Are We There Yet?

A brief stop in Nebraska when the kids were young

“Are we there yet?” That was the dreaded question I heard over and over from my kids as our family drove on long trips years ago. I would bite my tongue and try to patiently state, “We’ve only driven for one hour and have 7 more to go.”

I wonder if Jesus felt like me as his disciples continued to ask if it was time for Israel to get back on top. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) they asked right after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Was now the time when big, bad Jesus would take control and put the world back to normal?

It’s easy to look down on the disciples but aren’t we just like them? God is on the move, but we want change to happen quickly.

The reality is we live in the now and not yet. Satan has been defeated at the cross. The Father has poured out the Spirit. We do live in the last days when people from every corner of our planet can know God personally. This is dramatic!

But we want more because we see so much poverty and oppression and evil in the world. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we get frustrated internally as we see the sin in our own lives. And we want to ask, just like the disciples, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom? Isn’t it time to end violence? Isn’t it time for my struggle with lust and anger and bitterness and depression to end?”

And God’s answer is “Yes” it’s time for evil to end. But God’s answer is also “No” for we will continue to struggle until that final day of the Lord. The Spirit has been given to all of God’s people just as He promised. But we are also waiting for another dramatic day when evil will be done away with and when peace will be ultimately restored.

And for now, the children of God live with the hope of the promised Spirit as our helper and comforter. And our Father understands as we cry out again and again, “Are we there yet?” or to use the Psalmist words, “How long, O Lord?” (Psalms 13, 35, 89, etc.)

Feasting with Jesus

I love the fact that we eat together after New City’s worship service each week.  As I walk around the hall, I see that our table fellowship is full of laughter and good conversation.

Our weekly feasts are a reminder that God is preparing a really huge feast for us – a wedding feast!  Revelation 19:9 states:
‘And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”’

I can imagine that our Sunday evening meals are just a little preview of the “marriage supper of the Lamb.”  New City’s dinners are only a preview because I sometimes see tears and awkward conversations around the tables.

Thankfully, these will come to an end as every tear is wiped away and we’re unified in our worship of King Jesus.  But for now, these meals are important times for God’s people. Important as we build bonds together. Important because we feed hungry bodies. And important because they remind us of the coming meal we’ll have with Jesus. 

I give thanks for the time we have to feed our physical bodies after we’ve received spiritual nourishment.  My prayer is that the Spirit would be at work each Sunday – from the time we walk into the hall to set up, during our formal worship, through our meal and even as we clean up.

Join us on a Sunday evening for a meal with Jesus. Come hungry and by God’s grace, leave with your belly and your heart full.

Great Grace AND Great Sin

As part of our sermon series through the book of Acts at New City IPC, I preached chapter 4:32 to chapter 5:11 recently. In preparation, I printed out the text without the chapter break and over time noticed the unity in Luke’s writing that I had missed before.

Who decided that the story should be broken at the end of Acts 4?

Originally, the bible did not have chapters. The modern chapter divisions were added in the 1200’s. There is nothing wrong with chapters but we must be careful not to always break books of the bible down into little bite-sized chunks which interrupt the writer’s flow.

If we read chapter 4 verse 32 to chapter 5 verse 11 as one continual unit, we might note some things.  What’s the first word of chapter 5? “But” (δὲ in greek) is a conjugation which pulls together the ideas before and after it.

And what are those two ideas Luke is pulling together?

The church has generous community life BUT it is also mixed with sinful people. In any true church of Jesus Christ, we find a combination of wonderful love and self sacrifice along with sinful people who will deeply hurt each other.

Barnabas sells his field and gives the money to the church (Great grace!)  Ananias and Sapphira sell their piece of property but pridefully lie about the details so they could get the glory (Great sin!)

Back to back are the stories of great grace AND great sin in the church. Luke is making a point which I missed for many years. Great grace AND great sin reside, and will always reside, in the same family of believers. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error (WCF 25.5)

Luke gives us a glimpse of the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin as this couple immediately die for their prideful claims. But before this, Luke reminds us that in the church we will see extraordinary examples of God’s grace impacting His people in practical ways.

May you never be surprised at the grace grace AND the great sin you see in any church that is faithful to the gospel. And may God continue to grow churches full of people impacted by grace despite the fact that great sin will be there as well.

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