go free. Christ didn’t die so that I could choose Him to take those sins upon Himself – He took my sins and sinfulness upon Himself before I could know that He had. The realisation of that is the Gospel message, the Truth that sets me free.

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Blessed to be Chosen by God

“Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.” – Psalm 65:4

This verse is wonderful. In it we see the fullness of what we need to do in order for God to call us “blessed”. The total sum of the requirement for us to be blessed in such a way is for God to choose us and cause us to approach Him. It is a sovereign act of God and we play no part other than response.

God's grace is wonderful.(Image courtesy of sxc.hu) Copyright held.

God’s grace is wonderful.
(Image courtesy of sxc.hu. Copyright held.)

The Gospel Message

The Gospel message is that of divine grace, not one where we earn favour.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His  great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” – Ephesians 2:4-5

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6

We were dead in trespasses and had no means nor manner of attaining the knowledge of God. Nothing which we ourselves could do would be able to give us life. We were dead to God, and as such were enemies of God, by our very nature children of wrath and our thoughts were constantly inclined against God. How then could a man that hates God come to approach Him? Such a man that is not only dead to God, but actively despises God, would in no manner want to approach Him.

And so we see in the opening verse that in order to be blessed we must approach God, and we can only do that because God has chosen us.

Herein lays great comfort. If we come humbly before the Living God in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ we can have that full assurance of faith that He has chosen us and that God Himself declares us to be blessed.

Do you yearn and hunger to come before the Father, to approach His throne of grace? Then I would urge that you do so, for it is God Himself that is calling you and if you respond to His grace then you will know that it cannot be by your own effort but only that God has chosen you for thus, and therefore He calls you blessed.

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Jesus – The Name Above All Names

Jesus, the Name Above All Names

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11

When we say that Jesus has been given the name above every name, what do we mean? Well, perhaps another question may be “what is a name”?

What is a name: part 1 – Identity.

Firstly it was the task of Adam to name every creature on earth. Every creature was brought to Adam and he gave to each one its name. So when we look at creation, Adam (and, by extension, man) has given a name to everything. Man loves to give things names even today. And so, in Creation, everything has a name. The sun is named, the moon is named, the cow and the sheep are named. Man has even given a name to the full sum of all created things: the Universe.

But the Name of Jesus is above every one of these. Jesus is above, beyond and infinitely superior to every other thing in existence, and above, beyond and infinitely superior even to the whole of Creation itself! It is truly an awesome God we serve!

What is a name: part 2 – Reputation.

Secondly, a “name” can be our reputation. We can often say “he made a name for himself or herself”. We can have a good name, meaning we are highly esteemed, or a bad name, meaning infamy. Xerxes has a great name. Alexander has a great name. Mohammed has a great name. Confucius has a great name.

But Jesus has the Name above every other name. His reputation, His worth, is far above, beyond and infinitely superior to every other name – there is no-one as purely and truly of eternal good reputation as Jesus.

What is a name: part 3 – Authority

I wanted to end on this point: a “name” can mean authority. We can do things “in the name of the UK” or “in the name of the President of the USA” etc. When we legitimately do things “in the name of” someone or something else, it means we have been given the authority with which that name is associated. And the ultimate, supreme authority is that of Jesus the King of Kings.

The Name of Jesus is the Ultimate Authority, and it is above, beyond and infinitely superior to every other name, whether of angels or demons, principalities or powers. There is ultimately nothing that can permanently and effectively disobey the greatest authority, the greatest Name, the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

(This post originally appeared on the Google+ community, The G+ Reformed Fellowship Church.)

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PRISM – A Danger to Democracy, but Christians Need Not Fear

Liberty is under threat but we need not fear.

Liberty is under threat but we need not fear.

The scandal of the US intelligence agency, the NSA, allegedly accessing and storing vast swathes of information on the citizens of the world, even including US citizens, is the nightmare of those with serious concerns for both civil liberties and democracy itself.

The whistleblower, Edward Snowden, himself said that the Prism project, which it is suggested has direct access to data held by most of the big Internet companies, presents an “existential threat” to democracy.

The intention of this post is to show that whilst these revelations do matter greatly, we as Christian believers need not fear.

Do Prism and the other revelations matter?

Simply put: yes. It matters a great deal. Remember that democracy isn’t simply a vote every four or five years, it is a living, breathing expression in which there is, by its nature, a friction between the will of the people and the will of the rulers. Rulers will always seek more power – very often with the best of motives. Yet it is the duty of citizens to resist power grabs by the government. Turkey – currently experiencing mass unrest – is a demonstration of an immature democracy where the ruling party, on 50% of the popular vote, has enacted and continues to pursue policies which are detrimental to half the population and is now claiming that “democracy only happens at the ballot box”. No, it does not. If it did then most liberal democracies would now be run by dictators.

Democracy happens when concerned citizens voice their disquiet over certain policies and developments, led by a free press and the comfort of knowing that the rule of law is respected – journalists and judges are often the first to be targeted by oppressive regimes. If the press and judiciary are neutered then democracy is on its last legs. This neutering can be done by the secret intelligence agencies (which often lack morality of even basic standards) having huge amounts of information on their errors of judgement (possibly made when in their teenage years) which then allows blackmail and intimidation to take place on a large scale.

The revelations matter in many other ways, yet I do not want to debate that here but rather say why you, if you are a Christian believer, should not fear because of these intelligence gathering systems.

God is Sovereign and Protects His People

God is a Sovereign Lord. (Habakkuk 3:19). Although the details of how man’s choice and God’s sovereignty so wonderfully interplay may bring disagreement on some doctrines by Christians, none can argue that God is not the Almighty, All-Powerful Lord of all creation. We can have full assurance that ultimately God is in control. The US President has to take orders from the King of Kings. The secret services have to obey the Lord of Lords. Neither the US nor any other nation has the freedom to ultimately go against the will of God. In fact, reading over the details of the Book of Revelation and any particular standpoint on matters of eschatology, the over-arching theme of Revelation is the Victory of God and His Sovereignty over those who oppose him.

If God is sovereign, then we can have peace and not fear. Romans 8 tells us that we need not fear, that we need not worry or be distressed at the trouble in the world. God works things for our good. If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, in all things we are more than conquerors through Christ who saves us.

God is Sovereign and it is His justice and mercy that shall prevail.

God is Sovereign and it is His justice and mercy that shall prevail.

Fear God, not man

It is not often preached on now, but Jesus Himself has told us to fear God. Why? Part of the reason is that He should be feared. He can cast your soul into eternal hell. Will He? That depends on whether you believe in His Son Jesus Christ or not. But the truth is that He can. Does that not make you fear Him? As a child fears his father when he comes to discipline him, so we should fear God and cry for His mercy continually.

But there is another reason we should fear God. It is because when we realise that God has power over us to cast us into eternal punishment of helfire then we can realise with the many saints and martyrs before us that nothing man can do compares to the power God has, and so because we fear God yet also trust Him we have no reason to fear man, who once he has killed the body can do no more to us.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:28-31

We have Jesus’ peace and are told not to fret

We are told by Jesus that we need not fear and that He has Himself given us His peace. He says in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Because Jesus has given us His peace we can rest with full trust in Him. We need not be dismayed even though terrible things come to pass. Jesus was to be crucified and the disciples would be fearful, yet Jesus here reassures them that they need not fear, for His peace – the peace that enabled Him to go to the Cross without resisting – has been given to them, and to us.

Many of the psalms also speak against worry and fretting. Psalm 49 gives us a picture of the poor and oppressed compared to the rich and powerful, and the Psalmist assures us that the wicked will perish and be no more. We need not worry if we trust Jesus, for He will defend us and destroy the wicked.

I, um…er….a friend of mine hasn’t always been well behaved on the web…

Yes, I am close to that particular friend too. He gets around a bit, here’s what I try to tell him:

We have all made some pretty big mistakes in our lives. None of us have been perfect, none of us were born sinless. We have made possibly some great errors of judgement and some pretty grotesque sins. For those of us who have used computers and the internet a lot, many of these errors of judgement (and in some cases our sins) are now preserved on the web. Prism means that these are likely to be stored indefinitely not only on particular corporations’ data treasure trove, but also be in the hands of the US government.

That you may have done something wrong is not, however, to be a reason to fear. Although the sins or errors of judgement may be grave, you are, if you believe in Christ as your Lord and Saviour, forgiven. Yes, there may be consequences to sins committed or indiscretions you have allowed. Yet! Those consequences will be determined by God – it is He that is King of Kings and the Lord over every President – and the decision is not simply in the hands of depraved intelligence agencies and power-hungry politicians. If and when you will need to face consequences for your past actions is determined wholly by God, and we can trust in Him as our loving Father that when and if those consequences come, the ultimate fruit will be for our benefit. (Rom 8:28)

Pray for those in authority

Even though the US government has apparently over-stepped its mandate, and the US constitution, in setting up PRISM, and is allegedly guilty of serious human rights abuses, we should still seek to honour those in authority and pray for them. We are told to pray for the leaders not just that they get elected or unelected, but that God would guide their decisions whilst in government. We must be praying for our own governments and for other governments in the world, that Christians – and others – may be able to live peaceably and quietly in our lands.

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Our Brothers and Sisters – #SaveSyria13

I have a friend. She lives in Syria. She gets depressed. Her father has been shot at. She doesn’t know who to trust, as the old certainties under the Assad regime crumble away.

There are many other Syrian Christians who have faced far worse: some Christian women have reportedly been raped as part of the war; leading Christian leaders have been kidnapped. The situation has the international community baffled: some advocate arming the rebels – indeed, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already been flooding arms to the rebels – and some, such as Russia and Iran, have been arming the regime. Others, meanwhile, suggest that the international community should keep arms embargoes and let the efforts concentrate on dialogue and providing humanitarian assistance.  The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.

There seems to be no doubt that both the rebels and the regime have committed serious war-crimes. Chemical weapon use now appears to be confirmed. Many within the UN are calling for full investigation and bringing those responsible to the International Criminal Court. The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.

Yet there is Light!

There is a light shining in the darkness of the land of Syria: although a large number of Christians have been forced to flee the country there are also many who remain. Many of these do so because they see the land as being a place of ancient Biblical Christianity, and they do not want to see the Church expelled from this land.

Before the conflict Christians made up about 10% of the population. In comparison to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa they experienced much freedom to worship in their churches and to live their lives in peace and relative security. Because of this they had become very supportive of the government of Bashar al-Assad, seeing him as a good man that preserved the freedoms that they enjoyed. In the early days of the uprising against the regime Christians supported the regime and, fed with news from official sources – which were often propagandist in nature – they opposed the uprising as being the work of “terrorists”. The stories that came out of that time were horrific even then. It is now much, much worse.

Because Christians supported Assad they became targets for the rebels. Now, in rebel held areas, Christians have to live under a form a sharia law and face intimidation and persecution from Islamist groups within the rebellion. Despite this, many believers choose to remain, and the Light remains with them.

Jesus is the Light of the World

The Christians that remain choose to remain in order that the Light may remain – they seek to witness to the glorious grace of God shown through Jesus Christ His Son. Many are handing out supplies to their (Muslim) neighbours in order to give assistance in the face of severe food shortages. Many are helping to comfort others, even as they themselves need comfort and encouragement. Although many pastors and leaders have been targeted with intimidation and violence, they continue to encourage their flocks in this dark time.

The Syrian church, which is made up of a number of denominations, has been in Syria since the beginning: Paul was on his way to Damascus (the capital of Syria) when the glory of Jesus stopped him on the road, bringing about the famously profound conversion of the to-be Apostle. The Church is determined to remain in Syria.

You Can Be Light!

This post is very different to my normal postings on this blog. I felt God leading me during my times of prayer to write this post and although the news from Syria is commonplace in the media, it is rarely that a Christian perspective is presented.

Open Doors UK, which helps the persecuted Church, has begun the Save Syria Campaign. There is a plea for practical, prayerful and advocacy work by Christians in the rest of the world to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ that are in Syria. We all need to stand with our brethren. We cannot ignore this plea. You can lend your voice to this campaign if you live in a country that frees you to do this, and you can cry out to God wherever you are. If you feel so led, you can also give towards practical support.

Please do consider this and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Syria. Do also consider using the Twitter (and Google+) hashtag #SaveSyria13 to make some noise about the need to help the church in Syria. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.

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