Kingdom of Priests

He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation‬ ‭1:6 ‭NLT‬‬

This verse mixes adoration and worship with an affirmation of who we are, and a declaration of praise and worship to God for all He has done.

Let’s start with where we should always start, proclaiming the wonder and majesty of Jesus. John declared that all glory and power should belong to Jesus for all eternity. And so it should be. What other religion has a God who leaves His throne and comes to earth as a human being, born in humble circumstances, living a peasant life and ending up crucified on a Roman cross? And why would He want to do such a thing? So that you and I would have the opportunity to embrace His loving sacrifice, in grateful acknowledgment that what He did, He did for us, to forgive us our sins, and give us His righteousness so that we can enter His Father’s presence. All because of His love for us, a love that knows no bounds. So we echo John’s words and proclaim, “All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen”. We can do nothing else!

With our elevated status as God’s children, comes a new role, that of being a priest. Immediately, we get an image of a person, usually a man, wearing strange clothes and an odd-looking hat. Or perhaps someone dressed in black wearing what has become to be known, a “dog collar”. But nothing could be further from the truth. Traditionally, a priest acts as a representative of God, acting as an intermediary for a people who do not feel they have direct access to God. But in our Christian context, the coming of Jesus, God’s Son, changed all of that. Because of Him we can go fearlessly into God’s presence, as it says in the book of Hebrews. In the old Jewish religion, there was a very heavy and thick curtain that separated the place where the ark of the Covenant was located and where the Jews believed God resided, from the people. And once a year, the High Priest entered God’s presence behind the curtain to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Such was their reverence for, and fear of, God, that a chord was tied to the High Priest’s ankle, so that in the event he did something to offend God, his dead body could be pulled out by those outside the curtain. But coincident with Jesus’ final act at Calvary, the curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying that all people, through Him, could now access God directly.

Our role in the Kingdom of priests, is simply to introduce others to Jesus. We share the Gospel message, and our stories of what He has done for us, with the world around us. And we do it all for our Father God. Because he loves us, and we love Him. So no extended period of training in a seminary. No funny clothes. No regrets that we can’t access God directly. We have all become His children, adopted into His family. Given a new role as priests in His Kingdom. And there’s more. It says in Galatians 4:6, “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father””. Folks, we can call our loving Heavenly Father “Abba”, or in our language, “Daddy”. That somehow seems a long way from the separation of God and man, before Jesus came to this world. No wonder John couldn’t continue with his writings without offering his praise and worship to God.

Dear Father, we thank You that You loved us so much that You put in place a plan to enable us to enter directly into Your presence. All through Jesus Your Son. We’re so grateful and we give You all the glory and power, forever and ever. Amen.

The Rule of the Wicked

“The wicked will not rule the land of the godly,
    for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.”
Psalm 125:3 NLT

This is an interesting verse with its thought about the wicked ruling a nation of Godly people. Back in the Old Testament days, the nation of Israel was at times a Godly nation, and ruled by Godly kings. But at other times it behaved in a wicked way, and from the Biblical accounts we see a succession of wicked kings taking the people into ever deepening levels of depravity. And there were times when the nation of Israel had a wicked king, but it contained Godly people. As I write this, I remember the story about Elijah who, after the Mount Carmel experience, was afflicted by depression, and he called out to God to take his life, saying he was the only Godly person left. And God later reminded him that there were 7,000 people in Israel who hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal. Godly people shining as beacons of God’s light in an otherwise wicked nation.

Britain used to be a Godly nation, in that it was through the influence of Christianity that many of our morals and laws were established. But recent global surveys have indicated that the UK is one of the most irreligious countries in the world, with less that 30% of the population claiming to be religious. And in addition to that, people claiming to be Christians in the UK make up less than 10% of the population. So perhaps it could be claimed that the sentiments expressed in this verse do not apply in the UK – perhaps we are already in a situation where the Godless rule a largely Godless nation. The wicked rule.

There is the story in the Bible, told in Genesis 18, of Abraham pleading with God over His proposed destruction of Sodom. It is a sobering thought, that God will not allow wickedness to continue for ever, though the glimmer of light was that He wouldn’t destroy Sodom if a very small minority of the people were righteous. We don’t know the population of Sodom at that time, so the percentage of righteous to unrighteous people can’t be calculated with any confidence. Jesus had something to say about the role of Christians in society and we read His teachings in Matthew 5. He said that we are “salt and light” in our communities. In our families. In our nations. What does that mean? It means we take every opportunity to propagate the goodness and Gospel of God wherever we are. But He also reminded us that if we don’t we are like salt that has lost its saltiness. A worthless commodity.

But back to today’s verse. Obviously, the Psalmist lived in an age when there were wicked leaders. And it is the same in the world today. The righteous leaders have always been greatly outnumbered by the unrighteous. So the verse must have a prophetic meaning. One day God will bring about His rule and reign in this world. The Ultimate Righteous Leader will rule and there will be no more temptation for His Godly people. The most popular prayer, the Lord’s prayer, petitions God to bring His Kingdom and will to this earth. And every year, every day, every minute, brings it a little closer. Come Lord Jesus!

The Next Generation

“So each generation should set its hope anew on God, 
not forgetting his glorious miracles 
and obeying his commands. 
Then they will not be like their ancestors— 
stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, 
refusing to give their hearts to God.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭78:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This Psalm is a lament over the chequered history of Israel. The Psalmist pointed out that, on the one hand, there were times when the Jewish nation behaved well, but also too many times when they didn’t, instead behaving badly  “… like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” 

The Church in the last 2000 years or so has also had a chequered history. Of times of great spiritual activity, but other dark periods where God’s people of the New Covenant lost their ways. Being stubborn and rebellious seems to be a human trait.

But what about each generation “[setting] its hope anew in God”? The Psalmist encouraged his people to teach about the wonderful things God has done to the next generation, so His wonderful works wouldn’t be forgotten. As we look around today it would be easy to feel despair, at our dwindling, increasingly liberal, congregations. Losing their way as they forget God’s wonderful works, and even His Word, the Bible. In a society where churches seem largely irrelevant to the “next generation”. But this Psalm contained, amongst all the warnings, a message of hope for Asaph’s generation. And today we too must declare a message of hope for our generation. We don’t know what the effect will be, when we share our stories about what God has done for us with our generations and the generations that follow. But one thing for sure, as we sow the seeds of our testimonies, the Holy Spirit will bring new shoots and growth in God’s Kingdom.

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The Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalms‬ ‭46:1-3‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

These three verses have been a tremendous comfort and support for many people over the years. They are often quoted in times of stress. They are the go-to verses read and uttered by God’s people when facing into some calamity or other. Look at the words the Psalmist uses; “Refuge”, “Strength”, “Help”, “Fear” and the very descriptive picture of an apocalyptic scene as our planet’s infrastructure collapses. Look at the contrast between the security of being in God, and the potentially disastrous state of being away from Him.

The contrast is between two kingdoms – the spiritual and the physical. Two worlds that we can access but so often we ignore the one and only dwell in the other. Of course this is perfectly understandable because we are physical beings with our feet firmly located on the home where we were born – Planet Earth. And we therefore try and look at everything around us through physical eyes and discount the spiritual world because we can’t see it. But it is there nevertheless, as many people over the ages will testify. How else do God’s people sustain themselves when tortured, imprisoned, and ill treated, all because of their faith in a God who one day will welcome them into His Kingdom, His world?

The wonderful and amazing thing is that we have an opportunity to be present in both worlds. Now. At this very moment. We can draw on the resources of God’s spiritual Kingdom to help and support us in our earthly world. God is inviting us to be part of His Kingdom, not just when we are facing into a calamitous situation, but all the time. And the access door is open this very moment – through God’s Son Jesus. Message me if you want to know more.

Although we start our life in the natural environment around us we will transition one day into a totally different spiritual environment, which itself consists of two worlds – God’s world, and another place where He is not present. Far better to enjoy the benefits of being a part of both God’s spiritual world and the physical world where we live while we have the choice. Because one day that choice will be removed from us.

The picture of an impregnable place in God that not only protects us from all dangers, but also resources us and strengthens us to face into impossible situations seems too good to be true. But it’s too good not to be true. Join me there today.