Month: April 2019

Pastor's Blog

Preparing to Celebrate the Resurrection

This Sunday we’ll celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But before we get there, it’s important to remember His death itself, and the reason He died. We’ll do this together on Good Friday, when we gather with others at 10:30 for a multi-church service at the Apostolic Church. But I’d encourage you to prepare on your own this week, taking time to ponder the cross and what Jesus accomplished there for us.

Music can really help us out here. This week I’ll be listening to Andrew Peterson’s 5-song EP called “Resurrection Letters: Prologue,” which reflects musically on the darkness of that first Friday, as Christ died, and Saturday, as His followers wept in anguish.

You can enjoy the whole thing right here:

Pastor's Blog

“Is He Worthy?”

This Sunday we’ll be summarizing and concluding the “You Are Here” series, and we’ll be singing this song to end the service:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

  “Worthy are you to take the scroll
     and to open its seals,
   for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
     from every tribe and language and people and nation,
  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
  to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
  and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
   be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:1-14 (ESV)
Pastor's Blog

Made Perfect Together

If we are in Christ, and we die, our souls will go to be with Jesus in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23). This is a wonderful truth and significant source of comfort to God’s people.

But it’s not the end of the story. Being a disembodied soul in heaven is not our ultimate hope. Our ultimate hope is the resurrection from the dead, when our souls will be reunited with new bodies and we’ll dwell with God forever in His city on a new earth (1 Corinthians 15:12-56, Revelation 21:1-3).

It’s this hope of a perfect, embodied existence on a restored earth that has fuelled the faith of God’s people throughout the ages.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8–10). 

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13–16). 

Here’s the stunning reality: this “better country,” this heavenly city, this New Creation, is still a future reality. It hasn’t come yet.

Which means that Abraham is still waiting for it. Isaac is still waiting for it. Jacob is still waiting for it. All the saints we read about in the Old Testament are still waiting for it. They have not yet received everything they were promised.1Surprisingly, Revelation 6:9-11 pictures at least some of the souls in the present heaven experiencing dissatisfaction, even in God’s presence, as they await the fulfillment of God’s purposes.

When will they receive them? When will they finally arrive in this city with foundations, in this better country they have longed for? At the exact same time as you and I will. When the events of Revelation 21 take place. After the return of Christ, after the final judgement, when God finally creates the new heavens and new earth.

And then, on that day, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Samuel, and you will arise, together, in new bodies on a new earth, and will finally experience, together, what God has promised to us. As Hebrews 11 goes on to say, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39–40).

The ESV Study Bible says about this verse, “The saints of the [Old Testament], along with those of this era, will partake together of the same end-times perfection: sinless selves in deathless resurrection bodies.”2Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2382.

We really are a part of this story today, and we really will be a part of it on that great day, when all of God’s people from all of time will be made perfect, together.

Pastor's Blog

Missions Exists Because Worship Doesn’t

On Sunday, we considered the mission of God’s people at our stage in the story. Our mission is to “go and tell,” which is a change from the “come and see” pattern of the Old Covenant. And yet, in another sense, the mission of God’s people across all history has remained identical: we are to invite the nations to know and love and worship our God. “Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2–3). “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

I hope you catch the dominant note here, the primary reason and the ultimate goal of our mission: God’s glory, which is to say, God being worshipped by all the nations. John Piper has capsulized this truth in these unforgettable words:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. So worship is the fuel and goal of missions. 3John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed., Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2010. Page 15.

When we connect this truth up to what we learned about prayer a week before, we discover that the very first thing Jesus taught us to pray for—”hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9)—is a prayer for the mission. As we pray for God’s name to be glorified, we are praying that more and more people would love and honour and worship Him.

“Hallowed by your name” is just another way of saying, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Psalm 67:3).