Week Commencing Sunday 26th August

Week Commencing Sunday 26th July 2020

Call to worship

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1: 3, 4

Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus, our risen Saviour, we rejoice in your mighty victory over sin and death: you are the Prince of Life; you are alive for evermore. Help us to know your presence in our worship, and to receive your power in our lives; until we rise to live with you for ever.”

Opening Hymn.

 

See what a morning, gloriously bright
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes
Tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God’s salvation plan, wrought in love,
Borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man, for He lives,
Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping: ‘Where is He laid?
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name:
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope,
Bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit
Who clothes faith with certainty,
Honour and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned
With power and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won
Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJLQbNhWMQ0

 

Reading. Luke 14:15-24

14 15When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

 

Song

 

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of you be still?

Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing, Hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of you be still?

Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing, Hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Bart Marshall Millard

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=BRPGRdbGHSs&feature=emb_logo
 

 


 

Sermon. ‘Heaven’

Jesus resurrection is the promise of our resurrection from the dead. Jesus said ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ John 11:25, 26.

Jesus wonderful promise remind us that salvation is a gift which we receive from God freely, even though He purchased that salvation for us at great cost to Himself. We enter heaven because Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant and we trust in the merits of His atoning sacrifice (Hebrews 12:24). Those who enter heaven do so because heaven is now their inheritance (on putting our faith in Christ for salvation we are not only counted as ‘justified’ (Acts 13:39; Rom.3:24-26, 8:3) before God, we are also His adopted ‘sons and daughters’ and call Him ‘Father’ (Rom.8:14-17, Gal.3:26). So we inherit heaven because we are part of His family. We do not enter by legal right, but through Christ’s promise (again see John 11:25, 26 above, also Galatians 3:18). It is not by legal right because we could not earn entry through our own merits (Matthew 25: 37-39).

So we rejoice in the Lord’s extraordinary generosity, grace and mercy He has shown to us, since, through faith in Him today, we are now assured of our entrance into heaven.

The early Christians knew the reality of heaven, so much so, that it influenced their attitudes here; especially in the way they dealt with loss. In AD 125, a Greek named Aristides wrote to a friend about Christianity, explaining why this new religion was so successful: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby”

Those early believers didn’t make this existence their home. Neither must we. Rather we must respond to God’s voice which prepares us for our true, forever home. Where things do not change/pass away, where there is no more tears or pain but rather permanence and eternal bliss.

Psalm 39 David says “Man’s life is but a breath”. Picture a single breath escaping your mouth on a cold day and dissipating into the air. Such is the brevity of life here. Therefore everything we look at here should be looked at in the light of what is to come. Our problem is that all our attention is fixed on this life- when we really need to believe Christ’s promises that we will live forever and see his work in our lives within this context. This earth is not our home. We are just passing through. The Apostle Paul faced much trial in his ministry and also accomplished much for the Lord here, but he always had this eternal perspective:

“To me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Phil.1:21, 23).

“As long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…We….would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor.5:6,8).

Let’s think about aging. I’m now 58, and all the things they say about aging are coming true! Here is one man’s description. “..dental problems, intestinal malfunctions, muscle deterioration, emotional instability, memory lapses, hearing and vision loss, seizures, growths, prostate problems, greatly reduced limb function, massive coronary failure and death”

Aging is no fun. But in this as with other areas of our lives we must think of it in terms of eternity. We must remember that we can’t take these bodies with us to our forever home. This body must die so that we can receive new bodies which are perfectly designed for our true home. “I declare to you brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (I Cor.15:50).

Paul in 1 Cor.12, describes the resurrection body. “What does this resurrection body look like? We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a dead seed, soon there is a flourishing plant. ..You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seed there are different kinds of bodies- humans, animals, birds, fish- each unprecedented in its form…..and we’re only looking at pre resurrection seeds- who can imagine what the resurrection plants will be like….keep in mind that when we’re raised, were raised for good, alive for ever. The corpse that is planted is no beauty, but when raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural- same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!” (The Message translation. Eugene Peterson)

So, our bodies grow frail. But we do not despair. This is not an end. It is a beginning. The heavenly hosts look on anticipating our resurrection and rejuvenation. The dead seed will blossom and flourish. Soon we will be home.

At the moment our bodies are part of the whole creation which in its present form is subject to bondage and decay (Romans 8:21). There the creation is likened to a woman in labour, and we believers “groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” So although, it’s wonderful that there is healing here- through God given medical means or even miraculous healing. Clearly these forms of healing are temporary at best. The full redemption of our bodies will only take place after we have been raised from the dead.

My brother had severe schizophrenia from his early 20s and died aged 42. Because of that mental disease he never had a full life here. Very limited in what he could do. Tied to the residential home, often suffering from fearful paranoia and delusion. That disease is part of the Fall (see Update 19/3 ‘God and Viruses’ for more on the Fall). It wasn’t part of God’s original creation. It meant suffering and premature death for my brother here. But the truth that kept my mother and helped me when Trevor died, was her assurance, that now Trevor would be free of such disease, and he would be the man God had always intended to be. With unending opportunity to do all those things he never was able to do here on earth. His mind and body fully redeemed/restored. That outlook has helped Elizabeth and I with regard to our autistic son Michael. He is looked after well here. But his full potential will be in eternity, when he is no longer saddled by autism. The Michael God always intended.  

Similarly, when we think of our forever home, it helps us to deal with feelings of injustice in this life. So, the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In this life, Lazarus was a beggar covered with sores who lay at the rich man’s gate, longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. The rich man lived in luxury every day. But their eternal destinies are reversed (Also see Update 16/7). In this life many gain advantages through no merit of their own. Much depends on what country you are born in, home advantages, parenting, wealth. ‘Who you know’. Social status. Others are born into poverty and have little opportunity. Those with character and industry may improve their lot, but equally they can be taken advantage of in this life.

There are Christians who have left everything to serve their Lord. Some have been martyred. But in our forever home, all who have lived by faith here layup treasure in eternity. In Hebrews 12, there are a list of all those who lived by faith. Many well-known names are given as well as unknown. They made amazing sacrifices because of their faith, some were honoured here, many were not. The point the writer makes is that none of these heroes of faith received what he had been promised. Only in eternity, with us, will they receive what has been promised.  Those who have served faithfully, loved deeply, will be given greater responsibility in the after- life (Luke 19:11-26).

Those considered to be of no account, insignificant here will be the heroes of eternity. Billy Graham was asked by a cynical reporter if he would be one of the 2 seated with Christ in eternity. Graham said he believed those places would be occupied by people no one knew here- perhaps a little old lady who had continually prayed day in day out over many years.

So we must keep looking towards our heavenly heaven. In 1952 Florence Chadwick set off swimming in the Pacific Ocean from Catalina Island. She wanted to swim to the shore of mainland California. She had already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly, she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. She swam for 15 hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water, her mother told her she was close and she could make it. But exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. Only as the fog cleared did she see she was only half a mile away. She said “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could see the shore, I would have made it”.

Are you feeling burdened, depressed, traumatised through some loss or some kind of injustice? Look to your eternal home. Keep that shore in view and keep going. There all will be righted and all will be glorious

So too with our environment. Although we are called to be good stewards of the earth, greed and human destructiveness compromise that stewardship here. But we will live in a new heaven and new earth in eternity (Isaiah 65:17, Rev 21:1). It will be Paradise regained- but greater and more glorious than Eden. Here are some theological reflections on the new environment we will enjoy:

John Piper. “God promises that the glory of his people will demand a glorious creation to live in. So the fallen creation will obtain the very freedom from futility and evil and pain that the church is given. So when God makes all things new, he makes us new spiritually and morally, he makes us new physically, and then he makes the whole creation new so that our environment fits our perfected spirits and bodies”

John Hoekema. “Since where God dwells, there heaven is, we conclude that in the life to come heaven and earth will no longer be separated, as they are now, but will be merged. Believers will continue to be in heaven as they continue to live on the new earth”

Randy Alcorn in his book ‘Heaven’ acknowledges that Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us and would take us there to live with him forever (John 14:2, 3) But he asks “What is that place? Revelation 21 makes it clear- it’s the new earth. That’s where the New Jerusalem will reside when it comes down out of heaven. Only then will we be truly home” He brings out the sense of our feeling really at home when we enter heaven, once we realise that home will be on the new earth. He adds: “If heaven is truly our home, we should expect it to have the qualities we associate with home. Home as a place for heaven isn’t simply a metaphor. It describes an actual, physical place- a place promised and built by our bridegroom; a place we’ll share with loved ones; a place of fond familiarity and comfort and refuge; a place of marvellous smells and tastes, fine food and great conversation; a place of contemplation and interaction and expressing the gifts and passions that God has given us. It’s a place of unprecedented freedom and adventure. The unbiblical stereotypes as a vague, incorporeal existence hurt us far more than we realise….Our doctrine dresses up men and women in bodies, then gives them no place to go” (456,457, “Heaven”)

The Parables of the Wedding Feast and the Great Banquet are used in reference to heaven (Lk.12.Lk.14, Mt.22). If Heaven is our true home, it will also be like going to a party. Christians who are terminally ill here think they are leaving the party before it’s over. They have to go home early. They’re disappointed, thinking of all they’ll miss when they leave. But the real party is underway at home- exactly where they are going. They are not the ones missing the party; those of us left behind are. Occasionally, a few at a time, we will disappear from this world. Those we leave will grieve that their loved ones have left home. In reality, their believing loved ones aren’t leaving home, they’re going home. They’ll be home before us. We will be arriving at the party a little later. Jesus said “Blessed are those who weep now, for you will laugh” (Lk.6:21) and “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10) laughter and rejoicing- a party awaits us.

C.S Lewis writes well of that yearning within us which no earthly pleasure can satisfy. It is that yearning for our true home. “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else”

Essentially heaven is our home because God is there. In one sense David enjoyed heaven before he got there. He knew the Lord’s presence with him, as we do. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Ps.27:4). The house of the Lord is the presence of God. And we too, in this life can find our dwelling place in the Lord. He is here as our Rock and Refuge. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for us and leads us. But then- in heaven- we will see him face to face; “what wonder what transport when Jesus we see!”

Keeping in view our heavenly destination will influence the way we live here. Paul says “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead. I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heaven ward in Christ Jesus” (Phil.3:14). We no longer set our minds on earthly things- living selfishly and just for our own pleasure. But we love God and our neighbour with all our hearts, souls and minds. We live godly lives, according to the values of the Kingdom rather than the ways of the world. We live our lives in light of eternity, living in such ways that He will be able to say to us in heaven “Well done good and faithful servant.” That day when with scarred hand he’ll wipe every tear from your eye, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In the final book of the Narnia series, “The last battle”, Jill and Eustace are travelling on a train, when suddenly they are thrust into Narnia. When their adventure is over, the children- having experienced the joys and wonders of Narnia and the presence of Aslan, the great lion- are afraid they will be sent back to earth again. Then Aslan says “There was a real railway accident “Your father and mother and all of you are- as you used to call it in the Shadowlands- dead. The term is over the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning. And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning chapter 1 of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24

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Prayers

Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life. I know that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. No longer will I close the door when I hear you knocking. By faith I gratefully receive your gift of salvation. I am ready to trust you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth. I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. I believe your words are true. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and be my Saviour. Amen. (Ray Pritchard)

 

Father, I thank You that because of who we are in Christ Jesus, we do not have to be filled with despair and worry over the things going on in the world today. I thank You Lord, that you are here to protect us and that You also have Your angels encamped around and about us - there is no need to be fearful.
You said Lord, that we would have trials and tribulations while we are here, but You said too be of good cheer for You have overcome the world for us; and as a child of God we have been given rights and privileges while we are on this earth.
You have equipped us with everything we need, to gain Victory over every situation and there is wonderful joy ahead even though we must endure these trials for a while. When it’s time to go home, you have prepared a place just for us. You said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you..." and you have promised never to abandon us like orphans. You have promised to return for us. Thank You Jesus! Amen. (Jo Ramsay)

 

Hymn

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
Refrain:
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.


Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
Refrain:
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.


No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
Refrain:
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Edmund Budry. R Birch Hall. World Student Christian Federation

 

Prayer

Lord of all life and power who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Christ Jesus, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour glory and might, now and all eternity.

Blessing

May the light of Christ, rising in glory scatter the darkness of our hearts and minds, and may the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, rest upon and be with us always. Amen

David Barnes 23/7/20