Daily Prayer: Aug 30

Luke 2:46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

Holy Spirit, amazing and pure is Your guiding presence! You are the great ‘Remembrancer Divine,’ who reminds us of all the things about Jesus, our Master. You, God, be my teacher. Train me, lead me, inspire what I read and watch, open the scriptures for me to understand, and let me gain perspective from all of creation.

Today I pray for Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, and other seminaries where intense training happens for ministry. A new school year is beginning, Holy One, and I ask that the professors and staff, and the students, be blessed as they enter this season of learning. May the Bible become more amazing and clearer to them; may the paths of ministry and service be inspiring also. In the name of Rabbi Jesus. Amen.

Worship, Aug 29 – The End of the World Show

Welcome to this blog post for the last Sunday of August at Digby Baptist Church. The format of our service is quite different today. Enjoy ‘the show;’ enjoy God! The script below gives the plan for what was to happen. In fact, our guest Heather was away – she had fallen and broken her wrist earlier in the morning! The video clips show the actual conversations we had together.

Opening Theme   Cairine R

Welcome to ‘The End of the World Show!’ – Dick P

Audience Music  Holy Holy Holy   # 2

Opening Dialogue

 Our service today is in the form of a late night talk show, except that this is late in history, an end times talk show. And all our talk is about God, who is coming back, once again in Jesus form. So may this still be a way for us to value God, venerate Jesus, & verify our hope in salvn.

We have a number of guests coming on stage this morning, here at Digby Baptist Church, all familiar faces to you who are regulars here. (Welcome to you, today, who are new to us!) We have some local singers who have been working together musically for years now. We have a busy mother of two who is also an educator. We have one of the most thoughtful eighty-year-olds I know, who does not know how to retire. And we have a recent retiree who has worked in the military, in bussing, and in bylaw enforcement, to mention a few careers.

As usual, of course, at the Casavant console we have our very own Cairine Robertson, carrying our music along as she controls the keyboards. 

But first, let us acknowledge again our great Guest, the living Spirit of God. Let’s Pray.

Wonderful Holy One, amazing as it is, You welcome us here today! Glory and praise to You! May we be drawn to You as we talk together, share music, pray, and hang out here. Forgive our distracted ways, and the greed we have that wants to serve ourselves. Let this time be us serving You, worshipping You, seeking & finding You. As we look once more at the finale of life as we know it, reveal the truth, give us an ‘apocalypse.’ In the name of Jesus, the returning One. Amen.

Musical Guests Heather P & Margo N “Holy Is The Lord”

Thank you for your musical offering, Margo and Heather. Great to have you as part of ‘the show’ today, remembering the audience of One: this is all for God! Now, before we talk for a moment, let me set the scene with ‘Fire and Ice’ by famed poet, Robert Frost.

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

Today is the finale of our five week series about Last Things, our August Apocalypse. I have talked with you a bit, Heather, about ‘last things.’ I know you have some thoughts about last week here. I pointed out the challenge of understanding how the final judgment fits in with us, if we have already relied upon Christ Jesus for salvation by grace through faith. Are we really to be judged for all the things we did or did not do? Aren’t we already forgiven, now?

Later in the show we are going to hear from Revelation 21, which gives us a vision of the new heavens and a new earth. Most scriptural teaching points to earth as our eternal dwelling place. It speaks of the renewal of the earth and the heavens. It is not so much the destruction of the earth – as is so common in our cultural imagination – but a recreation. Remember Paul wrote this, in what we call Romans chapter 8:

22…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

There will be a resurrection, and new life, forever. We put this together with various things Jesus said. I know you have some thoughts about this, Heather, as we wonder about Jesus’ promise of many mansions or dwelling places for His disciples, that He makes ready for them….

That’s great. I remember when you shared that in the Monday Study Group. Now, before we move on, do you have anything apocalyptic you’d like to ask of me?

Thanks again, Heather. May Jesus be near you in Spirit. I hope we’ll have you back again soon!

Audience Music All Hail, King Jesus

Children’s Moment J G White

Guest Alison V – Rev. 21:1-14 

Welcome, Alison, to this talk show for the End of the World! You have just shared with us a pivotal scripture about ‘last things.’ Thanks for that. This finale of the Revelation vision is certainly happy and beautiful, after many chapters of struggle and harsh images. 

I confess that, through the years, I have been all over the map when it comes to what I think about the afterlife. As a Christian, I see these two New Testament teachings: We die and go to be with God. ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise,’ said Jesus to a thief on a neighbouring cross. And second, we die, and await the resurrection day, when we get our new, spiritual bodies. Paul, for one, talks at length about this in 1 Corinthians 15.

See what I mean, Alison?

Wise sages, through the centuries, have put these together in a few different ways. I guess I think the most important thing is the final destination, the final form. This gets symbolized at the end of Revelation as the New Heavens and New Earth, the New Holy City that ‘comes down,’ the River of Life, and so on. I think that what this actually will mean, in reality, is a mystery.

Tell us, what things about ‘The End’ give you hope or attract your attention?

Great, Alison, that’s cool. So much of our hope is about relationships – who we will be with in eternity, and what shape we’ll be in, without suffering or grief or pain. Now, just one last thing I wonder. Is there something else you’d like answered about ‘last things?’ 

Well, we thank you so much for joining us today. Please hang around as we bring other guests on, Al.

Audience Music There’s Something About That Name #104

Guest Maggie B – Mark 13:21-37

Thanks for the reading, Maggie. Great to have you and Mike here today. This is certainly an apocalyptic bit from Jesus. This chapter gets called Mark’s little apocalypse, and the material has its parallels in Matthew and Luke. I know, as we’ve talked about this, you pick up on a number of interesting things. The whole question of when or how soon is still confusing for some people. Here, Jesus speaks of ‘this generation’ not passing away before things happen. What has helped you come to terms with this?

Very interesting. I guess I myself have thought there must be some sense in which ‘this generation’ that does not pass away is a long-term group. Or else, Jesus was speaking of some things being fulfilled in the near future, like the fall of Jerusalem that happened in AD 70.

I have had this sense, for years, that some Biblical prophecy gets fulfilled more than once. There is a prediction. It happens a few years later, sort of. Then, more years later, something else happens that fulfills it. And maybe, at ‘the end of the age,’ the biggest, most complete fulfillment will happen. 

I think, for instance, of the words of Joel 2 in the OT. I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophecy… The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood… All that. In about AD 30 Jesus quotes the first verse, and seems to be talking about ‘the last things.’ Then, just a year or two later, Peter preaches a sermon on the next verses, saying this explains what was happening that day in Jerusalem, the day of Pentecost. Joel 2 prophecy happened back in AD 30 and also still in our future.

Maggie, you come to us with a wide experience of Christianity: Baptist, Brethren, even fellowship with Roman Catholics in Bible Study. You’ve lived across Canada, and overseas. I’m interested in what you have seen and learned in other fellowships. I wonder, does anything else jump out at you from Mark 13, and demand your attention?  

Thanks for that. Now, is there anything you want to ask of me, ever so briefly?

We’re grateful you came on stage, Mags. Bless you! 

Just before we bring up our final guest, let me celebrate the ministries that are upcoming:

Next Sunday… What should our scripture be? Theme?

You get to help choose. If you think of some scripture you think we should explore, or a theme, write it down…

Other ministry to celebrate… (as in Bulletin)

Prayer Guest – Dick P

Welcome, Dick. Before you lead us in prayer, I wanted to chat with you for a minute too. Today, we finally look into the final destination: the new heavens and earth, the Holy City: New Jerusalem, all this in the last two chapters of the Bible. Streets of gold, twelve gates of pearl, the Son of God as the Lamb, and the Light that brightened the whole place: it’s all here. What visions of the afterlife have inspired and been most important to you?

Now, all the Bible and Church teaching about ‘last things’ is so diverse and complicated. I don’t want people to be led astray, to be confused, or to be overly fearful of all this stuff. I mean, here is a story told by one Bible scholar. 

There was this well-known radio Bible teacher in the US, Harold Camping, who various times has predicted the date of Jesus’ second coming… (1994 and 2011 for instance) …and the end of the world as we know it. …there was a family physician in the 1990s who was such a devout follower of Harold Camping, and was therefore so convinced that Jesus would return in 1994, that he talked ceaselessly about it with his patients, spent his free time getting ready for the end, and eventually let his entire staff go, since they clearly would have no work to do after September 1994. (Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly, 2011, xii)

Dick, what do you think might be some ways for us believers to be alert and watching and prepared for Jesus.

Thanks, Dick. Now, are you ready to lead us in prayer?

Now, as we offer up our closing song together, let me gather up the suggestions for next Sunday’s sermon…

Audience Music Who Is On the Lord’s Side? #666

Sign Off

Now, the show is over – our service is just beginning for the week. Before we end, let’s draw and see what our scripture text or topic may be for next Sunday…

Now:  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (1 Thess 5:23, 28)

Closing Theme Cairine Robertson

Daily Prayer: Aug 28

1 Corinthians 5:6-7 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight.

All Seeing God, this Saturday I see before me many things. The opportunities of the day, of the last bits of August, and of a whole new month ahead. I see the recent past, what the summer has held, and what has been missing in this unusual year.

I pray, once again, for people with vision problems, and for those having eye surgeries and treatments to improve or preserve vision.

You also remind me, now, of the ‘walking by faith’ of my ‘inner life.’ I quiet myself now, before You, to count the ways I take steps of faith each week… Show me, Spirit of truth, what ways I have trusted, put my confidence in You, felt fear but acted anyway. And keep on training me in the school of discipleship, for the sake of the mission I have in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Aug 27

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

God, You are my soul’s true home. You give many promises about this earthly life, with its limitations. Thank You for the incredible visions of the afterlife, all throughout scripture. I pray now for people who give little thought for their eternal dwelling, and for those who are fearful about this.

But also, Merciful One, I remember there are many homeless people in this day and age, in this life. As people living in tents in Halifax are sent packing, I wonder what can be done to help. I wonder, dear Master, about people who are homeless in rural areas, and small towns. I wonder what I can say or do to make a difference in someone’s life. Inspire and embolden me, I pray. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Aug 26

Matthew 10:7 He said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

‘O God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You.’ As I pray at this moment, I turn my attention to You. I claim You as mine, believing You claim me as Your own. Thanks and praise to You for faithfully loving me and remaining close.

In the moments and the day ahead, Master, I will be paying attention to myself, and those I meet. How shall I stay with You in each of these conversations? How can I remain faithful when I am thinking and thinking? How shall You teach me to do both of these at once: pay attention to people and pay attention to You, my God and King? Be my guide and inspiration, by Christ’s mercy. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Aug 25

1 Timothy 5:4 Put [your] religion into practice by caring for [your] own family.

Mighty God, my Heavenly Father, who cares more profoundly than any earthly parent, this new day I rejoice in You. Some of the storms of life are over and past: You have preserved me. Some of the challenges are just around the corner: You have prepared and trained me. Some of the troubles are off in the future: You’ve got ‘the whole world in Your hands.’

At this moment, I pause to think of how I care for others: family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, strangers I meet. By the Holy Spirit, may I see a bit more of how my spirituality is lived out in these relationships. This week, may I put into practice the Faith I profess. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Aug 24

Matthew 6:28, 30 See how the flowers of the field grow… Will he not much more clothes you?

Creator, the August flowers of the field carpet the landscape, with the bees buzzing around them, and the birds flocking. They are getting rained upon today, refreshing them. Thank You for this scene, a joy and an inspiration.

These days some families who have lost a beloved one are gathering, or planning to gather, to say goodbye. Dear saints such as Bernie, Mary, Ronnie, and Jack are being grieved and celebrated at last. Refresh their families, in spirit, I pray. I give thanks that people are finally getting together for funerals, as well as weddings and other celebrations. May we do so safely. May those who are not able to be with the others be strengthened in spirit. And may I find my own best ways to mark the end of lives, and the new beginnings, of my friends and family. In the name of Christ. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Aug 23

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Holy Jesus: Master, Teacher, Lord and Friend, to You I look as the new week is beginning. When I meet a friend, may I pay good and kind attention to them. When I meet an acquaintance, may I be more interested in them than in how I appear to them. When I meet someone for the first time, may I allow them to show themselves to me, rather than me jumping to conclusions. When I meet someone who is more of an enemy to me, may I discover Your grace and care for them.

Today, once more, the conflict and struggle in Afghanistan is in my thoughts. I pray that the country will not be a haven for extremists. The Taliban government of 20 years ago are known enablers of extremist organizations. With their newfound control over Afghanistan, the country could be host to a new generation of terror groups. May it not be so, there, or anywhere. And may we who look on from a distance see all others through Your eyes, O Christ. Amen.

Worship, Aug 22 – The Final Judgment

Welcome to this post for Sunday, Aug 22 at Digby Baptist Church. Here is the text and video of the sermon for the day.

Some people are so judgmental; you can tell just by looking at them!

Why are taller people more judgmental? They look down on people.

Never judge a book by its cover; use the paragraph on the back, it tells you what the story is all about.

Well, it is judgment day. Time to talk about the Last Judgment. An essential element of ‘Last Things’ in Christian teaching.

Years ago, I lived on King Street in Windsor, across from the local courthouse. On days when court was in session, and you’d see people all day long going in and out and hanging around, a local fellow I knew always called that ‘judgment day.’

Well, the eternal court is in session, in the Bible scenes we read today. Jesus tells His parable of the judgment of the nations, with the sheep and the goats, each with their own fate. And in Revelation 20 we have the vision of the Great White Throne Judgment.

Court cases and judgments and lawsuits and all scare me a bit. I know so little about it all, and I have never been to court. I want to avoid these things, I guess. There are many reasons anyone might fear the judgment of God, and a final judgment for us and the rest of the world.

But in our scripture story, the judgment of God is hoped for, pleaded for, and people looked forward to it. 

The Psalms are full of this. We already spoke Ps. 7.

Psalm 96:12-13 Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming,

    for he is coming to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

    and the peoples with his truth.

In many scenes, a person calls out, longingly, hopefully, for God the Judge to arrive and judge the people. I think of Mary, when she rejoices about the baby to be born to her. She says these things about God:

Luke 1:52-53 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

    and sent the rich away empty.

This was Mary’s faith in the LORD, and in what the Lord’s Messiah would do. The work of the Judge of the universe is a good thing, scripturally. Cause for much rejoicing!

Who is it that rejoices? Well, the ones who were downtrodden, mistreated, used and abused. The poor and oppressed. The minority and those who’ve suffered the prejudice of others. 

There’s a clue right in that word: prejudice. Pre-judge. So people of faith trust their God to make things right. That’s the good news about judgment, righteous judgment, the judgment of God. Past, present, future, and final judgment. The Master will make things right and good.

The fear and danger comes when we have a sense that we are among the ones to be judged for what we’ve done wrong. Then the terrifying imagery of biblical apocalypse adds to our dread of doom. Not to mention our teaching from scriptures that say things like … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) So, every one of us might be in trouble, in danger, found wanting, and found guilty! 

Then, the scenes of Revelation 20 put the actual ‘fear of God’ into us. (Revelation 20:12) And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

Even a parable of Jesus can alarm us. (Matthew 25)

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

The sense of feeling judgment and feeling judged is far different from the sense of your enemies being judged and you being vindicated and set free. And the dramatic visions of final judgment we have are so harsh, at times. 

The book of the Revelation is filled with violent judgment images and language. As one Bible scholar put it, “there is far too much destroying in the Apocalypse. It ceases to be fun.” (Warren Carter, The Roman Empire and the New Testament, 2006, p. 135.) This has been one main source of criticism of the book of Revelation. 

The repetition of destruction, all the scenes from chapter six through twenty, are not necessarily chronological, or even a whole bunch of separate events. They are visions that make the same point, over and over again. Seven seals on scrolls to be broken, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath, can be pictures that are making the same point. “Babylon,” symbolizing the enemy powers in the world, is doomed. “Babylon is doomed, nothing is more certain!”

 Some Bible scholars through the centuries have developed detailed systems of explaining all the judgment scenes we find. Such as C. I. Schofield, in his famous reference Bible, which lists seven especially significant Biblical judgments, two of which we read today, in Matthew 25 and Revelation 21: the judgment of the nations at the return of Christ, and the judgment of the wicked dead at the end of the age.

I am not a dispensationalist like Schofield, or LaHaye and Jenkins, or Hagee.  I side with others, who see these various apocalyptic judgment scenes all speaking of one thing. There simply is judgment and reckoning of all things, of all of us. The Revelation 20 scene of the White Throne Judgment tells us the final decision and results that God will bring about. Evil will surely be overthrown.

You might well ask me, or someone else, “but what do Baptists teach about this stuff?” I’m so glad you asked!

We don’t agree; we don’t teach just one thing. I’ve heard it said: put two Baptists together… and you’ll get three opinions! We Baptists are so diverse. The futurist, predicting, prophecy, dispensational views have been very popular with Baptists in North America. But others of us explain things quite differently. 

Here, in Atlantic Canada, when two large Baptist groups joined in 1905 and 1906, we agreed upon this, in our document, The Basis of Union.

There will be a general judgement of quick and dead, of the just and the unjust, on the principles of righteousness, by the Lord Jesus Christ, at His second coming. The wicked will be condemned to eternal punishment, and the righteous received into fullness of eternal life and joy.

This allows for a variety of teachings on “last things,” including details of the final judgment.

Now, before this sermon ends, let’s deal with one more detail. If so much of the judgement is upon what people have done and not done, is there still any grace to save us? Why is there still judgment according to what we’ve done? I mean, I have always believed that we are saved by grace through faith: what Jesus has done gets us into the eternal kingdom, not what we have done. 

Yet we find this in scripture this frequent, clear teaching: 2 Corinthians 5:10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. See also 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, and Romans 14:10. Not to mention Jesus in Matthew 25!

I’ve been working on this for some days now, and I can’t yet explain it. It is, to oversimplify it, ‘both and.’ We are both saved by God’s grace by putting our confidence in Jesus to redeem us and make us worthy now and on judgment day. And there is also a judgment day, revealing how we’ve lived our lives. 

The popular British scholar, N. T. Wright, tries to explain it this way. “Justification by faith is what happens in the present time, anticipating the verdict of the future day when God judges the world.” (Surprised By Hope, 2008, p. 140)

I am still trying to get my head around this. I have been asking Jesus about this. I will keep seeking.

At the very least, I can figure out two things. One: even when we are Christians, believers, born again, it matters how we live our lives. Just go back to Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ where He says things like this: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

And second: we can be happy with who it is who judges us and the whole world: it is Jesus!  

N. T. Wright again: …the one through whom God’s justice will finally sweep the world is not a hard-hearted, arrogant, or vengeful tyrant but rather the Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with grief; the Jesus who loved sinners and died for them; the Messiah who took the world’s judgment upon himself on the cross. (Ibid, p. 141)

Three ‘parables.’ I suppose the Final Judgment will be like a junior high student, taken to the school office when caught smoking up in a bathroom. The Principal was busy, so she gets taken to the Vice Principal, who happens to be her own beloved mother.

The Day of Reckoning shall be like the fishing boat caught in a sudden, foggy storm that blows in, and then all the navigation equipment fails. After a long and frightful journey, and hope seems to be lost, the sound of waves on dangerous rocks gives way to calmer waters, and the boatmen recognize they have inadvertently entered the Digby Gut, the safety of their familiar haven.

And the Last Judgment will be as when a distressed shopper is trying to buy some groceries for the family, but at the checkout the debit card says “not approved,” because the bank account is empty! Suddenly, the next person in the lineup turns out to be a dear friend, who pays for the order.

“The judge will be Christ.” As Frederick Beuchner said, “In other words, the one who judges us most fully will be the one who loves us most fully.” (Wishful Thinking, 1973, p. 48)

PRAYERS of the People: Let us   pray.

Jesus, You are full of love. You offer Yourself to us and the world. Your promises are sure and faithful and good. Again today, we praise Your. 

Take the things we offer today, and use them well. Our gifts for the Church offering. The attention we have paid to the word of scripture. The plans we have shared for which we will now be working. 

Christ, our coming Judge, we admit the ways we know we are failing. We also admit that we probably have no idea about some of our sins. Our hearts speak to You because we also need to know the next right steps to take, and we are unsure. May Your sacrifice of salvation for us be such a sure thing, in our lives. May we become all the more like You, and so really be Christians. 

Hearer of Prayer, we give our heart’s concerns to You now. Hear our hopes and longings for these people and places…

Afghanistan and those who flee

Victims of fire and earthquake and flood

Candidates and workers in our upcoming federal election

Daily Prayer: Aug 20

Luke 7:21 Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind.

Creator and King over the virus, the volcano, the vole and the vireo: in my talk with You today I wonder about the dangers of this world. So much of creation seems in competition, and fights, one thing over another. The latest virus and its variants keeps the world’s attention, and keeps prayerful people praying. How long? What’s next? What to do?

I give thanks, Holy One, that we have been so safe here in Nova Scotia. Now, I pray for the sick people of Afganistan. Though underreported in international media, Covid-19 cases are spiking in the country and hospitals are limited in what they can offer. There is no certainty as to how the healthcare system will be able to sustain itself with the new Taliban government. O how I pray that the healthcare system will not collapse. In the name of Jesus, the Great Physician. Amen.