Category Archives: Christians in the World

Psalm 2 – Why Do the Far-right Rage?

The European Elections took place last week and the majority of the results were announced on Sunday. There were gains made by Eurosceptic parties in most of Europe, and in the UK we saw the hard-right party UKIP take first place. Elsewhere hard-left parties did well and generally the ruling parties and the pro-European parties fared worse than 5 years ago.

The Far-Right

The shock was that the far-right had made major gains in a number of countries and in France the Front National had come first. The European far-right could, in many ways, be said to be the West’s version of Boko Haram or al-Qa’ida. Indeed, the history of far-right extremism gives us pogroms and murders, and found its true horror in the rise of Nazi Germany.

But what does God say about these matters? Is there cause for worrying about the rise of the far-right in Europe? Well, yes, there should be concern due to the scapegoating methods of these groups and the historic (and even quite recent) record of brutality and murder by the far-right extremists. We should rightly seek to counter their message of hate, and we should seek to steer the political debate away from the politics of blame and accusation towards a politics of peace and betterment for all in society. Yet this concern should not lead us to fret. Why?

Psalm 2

Well, perhaps it is good to look at Psalm 2.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

Psalm 2:1-6 (ESV)

Notice that those who oppose the Lord and His people are plotting in vain. And note the Lord’s response: He holds them in derision. He laughs. Though they may attack His Name and His people the Lord knows their end, that they will perish and that His people will prevail.

And so we can see that because God is Sovereign and is Omniscient He knows and can be sure that the vain plotting of men will come to naught. The far-right may claim that they are speaking for Christ, or that they are speaking for the common man, but these are deceptions and lies. The true heart of the far-right is evil and set against the Name of Christ. The Lord knows what He will do to them.

And so no, we should not fret; we should not worry about such events which Michele Hanson described as “things…getting creepy again.” We should trust in the Lord and know that He is Almighty.

Christ Has the Victory

Psalm 2 continues:

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:7-12 (ESV)

So let all the rulers and all the politicians take note (and let us as well) that it is only in Christ that we find peace and love, and that those who engage in the politics of hatred will be subject to the wrath of God.

If you are not committed to and saved by Jesus Christ, and would like to hear the Gospel (Good News) Message, do take a moment to watch this short video:

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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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Putting the Poor in Their Rightful Place

A short while ago I wrote a blog post saying that we should not place the poor as equal to the Lord – we should not base our doctrine on our relationship with the poor but rather on our relationship with Christ.

Run down housing

We must love the poor and provide for them

Yet it is also important to say what the proper regard of the poor should be. In Matthew 25 Jesus Himself identifies Himself with the poor:

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ – Matthew 25:37-40

Jesus makes clear that if we love Him we will love the poor – if we truly love Him we will consider the poor and give to them, because it is primarily with the poor which Jesus identifies Himself. He is the outcast, the rejected, the oppressed. He is the Man of Sorrows.

We should regard others before ourselves and be interested in the welfare of others before our own welfare – now that is a continuing challenge to me and I am sure to many – for it is through loving our brother whom we can see that we demonstrate that we are capable of loving Jesus whom we do not see. If we neglect the poor we are, effectively, neglecting Jesus. Whilst our doctrine must be based on our relationship with Jesus, the application of that doctrine should effect in us a compassion towards the poor.

Psalm 112 speaks of the nature of the righteous:

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established;
He will not be afraid,
Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.
The wicked will see it and be grieved;
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked shall perish.

– Psalm 112: 4-10

Do not neglect the needy. And do not neglect the Lord.

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Putting the Poor First?

A fellow Christian blogger, Miguel Labrador, has been writing a series of blog posts on poverty, and yesterday I read the third of these posts which was on the topic “Which comes first, their need or our creed?”

As I prayed on this post I was struck by the verses in the Gospel according to Mark where the story is related of the woman who poured very costly oil on the head of Jesus. Some of those around Jesus, chief amongst them Judas Iscariot, objected vehemently, saying that the oil should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

Here are the verses:

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.  But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.  For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.  She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” – Mark 14:3-9

From this we can see that the desire to put the poor first is, in fact, a matter of the flesh. To attempt to place the poor first and then base our interpretation of Scripture and our application of it on the poor is to “put the tail before the donkey”. It produces a distorted view of Jesus in which we place the poor of equal value to our Lord.

Instead we need to be placing Jesus as supreme – for He is the worthy Lamb of God, not us – and that applies equally whether we are rich or poor.

If we place the poor as the defining aspect of our belief then we will not see the true Jesus, but rather a distorted view. Of course, we are to do good to the poor. Yet we must let our love for the poor be born out of our love for Jesus and we must see the poor in the Light of Jesus. It should never be the other way around.

The danger of an inverted view may well be seen in the Occupy Faith movement (Occupy Faith is a loose grouping of people of faith – not just Christians – who seek to be part of the Occupy protest movement). Economic justice is a good and wholesome aim. Yet, as Christians in Occupy Faith seek to fight for economic justice, Jesus has been sidelined. That  is gravely wrong. Jesus must be the Centre. To do good separate from Jesus is not possible – we must abide in Him in order to bear good fruit, for He is the True Vine.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. – John 15:1-8

Unless we seek “First the Kingdom of God” then we will not do good. If we seek to do good, but abide not in Christ, our works are fruitless in any real and eternal sense.

Indeed, the subject of justice for the poor can become an idolatrous situation that is simply an inverted prosperity “gospel”. The prosperity movement with its insistence that God wants us to be rich is an abominable doctrine, yet if we believe that God wants us to care for the poor over and above our regard for Him then we are equally so following a falsity.


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Aspiring to greatness? Or for Jesus’ Name to be Honoured?

The following post I have directly purloined from a fellow blogger.  I do not usually do this, but it is just too good not to re-share.  Indeed, Arthur Sido, who wrote this, took it himself from a fellow blogger.  It is just superb.

Aspiring to be a nobody

Loved this from Dave Black yesterday regarding the desire to raise up leaders.

Personally, I’m not all that eager to raise up a new generation of leaders. I want to raise up a new generation of butlers and scullery maids. A generation of nobodies who are content to be obedient to the simple teachings of Jesus. A generation of Christ-followers who die to family, fame, fortune, success, patriotism, and the American Dream. A generation of Dietrich Bonhoeffers who realize that “when Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.” I want to raise up a generation of men and women who give without counting the cost, who deny themselves, who willingly take the cross as the path of union with Christ, in whom there is no trace of triumphalism, who put their lives at Christ’s disposal with unconditional surrender, who place Christian allegiance over their national allegiance, who act as though they were part of an upside-down kingdom, who die to all claims of the self-indulgent life, who refuse to lionize success or repudiate pain, who “share in suffering as good soldiers of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3), who stand high and lift their drooping heads because the Son of God inhabits their lives in the power of His resurrection. We cannot all be seminary grads or professional ministers. But we can all be engaged in fulltime Christian ministry. We can all bring others to faith in the Savior. We can all be devoted to prayer. I am concerned not so much with raising up a generation of leaders but with training a generation of men and women who are consumed with a passion to understand Christ better and make Him known. This does not invalidate the educational enterprise. It gives it purpose.

I just liked that a lot. The best word in that entire paragraph? “Content”. If only we were content I think we would see so much more zeal for Kingdom work.

What is missed in so many circles is the utterly Biblical sense in which the true leaders in the church are universally the servants, the nobodies. Not only do we miss this, we tend to go in just the opposite direction. We raise men up, we elevate them, ordain them, exalt them. We buy their books and listen to the talks and attend their conferences. We cleverly drop their names and post their quotes on Facebook and Twitter. If they are dead, that is even better! I believe more each day that those who we will see as “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven will be people we never heard of or those we know but rarely paid attention to.

We don’t need more leaders, we need more nobodies!


Credit: Arthur Sido @ The Voice of One Crying in Suburbia

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We the People of God – Our Citizenship is of Heaven

We are a People once not a people, but now the People of God
As Christians we cannot be separated by politics, culture, locality or language. We are One Body, and our first and foremost loyalty should be to God and then to each other

We cannot, seriously, be consumed in a system that pits Christian against Christian. Yes, we will sometimes (maybe often) disagree in areas where political, cultural or ideological views are divergent, and possibly all three to the extent that much of our political and ideological view is coloured by our cultural heritage. But we must not let that hinder the work of the Gospel nor let it hinder our love for one another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous theologian, died in the concentration camps. His loyalty was not firstly to his government nor his nation. His loyalty was to God, and he died for an attempt to bring WWII to a speedy end. In that way he showed more love to the many British and American Christians that were suffering in the battle against Hitler. Was he a traitor? No, because his primary nationality, his real citizenship, was heavenly, not German.

In our disagreements over whether the political left or the political right; the capitalist or the socialist; the libertarian or the anarchist are correct or more correct, we must be careful that we do not lose sight of the undeniable fact that we are of the same eternal Kingdom and we belong to God and to each other, and not to the systems of this present world.

Taking self-profession as sufficient and not a cause for argument over doctrinal and practicable ideologies, President Obama is the brother of former President Bush, and they (and we) are a nation of God, not of the world.

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The Offence of the Cross

I have been prompted to make this entry in my blog because of the debate about Christianity and homosexuality.  Note that this was the prompt, but I am not going to focus on gay issues as my main point in this post.

There is a difficult, and at times un-Christianly bitter, debate within the Church between those who stand on Biblical principles in moral behaviour and those who suggest that the grace of God and the requirement to love all means that all or any behaviour is acceptable, providing it conforms to the World’s standards of morality.

For example, the liberals would say that a homosexual priest is fine, but a serial murderer priest is not.  The Bible, in fact, and in the New Testament, classes both sins as equal.  The liberals dispute this.

Yet to move beyond the homosexual debate is, I believe, important.  The conflict over gay rights is currently to the fore, prompted by moves in the UK to prohibit Christian principles in the workplace and by moves in the US ordaining openly homosexual bishops.  But the charge is now often brought that the Church is obsessed with “gay bashing”.  Although the debate wasn’t started by conservative Christians, we have risen to the bait and it seems that much campaigning has been focused on this.

But it is important, I believe, to move the debate forward.  The UK, and the world, are being swamped by sinful behaviours, and they are not exclusively to do with sexual behaviour.

My own particular struggle,  with drink and drugs, needs to be brought to attention.  I would take the same approach to heavy drinkers and drug users as I would to homosexual practice, for the Bible treats them as equal sins.  Show love, offer help, but do not shy away from saying such behaviour is sinful.  I have a deep sorrow at my past drink and drug use, and now I would not thank those who said “never mind, roll around on the floor dribbling, God doesn’t mind”.  The truth is: God does mind, He calls it sin.

There are other issues too, such as the oppression and exploitation of the poor.  The degree to which this happens in the UK, from the human trafficking to the exploitation by clothes shops in using overseas sweatshops, is appalling.  Christians need to speak on these issues.

I want to say one more thing: there has been a growing move in the UK to make Church “fashionable”.  To make Jesus attractive.  Sometimes this borders on attempting to con people into becoming Christians.  It is done in the name of “making Church relevant”.  Yet, the Bible is clear that we should “speak the truth”.  We cannot accept the “fluffy God” or the “it’s okay Jesus”.  God, Jesus, is Holy.

We must be clear.  A refusal to obey God will result in judgement.  But God is so loving that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If we Christians truly live, breathe, and then speak the Truth, believe me we shall soon find, and rejoice in, the fact that Jesus Christ and His Cross are most offensive to those who refuse to believe.

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