pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trust and Pray – Part 2

Reading: Acts 1: 6-14

Verse 14: “They all joined together constantly in prayer”.

After Jesus makes his ascension into heaven, the angels lift the spirits of the followers standing there by telling them that Jesus will return. Greatly encouraged they return to Jerusalem and gather together – all eleven disciples, the women who were part of the regular group of followers, and Jesus’ mother and brothers. The angels’ encouragement became the fuel of their prayers. In verse fourteen we read, “They all joined together constantly in prayer”.

I imagine their prayers were a mix of thanksgiving and anticipation. Thanks for the news that Jesus would return and anticipation asking for it to come soon. There must have been a ton of positive energy and emotion poured into their prayers. Just ten days later their prayers will be answered. Jesus will return. It will be in the form of the Holy Spirit. Just as he had promised, it would be better that he left so that the gift could be sent. Instead of the physical Jesus being present with a group here and then there, the Spirit of Jesus would be present with all believers everywhere at the same time. As this group prayed, all must have thought that Jesus coming back as he was before would be the best thing ever. But it wasn’t. God’s plan was better. It always is.

As we turn to God in our prayers, may we make our humble and honest petitions known to God. But may we also trust that God will work in the way that is best. God will do with our lives what he did for the early church. Again, if we will but trust and pray.

Prayer: God of all, thank you that you are so much more than we can imagine. In the Holy Spirit you sent an amazing gift. In our lives you shower us with blessings. Thank you so much. Amen.


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To All the World

Reading: Luke 24: 44-53

Verse 48: “You are witnesses of these things”.

Today is Ascension day. We are forty days after Easter and Jesus is returning to the Father. Just as his own earthly ministry began with forty days of preparation and testing in the wilderness, so too does he prepare his own with forty days of teaching and challenge. In today’s passage Jesus begins by reminding the disciples of his eternity. One can trace the fingerprints of Jesus from Malachi right back to Genesis 1. The Old Testament is filled with words about Jesus and all of it has now been fulfilled. It is now time for Jesus to return to heaven, to once again be “home”.

Jesus is ever the teacher. In verses 46 and 47 he reminds the disciples of their last days with him. He reminds them of their new assignment: “preach in his name to all nations”. This remains the assignment. Sometimes it feels daunting just in our neighborhoods and communities, nevermind “to all nations”. For taking on this collective task there are two important facts that Jesus uses to encourage them. First, “you are witnesses of these things”. The disciples have seen and heard all that Jesus has done and taught. We too become witnesses through our journey of faith. We do this in worship, in study, in prayer, and through our own personal experiences with the risen Christ.

The second fact is the giving of the power to accomplish the task. Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to send the Holy Spirit. This will fill them with Jesus – in a way they’ve never felt or experienced. Just as he did during his earthly ministry, the Spirit will lead and guide, teach and remind, unpack and apply the scriptures, convict and lead to repentance, heal and comfort, build up and restore. The Spirit will do what Jesus has done for three years. This same Holy Spirit remains the gift of Christ to all who believe. As followers of Jesus Christ, there is not some checklist of obligations or a long list of rules to adhere to. It is simply about following the voice and nudge of the Holy Spirit, Christ within us. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are made one with Jesus Christ. In that unity may we go forth into all the world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God of all grace, today we rejoice in the heavenly reunion. We rejoice also in the gifts Jesus left: his witness of humble servant obedience and his Spirit to continue to dwell in our lives. In the time as one of us Jesus fully revealed your love. May I do so today as well. Amen.


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The Way

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Jesus’ life and story are marked by a few events that are very significant to our faith.  First, the incarnate birth – born partly human to a mother and partly divine to a heavenly father.  Born of a virgin, without sin since birth.  His birth and the events surrounding it indicate to us that Jesus is a unique and special gift from God.

At the end of His life, Jesus experiences two other significant events.  The resurrection and ascension come close together.  Between His holy birth and divine death, Jesus teaches and heals for about three years, providing us an example of how to live and love both God and our fellow man.

While Jesus did raise people from the dead during His earthly ministry, He raised them back to mortal life.  In the resurrection of Jesus, it was God who raised Jesus to immortal or heavenly life.  Jesus’ resurrection is significant for both of these reasons.  Just as God alone initiated Jesus’ human birth, God alone brings Jesus back home to heaven.  God welcomes Jesus back to His eternal home as Jesus returns to the Father.

The ascension, or returning to God’s right hand, is the second significant event at the end of Jesus’ earthly life.  Jesus tells Mary, “I am returning to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.”  In this statement Jesus declares where He is going and also includes us in the relationship.  God is our Father and our God too.

As Jesus returns to His rightful place beside God, He returns changed.  He has lived on earth.  He has felt what we feel.  He returns to heaven and now intercedes for you and me.  He now stands between God and us.  The perfect lamb who was slain now offers mercy and forgiveness and grace.  He who was without sin now provides the way for us who struggle with sin the way to eternal life.  He ascended so that one day we too could ascend.  For this incomprehensible gift, we say  thanks be to God!

 


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Focus on Jesus

And thus endeth the story.  On this Ascension day we believe Jesus rose up to “heaven”.  Christ risen and Christ glorified!!  The gospel story concludes with this grand finale.  But is it really the end of the story?  No!  Jesus left the disciples with two great promises.  First, He promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon them in great power.  This power would lead them to preach the good news to all nations.  Second, He told them, “I will be back.”

From the time of the ascension to now and on into the future, the followers of Jesus are to work on the first promise until the second comes to be.  It could be tomorrow that Jesus returns.  It could be a long time from now.  No one knows except the Father.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to work fully in us, it is easy to share the good news of repentance and forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.Without the Holy Spirit, trying to do it on our own, it is hard to share the message of Jesus Christ.

The Ascension represents Jesus returning to the Father in heaven, wherever that may be.  Conceptually this places Jesus right next to God.  In this thought is the idea that Jesus is supreme.  He is above all.  Above my life, my desires, my priorities.  He is Lord of ALL.

How is that lived out?  My focus must be on sharing my story of Jesus with those who do not know Him.  In my community that is a large task.  This is OK.  I do not labor alone.  The Spirit goes with me and there are many coworkers as well.  May our mighty God provide the opportunities this day!

Scripture references: Luke 24: 44-53 and Acts 1: 6-9