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.
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).
I met with my spiritual director earlier this week, and she read this familiar verse from The Message, which always manages to take the familiar and make one think about it:
Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” – John 8.12
It was a really good reminder for me that though we live in a time of darkness, with the pandemic and all the divisions that have been created and underlined by it, Jesus still provides plenty of light to live in.
It can be easy to point fingers and take pot shots (especially on social media, where we can’t see the other). This verse reminded me of the importance not of pointing out the deficiencies of one, but of flooding all we know with the light of Jesus.
Since getting interested in the world of everyday carry (EDC), I’ve learned more about things like flashlights than I ever thought I would need to, or care to learn. Some flashlights are made to throw light a long distance. These lights have a fairly narrow beam, but you can see a long distance with them. Other flashlights are made to flood a smaller area: you can see a lot around you, but not for very far.
Let me encourage you, in this politically and socially challenging time, to flood the world with the light of Jesus. Not everybody lives in his light; some do stumble around in the darkness. But we can flood the world around us with the light of Jesus, prayerfully hoping that some will see that light and turn to him and live in that light.
We all long for a peaceful world, free of division and strife. Jesus is the way to fulfill that longing, and he invites us to spread that light. By flooding the world around us with his light, we will have a greater impact as we seek to share the One who is our peace.
“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” (Ephesians 2.14, NLT).
I was talking with a group of people the other day about busyness, and how our society glorifies it. Anytime you ask someone, “How are you?”, you’ll get the reply, “Great. I’m so busy.”
Even the church sometimes glorifies busyness. We would look askance at a pastor, for example, who said she or he was always bored. We’d be thinking, Why aren’t you doing your job?
But there’s doing your job, and then there’s slowly killing yourself.
This isn’t a cry for help – I have lots on my plate, but I also take a weekly Sabbath, a day for rest from my regular work that allows me to be refreshed for the week to come. Yet I think we all need a reminder that the glory of busyness is entirely a worldly concoction.
The idea of Sabbath, where one day in seven is set aside for worship and rest, is God’s concoction. He modelled it for us in creation. In Genesis 1, we see that he made the world and everything in it in six days, and on the seventh day, he rested.
Why did he do that? Is God so weak that he needs time off?
Not at all! He rested on the seventh day so that his covenant people would see their own need for a day of rest.
In ancient Hebrew culture, this day of rest grew to have all manner of laws and rules attached to it. A friend of mine, a few years ago, was out for a walk in his neighbourhood when a lady called him to her door. He thought she was in distress, but she had a small task for him: to turn on her oven. She was Jewish. It was the Sabbath. She wasn’t allowed to turn on her oven on the Sabbath…laws and rules.
He turned on her oven and carried on with his stroll.
Jesus reminded his followers that the Sabbath was made for humanity, and not the other way around. He even healed on the Sabbath, which the Pharisees considered work.
Rarely, though, do we give much thought to how we observe Sabbath, mostly because we’re not very good at observing it at all.
Let me encourage you to view Sabbath not as a law, but as a gift. On whatever day you are able to take a Sabbath, accept Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11.28-30, NLT).
Work hard. And rest in the Lord.
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!