Biblical Messages

A letter to seven churches

In this worship gathering, we hear a message introducing the Book of Revelation as our new series. What is the real message of the book? Is it all about predicting the end of the world, or is there more substance than that? Based on Revelation 1.1-20, you can watch the message alone below, or the entire worship gathering below that. The introductory video is available as a stand-alone video here.

Encouragement From The Word

Who was, and is, and is to come

These are crazy days, aren’t they?  There are statements made and retracted by provincial and federal governments, vaccine taxes being assessed in Quebec, numbers being reported in limited ways, and just a whole lot of confusion around the pandemic.

In one sense, it’s understandable, since none of us has ever gone through anything like this before.  (Remember “Two weeks to flatten the curve”?  That’s ancient history now!)  We are all tired and frustrated, and we want life to go back to normal – or at least to proceed toward the new normal, post-pandemic.  And we just wish that we’d get some definitive answers.  But in such an unpredictable season, those answers are not forthcoming.

Amid all the uncertainty, there are some things we can know for certain.  One of them is the sovereignty of God: the belief that God is in charge.

It might seem like a goofy concept, thinking that God is in charge with the mayhem swirling around us.  But it’s true.

We don’t know why a sovereign God sees this going on and seemingly stands there.  (I would argue that if God were just ‘standing there’, matters would be a great deal worse!)  Our role is not to know why; it is to trust in the One who does know why.

As John the apostle begins the recording of his vision from the Lord in Revelation, he offers this greeting to the seven churches to which the book was originally written:  “Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come” (Revelation 1.4b, NLT).

The Lord is, he was, and he is still to come.  God has seen all of history.  He sees the future.  And he sees what we’re dealing with today.  And he remains Lord of all, even though, at times, it might not seem that way.

On those days when you feel especially frustrated, at your wits’ end, or hanging on to the end of your rope, just remember that verse and proclaim – even if just to yourself – that no matter what, you trust the One who is, who always was, and who is still to come.

We will get through this.  God has promised that he will preserve his church, despite all odds.  It might not look like it always has, but it will still be the gathered faithful, praising the Eternal Father of the universe, rejoicing in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

By the way, this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we are beginning a new series on the book of Revelation!  If you’d like to learn a bit of background about the book, you can watch this introductory video here.  And you are welcome to attend in person or tune in online to any of our services.

Grace and peace!

Biblical Messages

What a Concept(ion)!

In this worship gathering, we hear a message from Isaiah 7.1-17 on “Immanuel”, born of a virgin. What meaning did it have for Isaiah’s time – particularly for King Ahaz – and what meaning does it have for us readers of the New Testament (since Matthew quotes this in his story of Jesus’ birth)? Watch here and find out more about the importance of trusting God. You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.

Encouragement From The Word

Supply chain issues

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).

Biblical Messages

Precious Cornerstone

In this worship gathering, we hear a message from Isaiah 28.1-22 that offers a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, who is our precious cornerstone. What can we learn from God’s people of old who chose to rely on political alliances instead of trusting the Lord? Watch the whole worship gathering at the bottom of this post (including the Lord’s Supper) or just the message (directly below) to find out.

Encouragement From The Word

Watch for him!

In every generation, there have been self-proclaimed prophets of the end times.  In the time of Jesus and even before, people have thought they had the end of the world figured out.

So far, it seems, they didn’t.  We’re all still here.  Jesus has not returned.

Some people have dismissed the notion that Jesus will one day come back, that the world will be consummated.  But other still look for clues.

Most who look for clues comb through the pages of the final book of the Bible:  the Revelation.  They think they can find answers there.  And often, they create their own formulas to force upon the text.

In the end, though, they are frustrated.

Revelation is a hard book to understand, in no small part because of its genre.  Apocalyptic literature is hard to understand for those who are not living in the time in which it was written.  Revelation, having been written near the end of the first century, when Christians were experiencing severe persecution from the Romans, would have made perfect sense to its first hearers and readers.  

It makes less sense to us.

But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure it out, or even imposing their own approaches to make it say what they want it to say.

When we think about the end times, the one thing we can know for certain is that we don’t know much about it.  There are not fewer than five ways of interpreting the book of Revelation held by sincere, Bible-believing followers of Jesus today.  (I talked briefly about these last Sunday.)

Commonly, in any given generation, one view will gain the upper hand among believers.  (This is less true with scholars.)  The predominant view in popular Christian culture today, despite its popularity, is somewhat confusing and is based on a very small portion of Scripture.  

When will Jesus come back?  We can’t know for sure.  

In what order will the events of the end times take place?  Some think they know for certain, others are unsure.

But this much we can know:  if you have confessed Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and sought to live for him, and are ready for his return, nothing in the book of the Revelation should scare you.

Take comfort in that, if you’re a follower of Christ.

This Sunday, I will be tackling the question of what will happen at the end of time as we know it.  I’ll look at some of the alternatives, and why I think the predominant view among many followers of Jesus is definitely not the only one, and might not even be the right one, from a biblical perspective.

Feel free to join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning if you don’t have another church to go to in person, and we’ll learn together.  (If you are too far away to come, join us live online at 10, or watch the whole gathering or just the message, which will be posted to our YouTube channel later that afternoon.)

We know the end will come.  We know Jesus will return.  We know followers of Jesus will be safe for eternity.  Beyond that?  Let’s explore some options together.

I say to you what I say to everyone:  Watch for him!” (Mark 13.37, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Don’t give up

The western pull-out from Afghanistan has been heart-wrenching to watch on television.  As I mentioned last week, the resurgence of the Taliban has placed many people at risk, especially women and Christians.  For the Americans, the way this is playing out is very reminiscent of their time in Vietnam.

Canadian forces are saying that they wish they could have stayed.  But the Big Fish in the Pond has decided that the multinational effort is over.  It’s like they have given up, in some ways, though I’m certain this is an oversimplification.

Have you ever put effort into something – say, a friendship – and found it an uphill battle?  It’s common for us to give up when we’re not making any progress.

This is especially true when we are seeking to encourage someone to embrace faith in Christ.

We might find ourselves getting blocked every time we try to “go there” in terms of spiritual conversation.  But let me encourage you not to give up.

To use another battle image, consider the speech given by Prime Minister Churchill to the British Parliament in 1940, in the midst of the ugliness of World War 2.  It is one of the most inspiring speeches ever given!  Quite near the end, Churchill tells his fellow parliamentarians, and the world:  “…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”.

When you’re sharing your faith, like on the battle fields, it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t give up.  Never surrender.  Even when you get pushback, be loving and respectful, but continue to witness to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ at work in your life.  

For your friend, eternity is in the balance.

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, ‘I believed in God, so I spoke.’  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4.13-18, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Healing In His Wings

As we conclude our series on the Old Testament book of the prophet Malachi, we learn that there is a reference that will remind us, of all things, of Christmas! You’ll find that the message from Malachi 3.16-4.6 is both a challenge to those who are far from God and an encouragement to those who follow and obey the Lord. You can watch the message alone below, or the whole worship gathering below that.

Biblical Messages

A Blazing Fire

Fire does more than burn. That’s what the Lord tells us in Malachi 3.1-5. And we also get a hint at the coming of Jesus! Some advice for handling our own periods of refining, and awaiting the second coming of Jesus, can be found in the message that’s part of this worship gathering. The whole worship gathering can be viewed below, or you can catch the message alone below that.

Biblical Messages

Throwing Your Weight Around

Concluding our series on the epidemic in the church of spiritual immaturity, based on Terry Wardle’s book, Outrageous Love, Transforming Power, we look at how Jesus has given all of his followers the authority to act in his name. We’ll look at one example, from Mark 4.35-41. You can watch the message here, or the entire worship broadcast elsewhere on the channel.

Encouragement From The Word

The Purpose of Pentecost

This weekend, the church celebrates Pentecost, the occasion recorded in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell upon the gathered followers of Jesus, made manifest in tongues of fire and languages heretofore unknown.

The Holy Spirit was given to equip disciples to minister in the power and authority of Jesus after he ascended into heaven.  Those first disciples had come to rely on Jesus during his ministry for the ability and the blessing to minister in his name.  When he ascended into heaven, he promised them the Holy Spirit, so that they would not be left alone.

To this day, all who follow Jesus are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to undertake God’s mission in the world.  And the first task of all disciples of Jesus is to make more disciples.  The Great Commission, given at a resurrection appearance before Jesus ascended, promised that in his authority, Jesus’ followers would be given power to make disciples of all nations.

Pentecost reminds us that this is our primary aim as the church: making disciples.

If we are pouring our primary efforts into other things, no matter how noble they be, those efforts are misdirected.

Yes, the Holy Spirit came and still comes and sometimes manifests himself in signs and wonders, as well as in less flashy ways.  But the principal purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to empower for making disciples.

And that starts with us, with our own formation in Christ, our own spiritual maturity.

If you want to celebrate Pentecost well, spend personal time with the Lord, and tell a friend about what Jesus has done for you.  Be a disciple, and make a disciple.

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.18-20, NLT).

Encouragement From the Word returns on June 4.