In this worship gathering, we hear a message from Revelation 14.14-20 continuing on the theme of judgment, and how we can be ready for it. You can watch the message below, or the whole worship gathering below that.
Earlier this week, Gordon Fee died. That name may not mean anything to you, but if you’re a follower of Jesus, there’s a good possibility that you’ve read something that he was involved with.
Fee was a Christian who pastored a church for a little while, but ultimately felt called to the academy. He taught New Testament studies at Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and at Regent College in Vancouver, from which he retired some years ago.
But you probably don’t know him from his teaching appointments.
His greatest legacy, other than the students he taught, was threefold. First, he was active on the translation team for the original New International Version of the Bible, so if you’ve read the NIV at all in the past, you’ve probably read some of his contributions to Bible translation. Second, he wrote commentaries, principally on the letters of Paul (so if you’ve heard me preach on, say, 1 Corinthians, Gordon Fee touched your life that way!). And third, he co-wrote a book called How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth (a copy of which I gave away just yesterday!).
Fee was Pentecostal and a scholar, and he believed that the Holy Spirit plays a role in our study of the Bible as well as in our living out of the Christian life. He wasn’t the first person to assert this, of course, but he was used by God to promote the spiritual life in the midst of learning and growing in Christ.
I recommend that you read anything he wrote. And I also recommend that you read what he would have recommended, and that’s the Word of God. Read your Bible – for all its worth. Notice that as I just used it and in the title of Fee’s book, there is no apostrophe: we don’t read the Bible for all it’s worth, but for all its worth. We want to get the most out of the Bible, which has great worth to us as followers of Jesus. It is how the Lord communicates most clearly to us. It’s how we learn the Christian life. It’s how we gain comfort and are challenged in our walk with God.
So I don’t encourage you to read the Bible as a tribute to Gordon Fee; he wouldn’t ask you for that. But I do encourage you to read the Bible because of what it is: God’s Word to us. The Word of Life. The Truth.
Take even five minutes today, if you haven’t already, and read a portion of Scripture. Let the Lord speak to you.
“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear” (Jesus, Mark 13.31, NLT).
Whatever you’re doing right now (other than reading this), stop.
If only for a few moments, pause from your daily activity and give thanks to God.
Do it now.
Doesn’t that feel just a little bit better?
One of the things the Lord is constantly teaching me is the importance of rest. It becomes too easy to hop on a treadmill (alas, not the kind that burns calories) and become a human doing, when the Lord made me (and you) to be a human being.
If you don’t pause from time to time, something will happen that will force you to pause.
I am reminded of a quotation by Christian author Wayne Muller in his book, Sabbath: “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath – our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”
Read that again.
“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world” (Hebrews 4.9-10, NLT).
Usually, when we think of the word “thrill”, our minds turn to amusement park rides, or a first kiss – things that tend to elevate our heart rate! Rarely do aspects of our faith come to mind when we think of the word “thrill”.
But maybe they should.
I was reading the Psalms the other day, and in the New Living Translation, Psalm 92.4 says, “You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.”
Now, most translations will use the more gentle (if more passive) “You make me glad” in translating a verb that means “to brighten up”. But I think “thrill” is an accurate and appropriate translation – and one that makes us think.
In this, the afterglow of Canadian Thanksgiving, we do well to remember that while Thanksgiving is another statutory holiday, and a good excuse to eat turkey, gratitude should characterize us all year long. When we think back on that for which we are grateful to God, can we say that we are “thrilled”?
Often, we take a lot for granted. The fact that we have air to breathe, food on the table, people who love us – can we say that we are “thrilled” by these gifts?
Take some time today to review the past few days in your mind. Think about what thrills you. And turn that thrill into a prayer of thanksgiving to God that raises your pulse with joy!
Last Sunday, our Pastoral Intern preached a message about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper in which she illustrated with the concept of taking home leftovers after a scrumptious meal at a restaurant. I want to think about that idea with you for a moment.
If you, like most Christians around the world, celebrated the Lord’s Supper last Sunday, you probably received a wafer or a morsel of bread, and just enough wine or grape juice to wet your whistle. It doesn’t seem like enough to require a doggie bag!
But when you feast upon God’s grace in this sensory manner, you are invited to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to be filled – not with bread and wine, but with the Holy Spirit. In this way, you have ‘leftovers’ to last you through the week…leftovers that you can share.
One of the realities that many of us church leaders have been talking about for the past several years is now becoming a reality, thanks to the accelerated change caused by the pandemic: we need to take the church out into the neighbourhood.
Because the church is people – followers of Jesus and their children, gathered – it is possible to take the church away from the building. Not to say that gathering together for corporate worship and fellowship are not important (they very much are!), but God’s people need to start thinking beyond the four walls, taking God’s love and truth, God’s justice and righteousness, into our neighbourhoods.
What can this look like?
It can mean hosting a Bible study (what we call a LifeConnect Group) in your home, and inviting your neighbours to join in. (This is nothing new, by the way; my grandmother hosted a neighbourhood Bible study in our home in the 1970s!)
It can mean inviting neighbours to share a meal with you, in which part of the conversation opens a door to talking about your faith.
It can mean reaching out to a neighbour who has experienced some sort of illness, loss or life crisis with kindly deeds done in Jesus’ name.
It can mean sharing information by text or email among your neighbours and friends who are still fearful of stepping out their front door, inviting them to a watch party for a Sunday worship broadcast.
The list could go on and on, but the point is that if an invitation to cross the threshold of the church building doesn’t work, you can take the church to the neighbourhood.
This becomes the ‘doggie bag’ that you take away from a worship gathering, whether it involves the Lord’s Supper or not, because we can ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit anytime…and that infilling can overflow, and splash onto the people with whom you interact day by day.
God knows the difference you will make.
If you’re not sure you can do this, rest assured that you can’t do it on your own. So ask the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised at his ascension: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8, NLT).