In this worship gathering, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and hear a message about moralistic therapeutic deism, an epidemic that has hit even the church. We learn why it constitutes 5 lies that God’s people should not believe. You can watch the message below, or the whole worship gathering below that.
Earlier this week, we received the horrific news of a school shooting in Texas. The school was for 7- to 10-year-olds. Nineteen children and two adults were killed, and many others were wounded. This was the 27th school shooting in the United States this year.
The shooter was just 18 years old.
He is also suspected of killing his grandmother before the rampage began.
To be sure, the young man must have been deeply, deeply troubled.
Many people think that guns are to blame for such events. And while American culture is fond of its second amendment right to bear arms, rarely are these tragedies caused by law-abiding, legal firearms owners.
The problem is that our society has been taught not to value human life.
Of course, the deeper problem is that of innate human sinfulness, something that society at large, and sometimes even the church, fails to acknowledge and deal with.
But the lack of respect for human life is the main symptom of sinfulness that rears its ugly head in situations like this, and countless others – and they don’t all involve weapons.
Parents, school curricula, even churches fail to stand up for the innate value that each human being, from conception, has in the eyes of God – and should, therefore, have in our own eyes.
But between an emphasis on rights over responsibilities, and profits over people, western society continues to collapse before us. (Honestly, the rest of the world is not much better off in that regard; the war in Ukraine is a good example.)
Please join me in praying for the grieving families of the deceased in the Texas shooting, and for parents, teachers, educational bureaucrats, and churches, that we will see how important it is choose life when there is so much violence going around. Maybe if we can get people to think more properly about life, we can get people to act respectfully toward life.
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (Deuteronomy 30.19-20a, NLT).
One of the most often overlooked days in the entire Christian year is sneaking up on us. It happens next Thursday. But unless you live in a land that treats it as a public holiday – there are still a few that do – it might slip under your radar. Yet, without the event marked by this day, the church could not have come into being as it did.
I’m talking about Ascension Day.
It often sneaks under the radar of most followers of Jesus because it always falls on a Thursday. Some churches celebrate it the Sunday before or the Sunday after, but Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday. Why? Because it happened 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus, and when you add 40 days to a Sunday in the spring, you’re always going to land on a Thursday.
But what was “it”?
It’s the day Jesus ascended into heaven.
Why does it matter?
Well, among many other things, had Jesus not ascended into heaven, the promised Holy Spirit would not have come. And the church as we know it would not have been born.
Ascension Day is a good day to celebrate! It’s the day when Jesus gave his Great Commission. And as the disciples followed that Great Commission, ten days later, the Holy Spirit fell on the believers at Pentecost, and the church came into being, spreading across the world, over time, into the vessel of God that brings the gospel to the nations.
The Bible doesn’t tell us a great deal about what happened in those 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus. But it surely involved much preparation for the disciples to be ready to venture forth on their own, with the promised Holy Spirit’s guidance, to build the Kingdom of God.
When the ascension happened, it inaugurated a new era – an era in which we still participate today.
So next Thursday, give a wink and a nod – or more! – to the celebration of Jesus’ ascension, and give thanks for his providential care.
“So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 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.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
– Acts 1.6-11, NLT
One of the latest investment trends is the NFT, which stands for non-fungible token. (If you’re like me, you want to know what “fungible” means, too: it means “mutually interchangeable”.) In other words, these items are not mutually interchangeable, but they can be owned.
The thing is, these items don’t actually exist. They’re not actually things.
You can own them, you can buy them, you can sell them – but they are digital; they’re not real. And NFTs can be anything from a piece of digital art to a picture of a non-existent cigar, and everything in between. I don’t understand either the concept or the craze, but it’s a thing (about non-things) these days.
It seems to me that dabbling in NFTs (or cryptocurrency, for that matter, which is another booming trend) takes a lot of faith.
It takes faith in the person who creates (and sells) the NFT. It takes faith on the part of the person who might then buy it from you. You have to believe that this non-existent thing actually exists, by mutual understanding.
I suppose, in one sense, it’s a bit like trading stocks. As long as everybody’s on the same page about the value, and your ability to be able to convert that to hard currency, I can understand the allure.
But it still takes a lot of faith.
This is why I am puzzled when people are unwilling to place their faith in God. For eons, the Hebrew people placed their faith in a God whom they could not (and would not) see. When God became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, aspects of God became visible. He taught as one with authority. He performed mighty and inexplicable miracles. Yet many people refused to believe.
Even with hard evidence in the person of Jesus, and in his mighty acts, people would not believe.
I think if I were into the NFT and cryptocurrency trend, I would want to be a person of faith in God. After all, there’s a lot more hard evidence for the good news of his love for us in Jesus than for the value of a digital image!
We have consistent records of the value of faith in the Lord. Trust in him today!
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11.6, NLT).
We have been through Holy Week, witnessing Jesus sharing the last supper with his disciples, humbly washing their feet, subtly being betrayed, helplessly hanging on the cross. We have waited through those long hours in anticipation of finding the tomb empty. And it was empty! Jesus was raised from the dead!
In the afterglow of Easter, though, the party might be over, but the work is not done.
Churches that follow lectionaries for their preaching often spend time in the season of Easter – the Great Fifty Days between the resurrection and Pentecost – studying the book of Acts. Theologian J.B. Phillips, when translating the New Testament for ease of reading in the 1960s, called it “The Young Church in Action”.
It’s an accurate title for the book of Acts, because that was the early church’s response to the resurrection of Jesus: action.
And it should be the response of the church of today, too.
If we remain content to give mere mental assent to the resurrection of Jesus, but then do nothing with it, our faith doesn’t mean much, does it? Just ‘pie in the sky when you die’.
But Jesus’ victory over death calls us to action, and specifically to grow the church.
Granted, that’s a tough task these days, with secularization on the rise, and sundry scandals among church leaders dotting the news. In the midst of all that, though, Jesus is alive, and he longs to build his church.
Despite society’s best efforts, the church of Jesus will never die. If you read statistics, you might not believe that, but maybe you’ll believe Jesus when he said to his disciples that on the bedrock of their faith, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16.18b, NLT).
The church is, literally, unstoppable.
If you’re in leadership, you’re probably tired right now. (Join the club!)
If you’re not in leadership, pray for your leaders. They’ve been praying for you!
Pray that all of us, together, will be the church in action, responding to the grace of God at work in the resurrection of Jesus in this season of such growth potential.
The risen Lord Jesus has not given up on the church, so why should we?
Two thousand years on, we are still called to be the young church in action.
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)
A number of years ago, there was a tragic school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. The world was shocked by the event, and rightly so. One of the stories to come out of it was chronicled in a memoir entitled She Said Yes. It was about a student named Cassie Bernall, written by her mother, about how Cassie became one of the students to be shot on that horrific day.
The perpetrators, fellow high school students, had asked Cassie if she was a Christian. Being a follower of Jesus, she responded that she was. And that was what caused the deranged student to pull the trigger and kill Cassie.
What would you say had you been in that situation? When the adrenaline is coursing through you, and you’re faced with a question about your faith that could cost you your life, would you say ‘yes’?
Some might lie and say ‘no’, even though it was not true, in order to preserve their lives and thereby be able to engage in Christian living for years to come. But let’s say you were under coercion to recant your faith on the threat of death. Would you?
This is mostly theory to us, but to the believers in the early church, this described daily living. In the first three centuries of the existence of the church, Christian faith was not tolerated by the Roman empire. Christ-followers were often killed because they refused to say “Caesar is Lord”, and worship their ruler. Instead, they lived by the statement of faith that declared, “Jesus is Lord.”
It cost many disciples of Jesus their lives.
I certainly hope and pray that it never comes to that in our time, though in some parts of the world, it still happens that followers of Jesus are killed for their beliefs. As biblical Christianity becomes less and less popular, it is becoming less and less tolerated in society.
Would you say ‘yes’ if confronted with the question about identifying with your Christian faith? What price would you be willing to pay?
I pray that you never are faced with the need to choose between your profession of faith and your life. But I also pray that the courage of your convictions will cause you to stand firm no matter what sort of suffering or persecution you might face.
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5.10, NLT).
The pandemic has taught us all kinds of new terms, hasn’t it?
Perhaps the most popular has been pivot. We’ve all had to pivot in some ways to make do during this interesting season of life.
Another that we may have learned, more familiar to those in the inner working of business, is supply chain.
Until recently, most of us didn’t know or care how things got to the stores where we bought them; it just happened.
But these days, we hear of all kinds of things that are in short supply because of supply chain issues.
For example, I was getting the oil changed in my vehicle the other day. My lease is coming due in the new year, so I thought I’d spend some time in the showroom at the dealership while I waited.
There was one vehicle in the showroom. One.
When I inquired of a salesman about my options with my lease contract coming to completion, I was told that if I ordered a new vehicle that day, I might have it by May. And this is for a vehicle that is made in Canada.
Crazy, isn’t it?
It all has to do with microchips that are, apparently, in short supply because of the pandemic. It’s a supply chain issue.
On the radio yesterday, I heard that people should go out and buy their Christmas gifts now because many of the things we might like to buy for our loved ones may be hard to find, because of – you guessed it – supply chain issues.
Thankfully, we’re not talking about essentials like toilet paper, which was in short supply during the early days of the pandemic, but that wasn’t a supply chain issue; that was a hoarding issue.
All this reminds, me, though, that Christmas will happen whether there are supply chain issues or not. It’s appropriate to give gifts at Christmas as a symbol of the greatest gift ever given to the human race in the incarnation, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t mean there has to be a huge number of gifts sitting under the tree on Christmas morning.
Perhaps a shortage of the usual gifts may serve as a reminder that there really is one Gift that will never be in short supply. The gift that is Jesus will always be available. Indeed, he is waiting for us to embrace him today.
If only we would embrace the Lord Jesus with the same haste and enthusiasm with which we seek to purchase things that will last only a while. Faith in the One who came to redeem us from sin on the cross and bring us eternal life through the empty tomb is ready to receive us into his family by faith.
Yet the time will come when the proverbial supply chain will dry up, when Jesus will return to receive his own to himself, and then…then it will be too late if we have waited.
The media tell us not to wait to buy things. I encourage you not to wait to embrace the One who bought youwith the price of his life. Trust him today.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10.13, NLT; cf. Joel 2.32).
Some view Thanksgiving weekend as the last gasp of summer, the time to escape to some place other than home and chill. Others see it as a time to gather family around a big dinner table (you might want to be careful about that one this year!). Still others see it as a time for, well, giving thanks. (And then there are those who view the weekend in all three ways!)
The apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica, and the Lord tells us through him, to “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.18, NLT). So for the Christ follower, Thanksgiving isn’t the second Monday in October; it’s every day.
Still, on Thanksgiving weekend, our minds may be drawn to common Thanksgiving songs. A common Thanksgiving hymn, coming from the 19th century, is “Come, ye thankful people, come”. I enjoy singing it on Thanksgiving Sunday…or, honestly, any other Sunday. Why?
It’s not because it reminds me to give thanks, as important as that is.
It’s because the author, Henry Alford, related the idea of giving thanks for the harvest to nothing less than the second coming of Jesus.
The verses tell one story, but consider this verse in particular:
For the Lord our God shall come and shall take his harvest home;
from the field shall in that day all offences purge away,
give the angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast,
but the fruitful ears to store in God’s storehouse evermore.
What if we gave thanks to God this weekend with an understanding that Jesus is coming again…soon?
Ponder that while you gnaw on your turkey, and be thankful.
Earlier this week, I saw a tweet from a fellow named Dustin Benge that put a lot of wisdom in a few words. He said:
There is a 0.0296% chance that your child will become a professional athlete.
There is a 0.0086% chance that your child will become a famous celebrity.
There is a 100% certainty that your child will stand before Jesus.
What are you teaching your children?
Even if you’re past the stage of parenting, or are not a parent, there is still helpful instruction in that short tweet.
Each of us has a measure of influence over some children, whether of our own family, our church family, or our neighbourhood. We have an opportunity in each interaction to have an influence. Are we taking advantage of that opportunity?
It can be through our use of words, our actions, even our gestures. What are we saying to the kids with whom we have contact?
No matter what or who they become as adults, there is a 100% certainty that they will stand before Jesus one day. And you might be the conduit through whom they come to know him as Lord and Saviour.
Think about that as you engage with kids of any age.
“Children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127.3a, NLT).