Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A New Season - Fall Announcement

For the last four months, our eldership team has been reflecting on our journey and vision as a church and seeking God's input in shaping us as we move forward.  During this period of discernment, God clarified our church's vision - to help each other live like Jesus in our church, our city, and beyond.

We will be speaking and talking more about what this vision looks like on upcoming Sundays and at an all church prayer meeting on Monday, September 14.  I hope you can join us for these gatherings.

Each member of our team believes that learning to live like Jesus requires involvement in a small group of people who will intentionally seek to live like Him among a specific community or neighborhood. Just like Jesus did. Given this belief, we feel we need to invest more time, gifting, and prayer to strengthen and start community groups.

With this need in mind and in assessing the current season and size of our church, the elders and the Fenway site team made a decision to not re-open our Fenway site this fall.  Our church will continue to meet together at the Brighton Music Hall.  We plan to redirect the energy that was put into hosting the afternoon service to reaching out more strategically in the Fenway with our Fenway community groups.

We realized how much God had orchestrated our steps when last week we discovered the club we had met in since we launched 7 years ago in the Fenway is being sold and will close in October.  You can listen to that story and hear more about why we made this decision on our website.

We are grateful for God's guidance in this season; we are deeply aware that He is with us and leading our church.  As one beautiful season of much visible life and growth has concluded, we are filled with faith for this new season into which God is bringing us.

I'm convinced more than I have ever been that following Jesus with a church community is the best decision a person can make.

Grace,  David W.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Life in Jesus

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. -Revelation 22:12
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. - 2 Corinthians 5:10

We spent yesterday evening with our Newfrontiers leader, Terry Virgo. I was humbled by his practical message of  living life, daily, with Jesus. He tugged at my heart and helped me to see life the way it would have been for the disciples. They spent three years living day and night with Jesus. Three years with God; waking up, eating, talking, laughing, enjoying their savior and then He went away.  But He promised them and us that He would not leave them alone. That He would come back, in the person of the Holy Spirit, and fill them.

Terry brought us this message to enliven us again to the simple message that we are to live with Jesus daily. In so doing we would be just like the disciples and just like the Israelites. Wherever we go, God's presence will be with us.

With this in mind I posted the above verses to give us a new perspective on them. If our lives are spent in daily fellowship with Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, then the inevitable fruit of that kind of life will result. The glorious blessing that awaits us after that will just be icing on the cake. These verse are meant as an encouragement to give up everything to follow Him, but I see them also as another picture of the extreme generosity of our father in heaven. We aren't worthy to clean the dirt off His feet, yet He elevates us to count us as His friends, blesses us with His presence daily and then showers us with rewards for being with Him!

Revelation has been somewhat of a sobering journey. We have seen Him coming on the clouds. We have seen Him pour out his wrath on his enemies, He cast Satan and his demons, along with those who rejected Jesus, into the lake of fire. We have also seen Him usher in a new earth and heaven and as His city descends from above, we will rejoice that God's dwelling place will be with mankind, forever.

The delightful thought of being with God is prize enough in itself. We will finally be with the object of our hope, the treasure of our heart, the jewel of our love. The reality of seeing and being with Him, in actuality instead of just in spirit, will be its own continual reward. For in those days we will no longer be separate from the one who made us. We will finally be back in the garden, with our father, restored completely.

1. How can you daily live your life with Jesus, like the disciples did?
2. What are some questions you have for God when you finally meet him?
3. Spend some time in personal worship, praising God for all He has done for us.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Glory of God Gives Light

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23)

 In the message this past Sunday, David talked about the New Jerusalem, the city of God, described as a perfect, brilliant, beautiful city in Revelation 21. He mentioned several aspects of the city, including that it would be reflective, it would be protected, and it would be open. It's a huge city- 12,000 stadia long, with a height and width of the same length.  A perfect cube.

12,000 stadia is about 1,380 miles; a stadion was about 607 feet. That's actually quite huge. I mean, the diameter of Pluto is roughly 1,430 miles. Can you imagine if a city the size of Pluto came down out of the sky, a city covered with jewels and made of gold? I mean, I get teared up when I see a really beautiful old building with ornate carvings and gold filigree. I can't even begin to picture an entire city covered in jewels.

It's beyond our imaginings, and that's one of the points that David made. Revelation is a vision, steeped in symbols and metaphors. Because nothing can fully prepare us for the glory that awaits us in heaven. Revelation is not just a picture of Jesus, but a picture of our future with Jesus, and being the bride of Christ is a future that is too wonderful for us to fully take in.

We're nearing the end of our series on Revelation, and we've covered a lot. I think, though, the thing that I've taken away the most, though, is that Revelation, as a picture of Jesus, as a picture of our future with Jesus, is an encouragement for our present time. 

Take, for example, Revelation 21:23: "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."

In the future, there will be no darkness, because God itself will be our light. More than that, God will shine through us, because we will reflect His image fully and beautifully. So, for now, secure in that, we can be lights in the current darkness. Like the stars, each with its own light, given to it by the Creator. Or like the moon, which reflects the sun so brilliantly that we can see by its light at night. 


If you haven't read through Revelation or listened to the messages on it, I would encourage you to take some time to work your way through it. Revelation 1:3 states that, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near." As you go through the series, you might meditate on these things:

1. What has God already done for you in your life?
2. What has God promised you for your future?
3. What is God asking you to do right now?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Our Eternal Home

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." Revelation 21:1

On Sunday, we bloggers were privileged to give the message, sharing some of the insights that God has given us as we’ve been going through Revelation and especially in relation to Revelation 21:1-8. For followers of Christ, it’s a beautiful and encouraging passage about the present and future hope that we have in Jesus; the promise of a day when there will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying out to God, or pain.

One thing we didn’t get time to look at in detail though was the final verse in our passage, verse 8, ‘But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death’. Emily touched on it briefly when she said that all these people are looking for fulfillment and satisfaction outside of God, and that all of us have a choice whether to find fulfillment in God as the only one who can make us happy, the only one who can take our pain away, or in other things. But, even so, it can seem like a terribly harsh, severe verse to tack on the end of a passage filled with so much hope for restoration. Hasn’t Revelation made the point enough already?

I agree with Emily that this verse does remind us that we have a choice, but it also serves other purposes as part of the passage. It is not only a challenge to us to find fulfillment in God, but it also forms part of the encouragement of the vision of the new heaven and new earth. You see, if the things described in this verse are not part of the new heaven and new earth, then our future happiness is secure. As Poythress writes, "No sin or second fall into evil will disturb the permanent security and bliss of the new world."

The exclusion of anything that could taint the splendor and beauty of the new heaven and earth is also hinted at in verse 1 where we are told that there will no longer be any sea. Many of us love the beauty and majesty of the sea, and I do not think we will be robbed of that pleasure in heaven. Rather, the absence of the sea here is symbolic of the evil and chaos that ancient people associated with the sea. In many places in Scripture the sea is connected with destruction, death, and frightening sea monsters (see for example Psalm 69:1, Jonah 2:3, Daniel 7:3, and Isaiah 27:1). Again Poythress writes, "The removal of the sea means the permanent removal of the challenges to God’s order and hence the peace and stability of the new world."

The security of this new heaven and new earth is important as we are going to be there for a while; in fact, forever! And for anyone who has experienced even a degree of uncertainty or instability in their earthly homes, be it through abusive or failed relationships, financial hardship, sickness, and even death, the significance of this won’t be underestimated. In at least three places in this short passage of Scripture (and if you read the passage again or listen to the message you may spot more!) God goes to great lengths to impress upon us the truth that the future home he is preparing for us, in contrast to the current world we experience, is a place of safety and peace.
  1. How does it make you feel to know that there will be a new heaven and new earth free from pain and suffering? How does it change the way you view life on earth now?
  2. Jesus said, "In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2) On Sunday, Dave spoke about how heaven is not just a fuzzy, spiritual place but it will be a physical place where we find joy and fulfillment working in the presence of God. How does this impact your own ideas of heaven?
  3. Spend some time in prayer thanking God for this future hope and asking Him to help you find fulfillment in Him, instead of the things of this world.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This Thing Called Millenialism

Sunday, I preached from Revelation 20.   In the second part of the message, I looked at two images.

1) Satan being bound and shut in a pit for a thousand years.

2) Worshipers of Jesus who reign with Christ for those thousand years.

What is most important about this passage is that Satan is portrayed as a limited and ultimately defeated foe and that the the worshipers of Jesus are portrayed as a blessed, active, and victorious (yet persecuted) people.

A question that emerges from this passage is what time period (symbolic or literal) is the thousand years (millennium) in Revelation 20 referring to?  Three positions have become most prominent over the years, but perhaps one pastor friend I know has the best position which he refers to as "pan-millennialism."  In his words, its all going to "pan out in the end." I think Jesus' teachings were meant to promote a similar trust in us when we think about the end times.

With that said, the things we can learn from exploring this concept of a one thousand year time period in Revelation 20 further yield knowledge that is helpful to us in learning to live like Jesus in our world.  It is with this end in mind that I will briefly present my view of the three positions - premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillenialism.

In this view, the millennium (one thousands years) will follow Jesus’ second coming.  This view places the binding of Satan and the victorious reign of the church on earth in the future, after Jesus returns as he promised.

The strength of this view is that it helps to interpret more literally some of the Old Testament messianic promises of the Messiah establishing an earthly kingdom that ushers in an era of peace and prosperity in the world.  I personally feel that most, if not all, of those Old Testament passages are fulfilled through the church as God's people reign on earth in the authority of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit OR through Jesus' inauguration of the new heave and earth in Revelation 21.

The weakness of this view is that it hard to reconcile with Jesus' clear and extensive teaching (especially Matthew 24-25, Mark 13) that his second coming will be sudden, decisive, and cosmic in scale AND that it would be followed immediatetly by the final judgment.  Premillennialism can also allow for a broader view of Satan's activity and power since he is yet to be bound. 

In this view, we are either currently in the symbolic millennium or soon to enter a symbolic/literal millennium as all the nations of the earth are reached with the gospel. This view sees the church as enjoying a great period of peace, prosperity and triumph (the one thousand years) before Jesus returns.

The strength of this view is that it embraces Jesus' and Paul's teachings that the church has been given authority by God to reign in this life and to see the gospel taken to every tribe, tongue, and nations.  It envisions a victorious church that is presently experiencing the blessing and victory that Revelation 20:4-6 describes.

The weakness of this view is that it does not allow much room for the intensification of satan-inspired activity that the repetitive cycles throughout Revelation reveal and that Jesus himself taught about.  For example, this view is hard to reconcile with Jesus' words in Matthew 24:12 that, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold."  Postmillennialism can lead to a triumphalism that does not help the church persevere well through the suffering, hardships, and persecution that Jesus and the apostles taught it would experience.

Amillennial (Greek: a- "no" + millennialism)
This view understands the millennium to be a symbolic time period that represents the reign of Christ through his church from the time of the Apostles until Jesus returns.  In this view, Satan has been bound by the triumph of Christ at the cross and resurrection so that people from every tribe and nation may come to know Jesus.

One of the strengths of this view is that it allows people to embrace the view of both a church that is ruling and reigning through the authority of Christ but is also facing suffering and difficulties.  It views Satan as bound but  leaves room for the continued activity of Satan from the pit (Revelation 9:1-11) and on the earth immediately before Christ returns (Revelation 20:7-10).  It avoids the triumphalism of the postmillennial view by understanding that, while Satan has been bound and his activity has been curtailed and limited, the church will still face difficulty and distress before Jesus returns.

A weakness of amillennialism is that it does not allow for you to interpret some Old Testament passages and much of Revelation either literally or chronologically.  (However, I personally doubt that some of those prophetic and apocalyptic writings in the Bible are meant to be understood in that way. We are to understand numbers and images such as one thousand years, 666, a pit, and a dragon as representative of real realities but symbolic in and of themselves.)

It's corresponding strength is that amillennialism does make room for the symbolism and repetition that is found throughout Revelation and other parts of the Bible.

Lastly, I find myself most comfortable with an amillennial view because I find that it reconciles well with the rest of the New Testament's teaching (especially those of Jesus) on the end times.  When I read Jesus' teachings, it seems clear to me that Jesus taught that before he returned the gospel would go to every nation AND his followers would experience intense persecution and trouble (Matthew 24).  He also described his return as a decisive event that would usher in both the passing away of this world as we know it and the inauguration of a new heaven and earth rather than an introduction to a literal thousand year rule as premillennialism does.

Thus, I feel the amillennial view fits Jesus' own words and instructions well, and I believe that as a follower of Jesus who is seeking to live like Jesus in our world that this is what is most important.

Questions to Ponder
1) How do these views line up with Jesus' own teachings and instructions on the end times?  Read Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13 to start.

2) How might each of these views effect how you live for Jesus now?  Why?

3) Do you feel it is necessary to embrace a particular view?  What can be learned and applied from each view by someone who is seeking to live like Jesus?  How could you apply that in your own life?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Courage for the Battle

‘Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.’ Revelation 19:11
Revelation makes it clear that there is a battle raging- A battle between Satan and God, between the Destroyer and the Creator, between evil and good.
Yet it also makes it clear that the battle has only one already determined outcome: Satan ultimately is no match for the victory won through Jesus Christ, who appears in Revelation 19 as a triumphant rider on a white horse.
So majestic and powerful is Jesus in the vision, that no one name sufficiently describes Him. He is called Faithful and True (v11), The Word of God (v13), and the King of kings and Lord of lords (v16). He has even a name that no one knows but Himself (v12), so far is He beyond our comprehension. He is accompanied by all the armies of heaven (v14), and yet all the action in the passage is His. Whereas Satan must make use of all his resources-the beast, the false prophet, and the kings of the earth-God, by contrast, is totally sufficient in and of Himself to judge and make war.
So, if there is a battle raging, it poses the question, which side are we on? Or, as Paul McFarthing put it in his message on Sunday, do our lives reflect the total reign of Jesus, or the world that is destined for destruction and will pass away? Because this vision of God in Revelation 19, as Paul pointed out, does not leave room to consider God as an add-on to our lives, a vitamin supplement that we can take on the side as a nice bonus to our general health.
Revelation continually challenges us to live in the truth of who God is, even when it seems like Satan is winning. And that takes courage. And, if I’m honest, sometimes I don’t feel like I have enough courage for the task. On Sunday, I was pondering how I battle both to make Jesus the king of my personal struggles and doubts in private, and to make him known as my king in public among my friends and my family. In both cases, my dominating thoughts are ones of fear-specifically, a fear of God not being enough for the situations I face. Fear can really hold us back and give Satan a foothold.
But the thing about courage is that it doesn’t mean that we will not feel afraid. You may be surprised, like I was, to find that courage is defined as ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’. It means that, in spite of our fears, we choose to step out in faith and trust that God is enough for us. We choose to say that, despite the battle raging around us, we believe that God has already won, and we will live our lives accordingly.
And for those who overcome, Revelation 19 promises that a banquet with much rejoicing awaits. Our God does not do anything by halves, and when the world finally realizes the battle is over, you better believe there will be a party to remember!
‘Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!’ (Psalm 27:14)

  1. What evidence do you see around you that you are living in a spiritual war zone? How can you better equip yourself for battle? Consider choosing a verse of Scripture that encourages you and making it your battle cry!
  2. Spend some time thinking and praying about Paul’s question from Sunday; How can your life better reflect the total reign of Jesus as King?
  3. Meditate on Psalm 27 and let your heart take courage.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Falseness of the American Dream

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:32-34)

There’s a pretty well known song out there that tells us “You can’t always get what you want.” And yet, funnily enough, that’s the exact reverse of what the American culture (and Western culture in general) tells us. We are constantly told, through the billboards, commercials, and other advertisements that have embedded themselves in our lives, not only that we CAN have everything that we want, but that we SHOULD have everything that we want, that we DESERVE it, and that if we obtain all the material things we crave, then we will be happy. As David reminded us on in the message on Sunday, the idea that America is the “land of opportunity where you can achieve your dreams” is built upon the idea that we have certain God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or, as David explicated, that “you have a right to the life that you want, that you should have the liberty to pursue that, and ultimately you should pursue your own happiness.”

And yet, in our attempts to live the lives we want, to pursue our own happiness, we find, ultimately, that we can never gain all of the things we want. As David explained, “When you’re pursuing comfort, your hope is that you will never know mourning, you will never know pain, you will never know injury.” However, we all experience these things: mourning, death, and broken-heartedness is just part of the human condition in this fallen world.

More importantly, God will not allow the false promises of comfort to last forever. In Revelation 18, we see that even though the city of Babylon (representative of all cities) in her heart says “mourning I shall never see,” that for this very reason, because she has pursued pleasure and comfort instead of pursuing God, “her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8).

So what should our response be? It is so hard, when surrounded by companies telling us to BUY, when surrounded by magazines and books and TV shows and music telling us to ENJOY and CONSUME (not just things, but one another), to pull ourselves away and realize that none of this will last. In Luke 12, Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who says to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). How often do we say this to ourselves? While it is not wrong to enjoy the good things that God has given us or to save up money to provide for our future, what we do need to do is change what we are focusing on. Jesus tells us not to spend our lives focused on material things, things that “all the nations of the world seek after,” but rather instead to seek God and his kingdom, “and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31).

There’s a great film that gets its name from this passage in Luke. “Lilies of the Field” stars Sidney Poitier as a traveling handyman who gets sidetracked from his journeys by a group of German nuns who are convinced that God has sent him to help them build a chapel in the desert. The entire premise of the movie rests on the nuns’ faith that God has called them to this place, and so God, just as He clothes the lilies of the field, will provide for them what they need. The great part about this movie, though, is that He chooses to provide for them through this handyman, and, subsequently, through the people of the surrounding towns.

What this reminds me of is this truth: While the City of Babylon encourages us to use and ultimately destroy ourselves and one another to find our own “happiness,” in God’s kingdom we are asked to love and help one another- to build others up, instead of ourselves, and lay aside for ourselves treasures in heaven (Luke 12:33). God’s message of sacrificing our material pleasures to help others in need is the antithesis of the City’s message to get what we want while the getting is good, because God knows that this material world will not last forever. The City of Babylon will one day be destroyed (Revelation18:21-24), and God’s True City, the New Jerusalem, will endure. And in the True City, it won’t matter how much money we’ve made, or how many things we’ve bought, or how much sex we’ve had. The only thing that will matter is whether we have been rich in God, whether we have loved and honored Him, and loved and served our neighbors. That is the legacy that will last.

Some things to ponder:

  • Luke 12:34 tells us that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Often we can tell what we are prioritizing by what we are spending our energies, resources, and time on (and what we are worrying about!). For myself, I often find that every few months I have to re-examine my priorities. If you’re able to, take a moment to journal or meditate on where your treasure (and hence your heart) is, and on where God wants it to be.
  • How can we extricate ourselves from the constant message of the City to live for luxury instead of God? One thing we can do is to be aware of how the City is encouraging us to use one another, and to fight against that. Vicky gave a great blog post last week about how to help in the battle against human trafficking. Revisit her post and pray about what role you can play.