He Created All

“Whenever the living beings give glory and honour and thanks to the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.””
Revelation‬ ‭4:9-11‬ NLT

The Apostle John had no doubts about God’s creative abilities. He wrote, “For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased”. John wrote that God created all. Everything. Mankind might do wonders creating objects but God created the building blocks used in the process. And the amazing thing was that God created matter out of nothing. That’s what the Bible says.

There has been an interminable debate over the last two centuries about a relatively new theory – evolution. A theory that is unfortunately taught as fact in our schools. Even though there are many unknowns and a lack of evidence to support it. It is a theory supported only by assumptions and the necessity for millions, even billions, of years, for evolution to produce what we see around us. But there are two big holes in the evolutionary arguments. Where did all the matter, needed to make the universe and all that is in it, come from in the first place? And why is there matter at all – why not just nothing? Personally, though, I lack the faith necessary to believe in evolution. When I see the wonder of a baby’s fingers or the complexity of a flower, I can only see a master Creator at work. That such wonders happened by chance is beyond my comprehension. Someone once explained to me that evolution is like putting all the component parts of a wrist watch – bearings, springs, cogs, case and strap – into a bag and then keep shaking it until the watch drops out. Hmmm..

In these verses today, and in the same breath as that used to express worship, we see that God’s creation is involved. It is all part of the whole worship experience. Anything else demeans God and effectively says He is incapable of creating what He wants to create, just because He was pleased to. His master design is so complex, and so interrelated and intertwined. He produced a cohesive universe, and a world that corelates and fits together, and has the ability built in to enable animal, human and plant life to self-propagate along the lines that He originally created. Amazing! And we worship God for all His wonderful works, and because He is worthy, as John wrote down for us to read today.

It is so sad that the evolutionists, who do not believe in a Creator God, have no-One to thank for the wonders of nature they see around them. The beauty of a sunset. The complexities of a human eye. The atomic structures and particles so sought after by physicists. The list is endless. But the saddest thing of all is that many evolutionists perhaps only believe their theory because the alternative is that they would have to believe in a Creator God. And that would mean a seismic shift in their thinking and their way of life. They would have to face into having to deal with their sins, through repentance, and embrace the Son of God, worshipping Him for all He has done, with all “glory and honour and thanks“.

But for a pilgrim today, we have a choice. Some Christians have parked the problem of whether to believe the Bible account of beginnings, or whether to believe the evolutionary arguments. The truth will one day be revealed, of course, but in the meantime we worship God, because He is worthy to receive “glory and honour and praise”. We pray for our eyes to be opened to receive a revelation, as did John, and a Holy Spirit encounter with Him. And we pray for the integrity of the Bible, God’s Word, His only written work, to prevail in our churches and fellowships.

Dear Lord. I pray today that those around me, who have rejected You, will be shown kindness and mercy, and the opportunity to find the truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Heavenly Worship

“Whenever the living beings give glory and honour and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭4:9-11‬ NLT

We have reached the final three verses, that bring Revelation chapter four to a close. Once again the Apostle John writes down what he saw. But we mustn’t forget that there is probably a disconnect between what was actually happening in Heaven and what he saw. His glimpse through Heaven’s open door was being filtered by his human lens of understanding. John was given an incredible revelation, and we earlier read in Revelation 1:19 that he was told to write it down. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he translated the vision that he was given into a form and language that his, and subsequent, generations would understand. 

So we read again that when the living beings gave “glory and honour and thanks”  to God, it prompted an act of worship from the twenty four elders. But what sort of picture does this give us? The verses start with the word “Whenever”, implying that every now and then the living beings initiated something. But John didn’t say how often this happened. So before we conjure up in our minds a cartoon-like repetition of strange looking beings and twenty four elders bobbing about we must pause to think this through. 

We pilgrims must all pray that the Holy Spirit helps us to understand what was going on. Firstly, I would say that the worship, so willingly acted out by the living beings and the twenty four elders, was spontaneous because God never created automatons. Secondly we must remember that there is no time, as we understand it, in Heaven. Thirdly, in some way incomprehensible to us humans, the worship in Heaven was continuous and at an intensity that consumed the worshippers. They desired nothing else, because they had finally arrived at a place of complete understanding of who God is, with a continual and spontaneous worship response resulting.

Of course, God never needs the worship of His creation. But in a way, incomprehensible to any but his committed followers, the worship of God is unstoppable and eternal. I’m writing this in the late Spring here in Scotland and the vegetation in the local woods has exploded into a created mass of greenery, stretching up as though to get close to their Creator. The birds are singing their hearts out. There is an excitement present that can only be interpreted as worship of the Creator.

To us pilgrims, worship of God is, or should be, an integral part of who we are. When we pause at Calvary and think through the implications of what Jesus did for us, how can we not respond in worship? By a long way we fail to understand why God loved the world so much, but He did, and that incudes each one of us. The credibility gap between the omnipresent Creator and the insignificance of His creation has to invoke worship. Nothing else is possible or even comes close to what God deserves.

Dear Lord God. How can we thank You enough for all You have done for us. We are a truly privileged people, and we fall to our knees this morning in worship. Amen.

Justice

“Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
Then people will say, ‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.’”

Psalms‬ ‭58:1-2, 11‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

“Do you judge people with equity?” Surely a good question. A question just as relevant today as it was in David’s time, but with a difference. In 21st Century UK society I would like to think that the laws set out by our parliamentarians are judged upon by our various courts with total and complete honesty. Justice is administered with almost total transparency, and avenues are available for appealing decisions that might be perhaps a bit dubious. However, in David’s day judges had a reputation of being corrupt, accepting bribes, with no right of redress. It didn’t stop there – hundreds of years later Jesus spoke a parable about the “Unjust Judge” – you will find it in Luke 18:1-8. And throughout history, justice has been a rather hit and miss affair.

So to me the issue of justice is not about corruption within the UK legal systems, but about the way secular and godless principles are creeping into law through unjust parliamentarians. Historically, UK law has been established on Godly principles over many years and these have established a society that is strong and stable, a society that is, for the main, implicitly comfortable with the fairness of its laws. But sadly, in recent years, UK governments seem to have lost their moral compass, and have weakly given in to godless minority groups and passed laws at odds with God’s principles. And the consequences of such legislation has had an unsettling effect on society, with unintended consequences coming to the fore. Verse 2 of our Psalm today talks about “violence on the earth”, surely another description for a society without peace, at war with itself.

David ends his Psalm with the comforting thought that God is still on His throne and will judge righteously, rewarding His people, those who abide by His principles. Though we would like God to judge now, He patiently allows everyone the opportunity to respond to Him, and we too need to be patient, trusting Him to bring about righteousness in all the earth. So we pray. And keep praying. For our governments, for our parliamentarians, for our judges, for our communities, for our families. For those who seem set on anarchy with their lobbying and disruption. And with faith, wait for God to bring about His will and purposes. Will we have to wait long? It may be a lifetime. We may never see justice served in the way we would like or expect. But we can be assured of this one thing – God is still on His throne and will one day judge those who devise injustice in their hearts.

Jesus Calling our Name?

“They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave.
But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.”
Psalms‬ ‭49:6-9, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Psalmist was obviously having a bad day. He looked around his community, perhaps his nation, and observed that there were a lot of rich people, who arrogantly lived a life of luxury. But he pointed out that there was one thing that their money could not buy and that was eternal life. He said, correctly, that they couldn’t take their wealth with them to the grave and beyond. They could not, as one of today’s verses points out, pay God a ransom to keep them alive forever.

In the world today there is a growing business in cryopreservation, where rich people or their families pay large sums to enable their bodies, or the bodies of their loved ones, to be preserved in liquid nitrogen in the hope that advances in medical science would one day enable them to be resurrected from their frozen state and brought back to life in a Lazarus-like resuscitation. An added twist sees some just having their brains frozen, perhaps in the hope of adding their intelligence to a robotic entity. But all with a faith that one day they will suddenly find themselves lying on a slab, waking up in a new age. It begs the question, would I really want to wake up in this sin-ridden, war-striven, disease-ravaged world? Will mankind ever get its act together to save this world and assure a future for Planet Earth? And all by effectively cocking a snoop at God by saying we can achieve what is needed without His help?

But I can’t help thinking how stupid the cryopreservationists are. God Himself has given everyone the opportunity to live forever through His Son Jesus. And it won’t cost them a penny. Rich or poor, we can embrace a hope for the future purely by accepting that God is who He says He is, the Creator of everything. That He loved mankind so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for us at Calvary, offering the breathtaking exchange of our sins for His righteousness. And the Psalmist records his personal assurance that God has redeemed him from death, from the power of the grave, such was His faith in his relationship with his Father God.

And the Psalm ends with the following, “So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day.” Psalms‬ ‭49:16-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather put my faith in the Creator of Everything, than in the hope that one day someone will wake me up from a frozen state. After all, why would they want to anyway?

The story of Jesus and His friend Lazarus is interesting. Lazarus dies and is buried and has languished, wrapped in his grave clothes, for four days before Jesus came to see his tomb. And we have the amazing spectacle set out in John 11, of Jesus commanding that the stone sealing the mouth of the tomb is rolled away. We then read in verses 43 and 44, “Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”” These few words can never adequately describe the drama that unfolded before the observers. Gob-smacked would be too tame a phrase to describe it. Here was a man physically dead and starting to rot in the heat of that climate, and yet the power of God working through His Son Jesus was able to resurrect him from his dead state. Lazarus died and the next thing he knew was Jesus calling his name. Now I don’t believe for a minute that God has special favourites. He treats His children equally. As some have said, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. So I sometimes wonder, after we die, will the next thing we hear be Jesus calling our name, waking us up to a glorious future with Him forever?

Panting

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalms‬ ‭42:1-2‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

I must confess that I have never seen a deer panting for water. Having said that I must also confess that I have never been physically thirsty to that extent either. But I have been in a place where I have been spiritually thirsty. A place where God seems far away, where circumstances have been overwhelming, where prayers are seemingly unheard and ineffective. A place where I have cried out to God for His grace and mercy. But I can also say that in time God has appeared to me with a solution to my distress. To my spiritual loneliness. To my thirsty soul.

Where are these spiritual deserts? They could be anywhere. In the middle of the night while tossing and turning in sleepless anguish. In a hospital bed fighting sickness or enduring pain. Reflecting on the news or some piece of information just received. During a conversation with workmates. Even in a church service. Whenever possible, during those dry times, I take a walk and ask God to speak to me, humbly trusting that He is there and able to pour out those streams of living water into my thirsty soul. And eventually He always turns up with words and thoughts full of love and reassurance. Just because my feelings tell me that He isn’t open for business that day doesn’t mean that this is a fact. It just means I need to search diligently for that spiritual oasis in the middle of the desert. Because there I will find God. It means that in the process of the searching I must clear out the blockages that are stopping me from seeing Him. Those proudful thoughts and attitudes. Those unconfessed sins. And then I must continue to search for God, believing in faith the verse that says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:13‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬). I will find God. He will pour out the spiritual water that I need in my time of thirst. And I will respond in a hymn of praise and thankfulness, refreshed once again.

God’s Master Plan

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.” Psalms‬ ‭40:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Any attempt to unpick and drill down into this verse can only end up in becoming lost in the depths of our Creator God, full of grateful praise and worship. The bottom line is that God’s wonders, plans and deeds are uncountable because there are so many of them. For example, just take the environment in which we live. The number of conditions that combine to enable life as we know it on this planet are uncountable. And it was God’s plan to create a world where His plans could be developed. And look at the complexities of human life – how could two cells coming together in a mother’s womb ever develop into a human being capable of so much? It beggars belief that so many people believe the lie that our world and all its contents happened by chance. As the verse above points out, our Creator God has performed many wonders and deeds in implementing His plans.

But there is a wonder, a plan, a deed, that is far above anything else God has done for the human race. We find in the Genesis account that God created men and women in His image. And He wanted to have a relationship with them based on love and friendship. But things went horribly wrong with man’s response to God, as we can find in the early accounts of the Israelite nation. God wasn’t going to give up on His creation, though, and He devised a master plan to reconcile mankind back to Him. His love for us was so intense that he wasn’t going to let us continue in living a life less than how He designed it to be. A life without the ultimate richness of being a friend of God. We can read about God’s master plan through the words of Jesus in John 3. This is the Message version. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” That was God’s plan. To put the world back into the place He had designed it to be. He wasn’t going to give up on His creation and He never will. Through Jesus, God’s Master Plan, everyone person living on this planet can find out about God’s wonders, plans and deeds. If they want to. The choice is theirs. The choice is yours.

All We Need

“How precious is Your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of Your wings. You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your river of delights. For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” Psalms‬ ‭36:7-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 36 is so full of information relevant to life. In these three verses, the Psalmist responds in worship to God by listing His provisions – love, shelter, food and drink, light, and even life itself. The basics of human need. And the removal of any one of these will, at best, stunt, and at worse, destroy, our human life.

In the society in which we live we take so much for granted. This becomes clearer in a time of a national disaster, such as a war, or, more topically, the current pandemic. In times like these people become rather insecure as events outside their, or their country’s, control take hold. And people who don’t know God cast around for answers, for help, not knowing what to do or what the future holds.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this statement, “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45). Jesus was talking about something we call “Common Grace”. God loves all mankind, even those people who are against Him, or who deny that He exists, not just His own people. He provides the good gifts listed in Psalm 36 to everyone regardless of whether or not they know, or even want to know, Him.

But as God’s people we know that all that we need for life comes from our wonderful Heavenly Father. And we must never take Him or His gifts for granted. We have a message of hope that we can share with those around us with thankful hearts. And dispense the “peace of God that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to a world in crisis.

God Talks to Me

“My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”” Psalms‬ ‭27:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What an amazing verse! That the Creator of the universe and all that is in it would want to talk to David, the Psalmist? Really? But God favours no one more than any other. David’s experience of dialogue with God wasn’t just for him – it’s for everyone. And note this – God initiated the conversation. So I have to face into the fact that my amazing God wants to talk to me. So how do I respond? “Sorry, God, but I’m too busy right now?” Or ”sorry, God, there’s a TV programme I need to watch?” I can invent any number of excuses. But the truth is quite clear – He wants to talk to me. There is only one response that is acceptable – “Lord, I am coming”. God knows my busy schedules. He knows what living on planet earth demands. But there will be times when He wants to talk to me and I need to turn up my spiritual receptors so that I respond in His timing, not mine.

God talks to me through His Word. Through a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit. Through a comment from a fellow pilgrim in my community of faith. But He invites me to talk with Him. To join Him in an intimate conversation devoid of religious jargon. Full of honesty and grace. And He whispers with love and mercy, what I need to hear.

God is inviting you, my friend, to talk with Him as well. How will you respond?

In the Presence of God

“The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His Temple. For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At His sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.” Psalms‬ ‭27:4-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In these three verses, David, the Psalmist, expresses his overwhelming desire to be close to God. So close in fact that he wants to be constantly in God’s presence, because it is there he has a relationship that transcends anything possible in the world around him. It is there that he gets lost in a place that doesn’t exist on planet earth. It is there that he can put aside the humdrum of human life and rise up into heavenly places. Of course, I don’t believe for a moment that he went through his life with his head in the clouds, “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. He was at this time, I believe, a monarch in waiting, surrounded by antagonists and associated problems of life, which would scupper most of us and threaten to separate us from our relationship with God. Perhaps, in David’s place, we would even be shaking our fist at the heavens, asking the question, “Why has God allowed this to happen to me”? But David found his strength, his spiritual food, in the house of the Lord, hidden in His sanctuary. And it was there that he became lost in praise and worship, in wonder and joy, in the presence of God.

And so it should be with us. What is coming against us in our earthly humanity? Life can be difficult sometimes. Just existing can be traumatic. But all the resources we need are there in God’s presence. We can park the problems of life and instead spend time with Him. The problems may not go away and will be waiting for us when we return, but by spending time with God, they perhaps become less significant and strident. And perhaps we can learn too to delight in the Lord, offering praises and singing to our wonderful Creator.