Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bringing our Mission and Vision into Focus

By Eric Amundson
Leadership Team Chairman

Not long ago I received a message from Pastor Johan early on a Saturday morning, “Are you available to meet today, I’ve got something I need to share with you.” Little did I know that conversation was to be the unveiling of God’s focused Mission and Vision of our church. When we got together, Johan shared what God had put on his heart in the middle of the night and my immediate response was, “That’s it! That’s who we are.” I had no doubt that what he was sharing was indeed inspired. After parting I sat down to unpack what he had told me and put into words what the Mission and Vision I had heard meant to me. 2 days later I shared that with Johan over breakfast and watched as he broke down in tears. His response was, “That’s exactly what’s on my heart."

Two weeks later Johan shared his heart with the other pastors and then the Leadership Team. I believe everyone was brought to tears that night. It was the most powerful and emotional church meeting I've experienced. To the person we all said, “That’s it!” We knew that the Holy Spirit was at work.

Now we have the privilege to share this Mission and Vision with you and trust that you too will say, “That’s it! That’s who we are and what God is calling us to be!”

My prayer is that you will not simply hear it but that you will take time to reflect on it, chew on it, unpack it and wrestle with it and come up with your own understanding of what it means to you. How does it speak to your heart? How will it impact your ministry? Our Vision as a church is to be “A contagious community of Jesus love”. That will only happen when we are living out our Mission of “Helping people discover, live and share the love of Jesus”… and that begins with you and I first loving one another.

So what does it mean to me?

“Helping people discover, live and share the love of Jesus"

Our Mission as a church is to love on people. To show people, not just tell them, of God’s life changing love for his creation and specifically for them. He calls us as his followers to be the living expression of that love in a hurting world, living it out in witness so others will see it and want to know Jesus. As they come to know His love for them we want to help them embrace that love and live into that love because Christ’s love brings restoration, healing, change and peace. As we live into God’s love, it fills us, transforms us and overflows to those we encounter. This is our desire, to see people restored to the point that God’s love is so prevalent and real in all aspects of their life that it overflows to all they encounter.

“A contagious community reflecting the love of Jesus”

Our Vision is the manifested result of truly living out our Mission. We want to create a COMMUNITY that people are so excited about they will want all their friends to experience it. If we become a COMMUNITY that truly loves on people, that expends all of our energy on helping people know and live into God’s love, people will want to share that and invite others to experience that love because true love is contagious. Can we do this on our own? No. But God can! He can transform our hearts, our ministries, our attitudes. The work has already been started…RFKC, Church under the bridge, River of Life, Local Serve, Life Groups, and so much more but we need to sharpen our focus and constantly ask, “How does this help someone discover, live or share the love of Jesus?” and “Will this contribute to building a community that is reflecting Christ's love and that people are excited to have their friends experience?” 

What does our Mission and Vision mean to you? As you unpack these statement for yourself I invite you to share your heart with us buy clicking the button below.

Together we CAN become a contagious community reflecting the love of Jesus!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The End in Revelation...What to expect when you are expecting?

Revelation 21

    I remember Brenda reading the book “ What to expect when you are expecting.” As she anticipated the birth of Nathaniel and got closer to 9 months we read that Nathaniel by now hears echoes, faint sounds and rumblings of a brand new world that he will soon be born into. As we think about the world to come, the new Jerusalem, the new heavens and the new earth, we find ourselves in the same place. We wonder what the world is like on the other side. Like John we hear echoes and rumblings and we lean-in to get a better understanding of what to expect when we are expecting. How is everything going to end? Is it the end of the world or the end of evil?

     How does John explain the unexplainable and express the inexpressible? What is surprising and almost takes your breath away, is that it is not an ending, but a fresh beginning. We read in Gen 1 “In the beginning God created the heaves and the earth,” but when you get to Revelation 21:1 it says, “Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth.” It seems like God’s story has creation for its first word and creation for its last word!

     As John begins to describe that which is eternal, he decides that the best way to do it is to explain the unexplainable by negation, by saying what it is not.

  • No more sea, meaning “no more chaos.”
  • No more death, no more tears, no more pain, no more illness... he is going to put funeral homes out of business!
  • No more misusing of things and others. In the new Jerusalem there is no space to be misused or mistreated
  • No longer any curse... no covering myself with fig leaves and blaming others and God. John is saying, no more playing the blame game. The curse is no more.
  • No temple in the New Jerusalem. John didn’t see a temple in the Holy City... In the OT, people of God believed the presence of God was in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Place where heaven and Earth kissed. But in John’s vision, the holy of Holies is not just a small box, but the Holy of Holies is the whole CityAnd God and the lamb is the temple. VS. 3... God himself will be with them. And He himself will wipe every tear from their eyes. Get this... we get to meet God face to face!

     As if that is not enough, hear what John says in vs. 2 “I saw the Holy City the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God... and I heard a loud voice saying “ Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.” This is critical. Notice the direction that the new Jerusalem comes. It is not us going to the new Jerusalem, but the New Jerusalem is coming to us. The New Jerusalem is descending. John is writing to the Jewish Christians in the 7 churches to come out of Babylon and in so doing he gives them a vision of the new Jerusalem that is already forming, but still in the future. It is God’s alternative city!

     As a place, the New Jerusalem is a paradise and a holy city. In the beginning God had planted a garden for humanity to live in (Gen. 2: 8). In the end he will give them an urban city. What John is saying is that...

  • Paradise is the natural world in its ideal state filled with the presence of God and reconciled with humanity. In other words, the vision of a “new heaven and new earth” does not mean the destruction and replacement of the material world but its transformation!! Paradise, the original creation depicted in Genesis, has been restored, not abandoned or destroyed. It is the marriage of heaven and earth!

     So what do we make of the Holy City? John says this is the place where heaven and earth meets at the centre of the earth, from which God rules his land and his people. This is not pie in the sky, but very real. What is important to note is that John is writing this to the churches 2000 years ago. He is saying that the new Jerusalem is already forming, but will come to its full expression when Jesus comes again. What John is saying is that the new creation is already under way (2 Cor. 5:17) and his kingdom is already present. Jesus as the slaughtered Lamb is already on the throne and in charge and we who are washed and marked by the blood of the Lamb are already priests in His Kingdom:

  • This city stands in stark contrast to the idolatrous, oppressive city of Babylon portrayed in Rev. 17–18, the city that is fallen and judged. The New Jerusalem is God’s alternative to Rome’s empire and every empire since.
  • One way Revelation portrays the New Jerusalem as God’s alternative to Babylon is by its very size: 12,000 stadia (1,500 miles) in length, width, and height means that the city “has a footprint approximately equal in size to the entire land mass of the Roman empire”; it is “large enough to encompass . . . the world as John knew it.”
  • It is depicted as a square because the ancient ideal of perfection, especially for a city, was a square; Babylon was remembered as a square (Herodotus, History 1.178), but Revelation goes a dimension further and portrays the city as a cube, because the Holy of Holies was a cube.

     So when you read the symbolic description of the city, pay attention especially to vs. 25. It says: “The twelve gates of the city is always open.” This is not Peter standing at the pearly gates asking you questions to see if you can get in. There are twelve gates and they are always open.  As the new Jerusalem is already forming, the gates are open for whosoever wants to come in. The new Jerusalem is already descending and when Jesus becomes visible from his space (the second coming), we will witness the full manifestation of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.

     It will fill the whole earth, and the glory of Christ will light up the whole world. All I know is... it is going to be good. It also tells me that what I do now matters. When you think about, as followers of Christ, we are from the future! We are called to already live as if the end has come. To live as resurrected people. The old has gone and the new has come! Can you hear the echoes and the rumblings of the world that is already and not yet?

Thank you for joining us on our journey through the book of Revelation!

Come be a part of COMMUNITY

  • Join Us For Worship - Join us Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:45 as we continue our journey into the fascinating book of Revelation.
  • Watch Live Online - Can't be with us in person? Be a part of COMMUNITYonline and join our live webcast Sunday mornings at 10:45. Click here.
  • Watch Past Sermons - Missed this week's sermon? You can watch it here.
    • Wednesday Evening Q&A - Join us Wednesday nights at 6:30 in the Gallery for a deeper look at Revelation
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    Saturday, August 13, 2016

    On Bicycles and Bullies...

     A commentary on Revelation 19

         If someone were to ask me what is the best way to acquire knowledge to describe what happens when someone rides a bike, I would think about two ways to answer the question. On the one hand, I would think of the knowledge physicists have and their ability to tell you the laws of physics of what happens when the tire hits the road and the rider balances the bike.  On the other hand, I would also think of the knowledge one can acquire by simply getting on a bike and riding it. When I think about the two options, if given a choice, I would choose the second way. The obvious reason is that one may be able to study the physics of riding a bicycle and yet not be able to mount a bike and ride it down the street. On the other hand, those who learn to ride the bike actually put physics to work, turning the wheel inward when they are about to fall. The simple truth is this... the more the bike is ridden, the more the skill is acquired. Those who have mastered the bicycle have learned well enough how to ride that they no longer think about how it is to be done. They simply do it. Could this possibly have something to do with how we deal with bullies? Could fighting bullies be as easy as riding a bike?

         This riding-the-bike-parable has in my mind, a lot to do with Revelation 19 and what the church has always considered to be the last great battle between Christ and the forces of evil. The war vision shows Jesus riding on a white horse leading Christians in a dramatic showdown between Jesus and the beasts. It is about Jesus taking care of the real bullies of this world. It is Jesus taking on the forces of evil and sin head-on and fighting for our salvation. It is battle. It is war like no war that has ever been fought, or will be fought, by human armies. What is fascinating is the weapon Jesus uses to fight. What is overlooked is that Jesus fights with a sword in his mouth, not on his side. He wages war by what he says.

         Unfortunately, the unhappy consequence of St John’s Armageddon vision has inflamed the imaginations of many believers into consuming fantasies of an end-time holocaust at Mt Megiddo in Israel. However, what is overlooked is that John is writing this to the seven churches as a way to encourage them in their present situation as well as giving them a vision of Christ’s cosmic victory over the forces of evil. What is rarely noticed is that the scene of the marriage supper of the Lamb precedes the battle. This is very significant! Eugene Peterson brings our attention to the fact that St. John’s salvation vision follows the meal and battle pattern that was set down in Jesus passion. He says:
    On the night in which he was betrayed, he had a meal with his disciples. It was succeeded by his arrest, with soldiers pouring into Gethsemane with swords and staves and torches. This meal and this war are the polarities of saving action... Eating a meal shows salvation at work in ordinary life, strengthening the people of faith; fighting a battle shows salvation at work defeating the opposition... Salvation, then, is not something that God does: it is something that God is doing, and not only for us but also with us, enlisting us in the saving action. *
         All of a sudden, a light bulb goes off in my head.  Could it be that John in Revelation 19 gives the early church as well as us a strategy on how to fight the real bullies of sin and evil? Could it be that the development of holy habits and practices are at the heart of what it takes to defeat the enemy? Through our baptism and regular practices of communion and reading scripture together in worship, we stand in solidarity with Christ as His witnesses and live into His victory and so overcome the bullies. To get back to the riding-a-bike-parable, it is not just knowledge about riding a bike that gets me down the road, but actually riding the bike. My Christian walk becomes such a habit that I don’t even think about it. It becomes as easy as riding a bike. Along the way, let us not give too much credence to the power of evil. The enemy is defeated, he is confined and on a leash. St. Teresa of Avila encourages us: “I don’t understand these fears, ‘the devil! the devil!’ when we can say ‘God!’ ‘God!’ and make the devil tremble... I pay no more attention to them than to flies.”* Salvation is Christ on the Cross going into battle with the forces of evil with his own blood on his robe. It is the beautiful picture of the slaughtered lamb who is alive and on the throne. But it is also about eating bread and drinking wine. It is Jesus saying to His disciples at the last supper and to us... “Do this as often as you will.” Ps 23 breathes new life into my spirit...

    You prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
    Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

    *Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder, Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.

    Questions to ponder:

    1. Do you regularly practice holy habits and disciplines to fight evil and sin in your life? If not what practices could you start today? i.e. Spending daily time in the word, time in prayer, journalling, joining a life group, etc.
    2. Does the understanding of Christ's battle being fought with the "sword in his mouth" rather than a sword on his side, along with the blood on his robe being his own, change the way you understand Armageddon and Christ's battle against evil?

    Come be a part of COMMUNITY

    • Join Us For Worship - Join us Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:45 as we continue our journey into the fascinating book of Revelation.
    • Watch Live Online - Can't be with us in person? Be a part of COMMUNITYonline and join our live webcast Sunday mornings at 10:45. Click here.
    • Watch Past Sermons - Missed this week's sermon? You can watch it here.
      • Wednesday Evening Q&A - Join us Wednesday nights at 6:30 in the Gallery for a deeper look at Revelation
      • Ask Pastor Tredoux a Question - Submit questions to Pastor Tredoux here.

      Monday, August 1, 2016

      666 - The Mark of the Beast

      A look at Revelation 13 - The Mark of the Beast

           Whenever I think about the Mark of the Beast.... my mind immediately goes to the youth camp in Krugersdorp, a town close to Johannesburg, South Africa. The name of this Youth Camp was Maranatha, which literally means Come Lord Jesus. It had a huge 30 ft. cross made out of white painted rocks stacked against a steep hill that lit up at night. It could be seen for miles and everyone knew about this camp because of the cross. One of my memories of this Middle school Camp experience was watching the movie “The Thief in the Night.” Even back then, it should have been R-rated because of the intense emotional trauma it caused to me and my friends who had never seen a movie, let alone something so disturbing. The primary focus of this movie was a dispensational portrayal of the rapture and what happens to those left behind. Unbeknownst to me, this was the beginning of a fear-based spirituality that would take years to undue. One thing was for sure, after watching this movie; you knew instinctively that you never wanted anything to do with the number 666. Did you know there is name for this phobia? The technical term for the fear of the number 666 is hexakosioihexekontahexphobia. That is also the longest word in the French dictionary which is ironic for the fear of 3 numbers. In Revelation 13 the land beast is famously identified as a person whose number is 666 (Rev 13:18). This is probably one of the most well known symbolic and even superstitious numbers of all time.

           Back then, I was told that the future world dictator and his supporters are expected to promote one world religion and to use computer technology to control the global economy. The big story was that a cash-less society was on the horizon and everyone who participates will have to be marked with a number. Some warned that credit card numbers or the international product code numbers were all part of the ploy of the beast to pull you in. Proponents of this scenario gained credibility by claiming to offer a strictly literal understanding of the Bible.

           It is however hard to maintain this case. Previously we have made the case that the Apocalyptic Genre requires that we read the text symbolically, not literally. This should be applied to the number 666 as well. The question is not whether to read the text symbolically, but how to read its symbolism. The issue is whether the visions of the beasts in Revelation 13 function as coded predictions concerning figures that will appear at the end of time, or whether the passage depicts threats that affect people of many times and places.

           One of the requirements for proper exegesis is to consider how the imagery would have communicated to the readers in the seven churches. Since John wrote in order to be understood by them, we must consider what meaning they might have seen in this number 666. So, are you ready? Here it comes...Most scholars believe that 666 is the numerical name for Nero Caesar. Koester says:
      In John’s day they assigned numerical value to letters. The practice was not uncommon. On the level of street culture, for example, a graffiti artist at Pompeii used a number for the name of his beloved when he scrawled on the wall: "I love her whose number is 545." By the time Revelation was written, Nero was dead, but John portrays the beast as a Nero figure in order to underscore the threat that it poses. John sought to startle the Christians who thought that the best way to get along in pagan society was to accommodate its practices under the assumption that it was all quite harmless.  Through his imagery John warns, "`Beware, it is Nero all over again,' just as one might say, whenever we hear anti-Semitism, `Beware, it's Hitler all over again.*
           So, if we know that the number 666 is Nero, shall we stop trying to figure out who is the next beast? Yes and No. Yes you can stop trying to figure out who will emerge as the leader of a one-world government who marks his followers. But no, you can’t stop looking for the beast that marks his followers. The beast still brainwashes people with propaganda about “what they think” (forehead) and “what they do” (forearm). The beast parades as fame and fortune and lures you to think that you can have it all. He invites us to the altar of materialism and sexual seduction. The beast inspires its followers to embrace the belief that the Empire is Divine and complete, but the truth is the number 666 means incomplete, falling short of the complete number 777.

           Instead, may we be marked by the lamb and follow Him, the one who is the true emperor of the Earth! His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who is complete. In fact Jesus’ numerical # goes beyond 777, his number adds up to 888.

      * Craig R. Koester. Revelation and the End of All Things (Kindle Location 1944). Kindle Edition.

      Questions to ponder:

      1. Do you ever find yourself avoiding the number 666 or pausing when you encounter it? 
      2. Does the idea that 666 is not a future person but rather a warning about succumbing to an ideology affect your thinking about the world we live in? 
      3. How does the idea that "forehead" represents "what we think" and "forearm" represents "what we do" cause you to rethink your thoughts and actions?

      Come be a part of COMMUNITY

      • Join Us For Worship - Join us Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:45 as we continue our journey into the fascinating book of Revelation.
      • Watch Live Online - Can't be with us in person? Be a part of COMMUNITYonline and join our live webcast Sunday mornings at 10:45. Click here.
      • Watch Past Sermons - Missed this week's sermon? You can watch it here.
        • Wednesday Evening Q&A - Join us Wednesday nights at 6:30 in the Gallery for a deeper look at Revelation
        • Ask Pastor Tredoux a Question - Submit questions to Pastor Tredoux here.

        Saturday, July 23, 2016

        The Dragon of Revelation 12

        I have a few confessions to make...Yep; I am going to come clean on a few things that you should know about me.  Okay, so here it goes... First, you should know that I have not watched even one episode of the TV series Game of Thrones. Secondly, I have no idea what the craze is about the Pok√©mon Go game, and lastly, of the original Star Wars trilogy that started in 1977, I have only seen The Return of the Jedi.  So, there it is, I already feel better just sharing this with you.

        However, even though I have not immersed myself in this epic pop culture, what is clear to me is that the adventures of various characters "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" has gripped the imagination of our culture across many generations. It is like everyone gets it when you say “The Force be with you.” I can see how people can get hooked on this epic phenomenon called Star Wars. It’s about illuminated swords clashing in an epic showdown between the forces of light and darkness. It is as if stories of the battle between the forces of good and evil wants to win our loyalties to the side of good and to alienate us from evil.  Somehow we know that that is the way it is suppose to be...

        We see this same phenomenon in the Roman culture during the days that John received the Revelation. It was Greek tales of good and evil that gripped the imagination of the people of that day. In one such epic story, as shared by Koester, 
        “The antagonist was a fierce dragon named Python and the protagonist was a woman named Leto, who was the mother of the god Apollo. When Leto became pregnant by the god Zeus, the dragon pursued her in order to kill her and her child. The north wind rescued Leto by carrying her away, so that she eventually found refuge on the island of Delos, which lay in the Aegean Sea. There the woman gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. Four days later, Apollo set off in pursuit of the dragon, soon slaying the creature to avenge his mother.”
        This story had such a powerful impact that the Roman emperors were able to put the tale to good use by associating themselves with Apollo, whose defeat of the evil dragon was said to have ushered in an age of peace and prosperity in the Roman Empire. Citizens of the empire could be expected to identify the woman in the story with the goddess Roma, who was the queen of heaven. Her son would be the Roman emperor, who overcame the forces of evil and chaos so that light and peace could flood the world.

        So, when John tells about a pregnant woman and a dragon in Revelation 12, Christians in the seven churches would have heard echoes of the familiar story of Leto. What is fascinating, however, is that John's version reverses the usual implications of the tale, so that in his version the woman in labor is not a pagan goddess, but the people of God; the child is not the emperor but Christ; and the dragon represents the forces that oppose Christ and threaten his church. In the end, a story that was used to celebrate the popular culture is now transformed by John to tell a powerful story of the battle in Heaven between the dragon and Michael, the archangel. Michael takes on the dragon, (who now is identified as Satan), and the next thing you know, Satan is cast out of heaven. This defeat dramatically limits the area in which Satan can operate. Instead of being able to work in heaven, denouncing the saints before God (Rev. 12:10), Satan is banished from heaven so that he must restrict his operations to the earth.

        This brings a powerful encouragement to those who heard this message from John for the first time and for us as well.  In short succession, let me highlight a few very encouraging points from this fascinating depiction of the limitations of the power of evil:
        • In the end, it is the saints that have a safe place under the throne of God, but Satan lost his place. This means that evil has no place in heaven.
        • It was Christ’s death, resurrection and exaltation that caused Satan to be cast from Heaven to earth. It is the slaughtered Lamb who ends up on the throne, not Satan. And this, my friends, is not a Game of Thrones, it is the real deal.
        • What we should know is that Satan rages here on earth like a trapped animal, since he has already lost Heaven. This should encourage us to resist him in the name of Jesus.
        • The serpent who tempted Adam and Eve in Gen 3, who accused Job in the throne room of heaven, who tempted Jesus in the wilderness and goes around like a roaring Lion is defeated. He is on a leash for just a short time.
        And together with the saints around the throne of God we say AMEN!

        By the way, this is not a George Lucas production!

        Come be a part of COMMUNITY

        • Join Us For Worship - Join us Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:45 as we continue our journey into the fascinating book of Revelation.
        • Watch Live Online - Can't be with us in person? Be a part of COMMUNITYonline and join our live webcast Sunday mornings at 10:45. Click here.
        • Watch Past Sermons - Missed this week's sermon? You can watch it here.
          • Wednesday Evening Q&A - Join us Wednesday nights at 6:30 in the Gallery for a deeper look at Revelation
          • Ask Pastor Tredoux a Question - Submit questions to Pastor Tredoux here.