He Will Make All Things New (Pastor’s Desk)

It’s hard to imagine that only four weeks ago was the last time most of us saw all of us together. You’d probably have to go back a few weeks more to remember when our church was beginning to fill up with new students starting the year, visiting parents, newcomers along with all the regular faces we’re so used to seeing.

But that was then, and this is now. God’s people have always been a people called and gathered together by our God – and over the past 2000 years only in a few other rare and exceptional circumstances have churches not gathered together. It’s sometimes astonishing to think that it took an invisible virus to once again do prevent our gatherings.

But in 2020 our technological advances mean we haven’t stopped opening God’s Word with each other – online, digitally, through the screen. And with that has come a different way of looking at things, and a new learning curve.

As SLE Church closed its doors a few weeks ago and moved online, there was heaps of tension in the air. Behind the scenes we had guys like Ivan Tan, Li Wei Wee and Matthew Tao – along with the other musicians and PA guys working out all the tech of live streaming. (Drop them an encouraging message and say thanks!). We’ve had some hitches with live-streaming the second service that we’re aware of and ironing out. But we’re glad that it’s gone relatively smoothly.

Quite a number of our fellowship groups have been working out how to move online as well – using Zoom, Jitsi Meet, Google Hangouts, and other video conferencing sites. We’ve been able to maintain some contact, some catchups, and some prayer between us even as we remain socially distanced, and self-isolated. And if you’re not already connected in this way, let us encourage you to seek those options out – contact Ben, myself, or one of your fellowship leaders to get connected.

Feedback on these online gatherings has been generally positive – but there is one piece of feedback that has come up consistently – and it’s worth repeating: the feedback is that while online meetings have generally been ok, it isn’t the same as being face to face.

No, it isn’t. And I think this is all the more reason to keep persisting with meeting online when we can – and not just in our small bible study groups, but catching up with more people online 1 to 1. It isn’t the same, and every time we meet online we are reminded of what we have lost. You’d think that in this day and age of webcams and chat groups that we would overcome that loss – but something is still missing.

I miss seeing people face to face – of seeing you smile, of responding with my own smile, of you connecting with this and joy being shared. I miss looking at people’s eyes, of seeing the hidden joys and pains. I miss the appropriate hugs of joy. I miss the singing at church – oh how I miss hearing each other’s voices together!

And all of this is why we should persist in meeting online. Because with every online meeting we build up within us a longing for more, a desire for a return to our gathered time together.

One of my friends, Stephen McAlpine, wrote on his blog recently that after all this is over there will be a lot of hugging when church gets back together again.

But as much as I look forward to that day when SLE Church gathers again in person – that day will be a shadow of the better, brighter day to come.

It will be as it has been written in the Bible:

[1] 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. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

[5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Let’s keep gathering together online, as a church, in our fellowship groups, and in one to one catch ups with each other. And let’s keep doing so looking forward not only to the day when we rejoice together as a church, but also looking forward to that day when we will rejoice with all Christians from history past and history future, around the throne of Jesus, forever more.

Revelation 21:1–5

“He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Himself. And there will be no more social distancing. Ever. Again.”
– Stephen McAlpine

The Family – a prayer from ‘The Valley of Vision’ (Pastor’s Desk)

The Valley of Vision is a wonderful collection puritan prayers. If you haven’t got it I highly commend it as a way of growing your prayer vocabulary. Here is the prayer ‘The Family’, with updated English, which, I think, focuses on our familial relationship in church.

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O Sovereign Lord,

You are the Creator-Father of all men,
for you have made and support them;

You are the special Father of those who know, love, and honour you,
who find your yoke easy, and your burden light,
your work honourable,
your commandments glorious.

But how little your undeserved goodness has affected me!
How imperfectly have I improved my religious privileges!
How negligent have I been in doing good to others!

I am before you in my trespass and sins,
have mercy on me,
and my your goodness bring me to repentance.

Help me hate and forsake every false way,
to be attentive to my condition and character,
to bridle my tongue,
to keep my heart with all diligence,
to watch and pray against temptation,
to kill sin,
to be concerned for the salvation of others.

O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction of my kindred.

Let those who are united to me in tender ties
be precious in your sight and devoted to your glory.

Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion,
instruction, discipline, example,
that my house may be a nursery for heaven,
my church the garden of the Lord,
enriched with the trees of righteousness of your planting,
for your glory;

Let not those of my family who are amiable, moral, attractive,
fall short of heaven at last;

Grant that the promising appearances of a tender conscience,
soft heart, the alarms and delights of your Word,
be not finally blotted out, but bring forth judgement to victory
in all whom I love.

Amen.

A Quick Word on Bible Translations (Pastor’s Desk)

I haven’t blogged much in the past couple of years, but I have been writing. I figured I can always throw up on here my Pastor’s Desks that I write up every other week for our church bulletin. So here’s last Sunday’s Pastor’s Desk with some additional links.

[Context: the week before I had preached on ‘The Bible’ as part of our Church’s ‘On Firm Foundations’ sermon series. During the sermon I made a tangential point regarding Bible translations, and warning against a particular “translation”: The Passion Translation. Links regarding that at the end.]

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William Tyndale was martyred in 1536 for translating the Bible into English. We owe so much to this man who made the Bible readily available to the masses. Even today, some two thirds of the English Standard Version contain the original words and phrases translated by Tyndale!

Since then there has been an explosion of different translations of the Bible and praise God for that! Multiple translations are a gracious gift from our God – giving us translations that are easy to read (even for children), and translations that help us grapple with what was originally written.

Translations fall into three main categories. There are word for word translations that seek to give an accurate translation of the original scripture manuscripts. Examples include the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV) and the old King James Version (KJV).

The second category of Bibles are thought for thought translations. As indicated in the name of the category the translators have attempted to bring the thoughts and intentions of the authors to light. This usually requires more interpretation by the translators. Examples of these Bibles include the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

The final category of Bibles are paraphrases. These are much looser translations, usually aimed at ease of reading or those whose English is a second language, giving you a very general sense of scripture. Examples include the Contemporary English Version (CEV) and The Message (MSG).

While it may seem bewildering that there are so many translations, we should rejoice that the Bible has been translated by godly people throughout the ages to give God’s people, of all reading levels, access to God’s Word.

At SLE Church we use and highly commend the ESV. Translated by a faithful committee it is a word for word translation which balances accuracy with readability. Having an ESV open in front of you while we’re studying the Bible or listening to sermons will help us all grow in knowing what is said, how God’s Word is to be read, and what God is asking of us in that text.

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Additional links:

George Athas reviews ‘Song of Songs’. Rev Dr George Athas is Director of Postgraduate Studies at Moore Theological College and Lectures in Old Testament, Hebrew and Church History. The first line of this review says it all, “This translation of the Song of Songs is truly awful.

Andrew Shead – Burning Scripture with Passion: A Review of The Psalms (The Passion Translation). A long, detailed review from Themelios. The abstract gives a fair summary:

Brian Simmons has made a new translation of the Psalms (and now the whole New Testament) which aims to ‘re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader.’ He achieves this by abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.

Got Questions site – a generally helpful apologetic site – has a short and helpful critique of The Passion Translation with some examples of other Bible translations vs what The Passion has attempted.