One of the most popular, yet least understood, passages in Revelation comes in chapter 6 with “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”. What could it all mean? Is there any hope for God’s people, or for the world? In this message, we look at Revelation 6 and what hope it provides for people, before it’s too late. You can watch the message below, or the whole worship gathering below that.
One of the redeeming qualities of Facebook is finding out that you have two friends from different parts and times of your life that know each other. This sometimes gets seen in birthday greetings, a factor that keeps me interested in social media (Facebook birthdays are awesome!).
I found out this week, through offering Facebook birthday greetings to a friend I met while helping her church find a new pastor many years ago, that she is related to the husband of a friend with whom I went to high school. It’s amazing to see two worlds collide like that!
As followers of Jesus, though, we’re used to the notion of two worlds colliding. We live and breathe that reality every day.
All human beings are born into and live in the world we know and see around us. When we come to faith in Jesus, we are adopted into God’s family, and become citizens of his Kingdom. So it’s a bit like being someone who was born in one country but works in another: while you live in one nation, your usual rights and privileges exist in another. But they’re still in the same world, so the analogy breaks down.
As Christians, where our two worlds collide in the more literal sense is in the area of values. There are some things that may be legal and permissible in the physical jurisdiction in which you live that are not permissible under the law of God’s Kingdom, and that’s where the collision takes place. We are stretched by being pulled in one direction by the world, and in another direction by our understanding of the Word of God.
It is not an easy position. Yet we find ourselves increasingly pulled in both directions as western society moves farther and farther away from its Christian foundation.
Since our first loyalty is to the Lord, who has graciously saved us by faith in his Son Jesus Christ, we do well to immerse ourselves in the reading of the Bible so that we can know how citizens of God’s Kingdom should act. And because it is not easy to swim against the current, we do well to immerse ourselves in Christian community so that we can encourage one another, especially when our two worlds collide and we are faced with challenging decisions.
Read the Word, because it’s God’s revelation to us. And engage in Christian community, because we don’t just go to church; we are the church. It’s now easier! Perhaps in your community, as in mine, masks will be optional starting this Sunday.
“[W]e are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control” (Philippians 3.20-21, NLT).
In the Christian world, we seem to find two extremes in our worship gatherings: on one end, we have those churches that use smoke and lights and hundreds of decibels to excite us. On the other end, we have those churches that do everything in their power to make the gospel as boring as possible.
I don’t think either of those is the way to go.
Last Sunday, I talked about the importance of worshipping God in the midst of the crazy world in which we live. In that message, I said this:
“When you come to worship, don’t come expecting to be entertained, though that may happen from time to time. Don’t even come expecting to learn something, though I hope that will always happen. Come expecting to encounter the living God, made known in Jesus Christ, who indwells us and inhabits our praise by the Holy Spirit.”
Worship is more than music and effects. Worship is more than historic words. Worship includes these things, as well as prayer, silence, preaching, and even the offering. We don’t “have a time of worship” that is followed by “everything else”. That “everything else” is also worship, if we couch it as such with intentionality!
And it’s not for us. While churches should be particular about how they craft their worship gatherings in terms of relating to the culture around them, the purpose behind that is not to entertain the masses, but to facilitate the people’s praises of the unchanging, holy God. When we come to worship, God is the audience. Not us. And he loves to receive the praises of his people.
This Sunday, I will tie all of this together with an understanding that we worship God because he is worthy. That can and should be the antidote to the epidemic of fear that has gripped our world.
“O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly” (Psalm 96.7-10, NLT).
In Ontario, it was announced this week that the mask mandate, put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, is being lifted as of March 21 in most settings. This means that many people are thinking about resuming “normal” activities – things they did before the pandemic hit.
A lot of those activities will involve other people: being involved in community.
For those who walk with Jesus in faith, community is a significant part of our journey. We engage in Christian fellowship through corporate worship; through participation in small groups for study, prayer and service; and through more casual means such as getting together for coffee with a friend or having people over for dinner.
It will be nice to be able to resume these activities as we did before.
But did you know that community is also a spiritual discipline?
Very, very few Christians are called to be hermits. They have existed over time, but they have been the exception to the rule. In general, followers of Jesus are called to function in community. This is true regardless of one’s state in life: married or single, children or none; no matter our race or job or ability, we are called to function in community.
For some, this has meant living in intentional community, where believers live together under one roof, or in a commune-like setting, essentially becoming a church. For many, though, functioning in community has meant living with one’s family, or alone, and engaging in community through the local church.
The word church, after all, literally means “those called out” – people called by God to faith in Christ, called to separate themselves for his Kingdom, called to do together what is either difficult or impossible to do alone.
It saddens me that these two years of restraint have, in a sense, cauterized some people: they have lost their sense of the value of community. Church has become something they tune into on their computers, not people with whom they can ‘do life’ together. They forget that the church is not the building, but the people.
If you follow Jesus, you are the church. If you’ve been waiting for the “all clear” to be sounded, it looks like that signal is coming later this month. See it as a call from God to be the church, to worship, study and serve with others who likewise are looking to Jesus as the Author and Finisher of their faith (Hebrews 12.1).
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12.5, NLT).
This week marked Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. I saw a post on social media about the tradition that some have during this period of the year where they put away, or “bury”, their “Alleluias” – they do not use this term to praise the Lord throughout the season of Lent, as a sign of penitence.
I think this is a wrong and misguided tradition. Let me tell you why.
Sometimes, little words make a big difference. For example, the church marks the Sundays in Lent, not the Sundays of Lent. What’s the difference? Well, Lent is marked for forty days, that being a biblically significant number (think flood, exodus, temptation, etc.). But if you count the number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day, you will find more than forty. Why?
Because the Sundays aren’t included. Every Sunday, no matter the season, is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. So yes, you might hide your Alleluias from Monday to Saturday, but on Sunday, you are enjoined to haul them back out, because even though we trace the route to the cross in Lent, each Sunday remains a celebration of the resurrection, a “little Easter”.
Whatever you may choose to do to mark the season of Lent, set it aside as you enter public worship, because every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. It is a break from the fast. It is a relief from the penitence.
And we can count it all joy.
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150, NLT)