Friday, May 27, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-27 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Hardships


We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.      (2Corinthians1:8-11)
We don't have enough detail to pinpoint exactly what the hardships were that Paul suffered in Asia Minor. If we follow Paul's steps in Acts we see that he returns to his home-base in Antioch after being in Corinth and then he embarks on his third mission trip, re-visiting churches in Asia Minor. In Acts 19 there is the riot in Ephesus led by Demetrius the silversmith whose idol-making business is being threatened by Paul's preaching of the gospel. This may be the event Paul was referring to, but it may also be something else.

What we can agree on is that the hardship was significant: Paul experienced intense pressure that overwhelmed him and caused him to fear for his life.

There are a few things Paul takes from his own hardship:

  1. Being stretched causes us to rely on God and not ourselves. God is not the author of pain and hardship, but they bring us to a place where we discover our insufficiency. Adam and Eve wanted to be their own gods and so do we. None of us like being at the point that we are out of strength or out of answers or both. Hardship and trouble can jolt us out of narcissism and the all-consuming independence of ego. It put things in perspective: as cute and clever as we are, we are mortal, frail and fallible. We can't raise the dead - but God can!
  2. God is faithful - He will deliver us. Paul reiterates this thought four times:
    - He raises the dead
    - He has delivered us in the past
    - He will deliver us as we put our hope in Him
    - He will continue to deliver us as you pray
    We can't always say how or when, but God will work in our situation!
  3. Prayer helps. This is a mystery and it can be brain-bending to try and figure it out. For example: Do we thwart God's plans if we fail to pray? I like to think of a son helping his dad to push the lawn-mower. Dad can and will do it by himself (the lawn needs mowing) but enjoys doing it with his son... God inspires prayer, He assists our prayers through the Holy Spirit, His Son Jesus also prays for us and God answers prayer. Prayer is more about relationship than results and God chooses to include our prayers as a factor in His working in the world. I like Paul's view: Prayer helps and by prayer we get to participate in God's deliverance.
  4. Thanksgiving and God's glory is important. When we are overwhelmed and come through it, it is not of ourselves, but because of God's deliverance and we should resist the temptation to pretend that it was our cuteness or cleverness that got us through. Let's give all the glory to God!

Sunday worship is a good antidote to the narcissism that threatens us, it is a good reminder of God's faithfulness in the past, present and future, it is also a place where we can pray for others and joyfully give thanks for all the times we have been delivered. Don't miss this Sunday Celebration!!!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-26 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Trouble Subverted

Trouble Subverted

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.      (2Corinthians1:6-7)
God is not the author of pain and heartache. These have their origin in the brokenness of our world which is a result of our rebellion and disobedience.

But God subversively works in spite of and in the midst of our pain and struggle.
He brings about good where evil tried to have the last say.
He brings healing where evil tried to destroy us.
He brings hope when evil tried to leave us desolate.
He brings love when evil tried to plant hate.
He brings peace when evil tried to destabilise us.

Paul gives a great example of this in our text today.
He talks about how his suffering and his comfort helped the church in Corinth.

How did Paul's suffering help the Corinthians? Firstly Paul's distress comforts the Corinthians in the sense that they know they are not alone. Secondly, it was the persecution Paul experienced in Thesalonica that pushed him to Athens and then Corinth which literally led to salvation for many of them. (See Acts 17-18) ^^

And how did his comfort help them? Well, Paul was able to share the comfort he received from God with the Corinthians and this gave them hope and the tools they would need to survive the persecutions that they too would experience. They would then be able to pass this on to others creating a subversive evil-defeating-chain-reaction.

Suffering is a reality in our world. It is not always avoidable or preventable but we can be comforted in the certainty that God is at work subversively bringing out good where evil had both the right and power to destroy us.

Have you been comforted in trouble???
Be sure to be part of the evil-defeating-chain-reaction by sharing that comfort!!

^^(Paul later makes reference to suffering he experienced in Asia which may have pre- or post- dated his founding of the church in Corinth. There is just not enough detail in the passage to determine exactly which it is. (More on this tomorrow...) )

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-24 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Comforting Father(3)

Comforting Father(3)

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.      (Exodus34:6-7)
Paul has been introducing his letter to the Corinthians by talking about the Father as the God of all comfort and the Father of compassion... He is simply joining a long tradition... Centuries earlier Moses had an encounter with God and, in spite of the holiness of the moment - in which God's transcendence and magnificence were evident, the lasting impression Moses had was of compassion and grace.

We have to be reminded of this all the time. Adam and Eve hid from God when they heard Him walking in the garden and we tend to do the same. It is our brokenness and guilt which makes us avoid and distance ourselves when we think about God. But God, while being holy and sinless, has made a way for us to enjoy and experience His presence. When Jesus offered Himself in our place, the temple curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple was torn from top to bottom.

Moses could only see the back of God because His glory was too great and holy. The Israelites could not enter the holy of holies because they were not holy (and even the high priest only went once a year after careful preparation!) But when the Father sent His Son into the world to be a sacrifice for our sin, it was an act of incredible compassion and grace. It fulfilled everything that Moses had heard and seen.

But the Father also planned to pour out His Spirit on the church and so Jesus spoke of a Comforter/Counsellor/Companion (that's how we need to translate the Greek word 'paracletos') who He would send into our hearts - the Holy Spirit.

No matter what we have done or been through.
Whether we have scraped the bottom of the barrel of sin or
whether we are being squeezed and pressed by an anti-god society,
we come to a welcoming, compassionate and gracious God.

It's gooooooood news!

Friday, May 20, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-20 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Comforting Father(2)

Comforting Father(2)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God      (2Corinthians1:3-4)
Believing in God as Father is difficult for some whose earthly fathers have been absent, abusive or cold-hearted. Others think about Father Christmas when they think about God as Father - a sugar daddy who spoils us with gifts based on our behaviour but is pretty much absent in times of trouble or pain.

Part of the problem is that we think that God needed to reveal Himself to us and so He said "Well, everyone has a father and fathers are generally good guys so I'll reveal myself as father..." (Theologians call this anthropomorphism - God morphing into anthropological terms to help us understand Him)

What if it was the other way around? That God was Father (and Mother^) first and that we, who are His image-bearers, are to reflect these facets of His nature and we either do it well or badly?

Could it be that bad fathers obscure the reflection God's nature in themselves and that good fathers reveal more of Him and less of their own brokenness?

The Father Paul reveals here is awesome:

  • He is the Father of Jesus, And Jesus loved Him and trusted Him so much that He was willing to say "Not my will but yours be done" and went to the cross.
  • He is the God of all comfort. He had to watch His Son carry the weight of our brokenness and His heart was broken over our sin. He understands pain. (As an imperfect earthly father I would rather give my own life than sacrifice my son Caleb's)
  • He comforts us. He sent His Son. He sends His Spirit. He finds sulking Jonah outside Nineveh. He finds Elijah burnt out under the broom tree. He finds Hagar and Ishmael alone in the wilderness. He sees and hears and comes down to the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. When the world was broken and lost He sent His Son.

Take the word Father and embody it with the VERY BEST you have seen of Fatherhood and you have only scraped the surface of what God is like.
^ The Scriptures portray God as Mother ("Can a mother forget her children" (Isaiah 49:15) "As a mother comforts her child I will comfort you (Isaiah 66:13)) It think it is important to recognise that God transcends male and female but when human beings reflect the nature of God, they often do it as "mother" or "father" and when they do it well, God's nature is reflected.)

^^ Patriarchal societies have focussed on God as Father almost to the exclusion of the truth that God is also Mother. Some have compromised by talking about God as the "perfect parent" but some of the richness is lost. I believe it is best to just do justice to the concepts as Scripture gives them to us.

(This eDev is a "reprint" from the Apostle's Creed series - we'll take one more look at this passage on Tuesday.)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-19 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Comforting Father(1)

Comforting Father(1)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.      (2Corinthians1:3-5)
We would prefer a life without trouble. A life without trouble would mean that we never need to be comforted. God chooses another way: He gives us freedom and when our freedom causes pain to ourselves or others He COMFORTS.

What is God's Comfort like?

  1. It comes from a Father whose Son suffered on the cross. Sometimes it's harder to watch someone you love suffer than to suffer yourself. God understands pain and suffering through a suffering we cannot imagine - the Cross.
  2. It comes from a God who is the source of all compassion. Whenever we see true compassion in the world, it is just a fingerprint or echo of God's abiding and pervading compassion.
  3. It is comfort that can survive trouble - it doesn't come in our easy times, it comes in our hard times.
  4. It is comfort that is so effective that not only will we be comforted, but we will be able to comfort others.
  5. Whatever we go through, Christ encapsulated it on the cross. It is not trite when we say "Christ knows what we are going through." He experienced the depth and intensity of our pain on Calvary. Our comfort is that we are not alone.

- Is your heart broken?
-- Are you in the grip of great sadness?
--- Are you weighed down by the suffering you see around you?
We are not alone, abandoned or misunderstood.
Praise be to our Comforting God!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-18 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Introducing 2 Corinthians

Introducing 2 Corinthians

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.      (2Corinthians1:1-2)
For our next series I am going to work through a letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. Although we only have two of Paul's letters to this church in the New Testament, scholars are convinced that the letter we know as 2Corinthians is actually the third letter he wrote to them. Paul refers to a "letter of tears" that he wrote to them and this letter seems to have been lost to history.

The church in Corinth was beset by many challenges:

  • There were false teachers who were leading them astray theologically.
  • They also had church-political power-grabbers who were trying to discredit Paul.
  • There were divides between the rich and the poor.
  • Some of their members were behaving immorally and flaunting it.
  • They were confused about eating food that had been dedicated to idols.
  • They were competing over who had the best spiritual gifts..
  • There were some who were getting drunk at communion services

And yet Paul patiently teaches, rebukes, comforts and nurtures this congregation. His first letter addressed some of the tough issues mentioned above. The second letter seems to have been a deep expression of his pain and disappointment over some of the malpractices going on in the congregation.

Now Paul writes to consolidate his relationship with them and to expose those who would use the church for power and influence. Along the way Paul addresses the pain and struggles the congregation faces in the face of a society that is opposed to the gospel and he does this by sharing a great deal about his own struggles and failures.

It is Paul's incredible vulnerability and his great sensitivity to their pain that makes this tough and challenging letter very special.

His opening blessing sets the tone for the rest of the letter:
"May Grace (not power or influence) and Peace (in the face of persecution and resistance) be yours in the Father and the Son"

It's my prayer that our journey through 2Corinthians over the next month or two will be of great comfort to us in the challenging times we face...

Friday, May 13, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-13 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] 7. to Judge

My apologies for this late dev. This morning I was with the family of Bill Spence who passed away at the wonderful age of 101. Please keep the family in your prayers.

7. He ascends to return as Judge...

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.      (Matthew25:31-32)
The picture of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," returning in divine glory and majesty to execute judgement is a one that many people struggle with.

We like to talk about God's love.
But love without justice is not really true love.
It is blind love (ignores the sin, failure and brokenness) and we're always at risk that the sin that is "swept under the carpet" becomes a lump that love trips over.

Love without justice can also become favouritism because love without justice means that I am as loved as you are even though I am hurting you in a terrible way. If your cause is not picked up by love then maybe I am loved more than you.

So God's love includes justice - it balances the scales. It rights the wrongs.

The other side of love is justice.
There are two ways for justice to be satisfied:
Either I must pay for my crimes or someone else must.

BUT the other side of justice is love.
And so Jesus offered Himself as the consequence-bearer.

The final judgement is where every human being will face their sin and guilt and will either carry the weightc of the consequences of their brokenness or they will have trusted Christ to do so.

Must people think about judgement with some negativity.

I welcome the idea of judgement.

When I watch the news, hear the reports and read the papers I am alarmed, distressed and traumatised by the child-rape, the abuse, the war, the martyring that goes on in the world. I am shaken to my core at the horror of heartache and pain that people go through at the hands of others.

If love just overlooked this I wouldn't feel safe.

I am comforted that sin will be confronted and that it will be paid for. I am sad beyond description that some people will reject the payment that Jesus made on their behalf when He died a sinners' death on the cross, but I am comforted by judgement and it makes me trust Him more - especially since He chooses to judge even though it meant severe consequences for Jesus.

(This brings us to the end of the series on Ascension - Some of you will recognise this as material I originally wrote for the series on the Apostle's Creed - I hope it has been helpful to revisit...)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-12 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] 6. Jesus will return and restore the Kingdom

6. Jesus will return and restore the Kingdom

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."      (Acts1:6-11)
This passage links the return of Jesus to the "restoration of the Kingdom to Israel."

During the time of Christ, this expectation was highly politicised. The restoring of the Kingdom meant ousting the "Roman Oppressors" and seeing Israel reach the empire-like glory and majesty that it had when David was their king.

This was not a new expectation: the fervent hope and expectation that the Messiah would come and restore the Kingdom is found throughout the Old Testament. But in the Old Testament this expectation is richer and fuller and more beautiful than political power.

The Old Testament hopes and dreams are pointedly expressed in what the scholars call "eschatalogical prophecy." Eschatology has to do with the study of the "end of things." It has to do with the belief, hope and expectation that history is on its way to a definite conclusion and that there is a plan to it.

If the birth, incarnation, crucifixion and death of Jesus represent the steps of His humble descent into our humanity, then the resurrection, ascent, return, kingdom restoration and final judgement represent His rightful steps to His glorious enthronement as King and Lord of all.

Old Testament eschatology powerfully depicts the healing of a broken and sin-infected world with images of:

  • The lion laid down with the lamb
  • Trees bearing fruit along the river of life with food for feeding and healing
  • Nations streaming to the glorified temple for worship
  • And many other beautiful pictures.

Revelation 21 makes this hope even clearer:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

The ascension is part of Jesus' plan to restore all things!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-11 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] 5. He prepares a place for us

5. He prepares a place for us

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.      (John14:1-6)
There's not really much to add to this beautiful passage...

Imagine the picture Jesus is sketching for us here:
It's the picture of an innkeeper or housewife preparing a place for a special guest. It's an intimate and personal action.

Heaven is not about "becoming one with the cosmic consciousness" - the picture Jesus paints is of a place of being where individual attention is paid, where people matter and troubled hearts can be comforted.

To take this a little further:
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has ascended into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of God, but when Steven was being tried by the Pharisees and about to be stoned we see something very special: "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." (Acts7:55)

Why is Jesus standing?

Maybe it's because He's just come back from preparing Stephen's room...

"Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John14:27)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-10 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] 4. He prays for us

4. He prays for us

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.       (Hebrews7:23-25)
When the (now) late Edwin Pons(**) retired, we asked him to conduct a retreat for ministers in the Port Elizabeth Presbytery. He conducted a very meaningful day long retreat and shared what had been his greatest comfort in a long and very fruitful ministry.

His comfort came from this idea that the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the victorious Son of God, prays for us and that His prayers for us come from His experience of our pain and heartache: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." (Heb4:15)

Edwin had us meditate on this thought:
Jesus (think about who He is and what He did)
our great High Priest (think about what this role entails)
prays (think about what is involved in sincere prayer)
for me!! (My "stuff" matters to Him)

Think about it: Right Now - Jesus (along with the Holy Spirit in us) is praying for us - with understanding and sacrificial priestly love.)

Go through the rest of the day comforted by this amazing thought.
Jesus, our great high priest, is praying for you!
** Edwin Pons was one of the most well-loved and able ministers in our denomination. He was a past moderator, planted many churches, including Port Alfred which he planted with Glen Craig after his (Edwin's) retirement. I remember him as a warm and godly man who opened his home in Kleinemond to hungry theology students whenever they came to preach in the newly planted Port Alfred Preaching Station.

Friday, May 6, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-06 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] He sends the Holy SPirit

He sends the Holy Spirit

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
... 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."      (Acts1:4-8)
Jesus' ascension marked an important transition: the coming of the Holy Spirit. Up until this point, the Holy Spirit came upon kings and prophets temporarily for specific purposes at specific times.

Because Jesus made a full sacrifice for our sins and paid for our guilt, it is now possible for us to be indwelt by His Spirit. When Jesus "sat down" at the Father's right hand (indicating that His work was complete) He could send the Holy Spirit to indwell us in a way that had not been possible since Adam and Eve sinned.

Because of the completed work of Christ, we are able to receive the power of the Holy Spirit who is poured out on a redeemed world to do great and beautiful things in believers, in the church and in the world.

The prophet Joel put it beautifully:
"And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel2:28-29)

When Jesus was having the Last Supper with His disciples and preparing them for His death, resurrection and ascension, they were distraught at the idea of His departure. But Jesus comforted them with these words:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (John14:16-19)

In essence Jesus is saying: "I'm going so that you can have something better!!"

We've received a beautiful gift through the ascension!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-05 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] Scars


Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."      (John20:27)
God with scars?
Seem unthinkable?

That's the incredible thing about the resurrection and ascension. Jesus took our humanity into the Godhead.

We keep thinking of heaven as spiritual - that we'll float around as disembodied spirits. But Paul describes physical death as the planting of a seed: "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." (1Cor15:42-44)
Did you see that? "It is raised a spiritual BODY!" The plant is a continuation of the seed.

If you want to know what heaven will be like, look at Jesus. (Paul says that Jesus is the "firstfruits" of eternal life.) A physical body that could touch and be touched, that could eat with His disciples, yet could appear behind locked doors. A physical body but without limitations.

The incredible thing is that Jesus ascends into heaven with something He had taken on 33 years previously - our humanity. The God family (which we call "the Trinity") now has humanity integrated into it.

Jesus could have discarded our humanity like a dirty rag saying "I'm glad that's over with." But in an amazing and beautiful act of love and divine accommodation, He has maintained His link to our humanity as He continues to be our Great High Priest.

This is great love!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

EmmDev 2016-05-04 [Understanding the Ascension of Jesus] Our High Priest has finished His Work

Our High Priest has finished His Work

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.      (Hebrews1:1-3)
Jesus is our Great High Priest. A significant portion of the letter to the Hebrews explains this. Being both God and human, He represented God to us and then as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin, He represented us to God by being both our sinless high priest and also the once-for-all sin-sacrifice.

The ascension into heaven and being seated at God's right hand is an indication that His sacrifice was accepted, that His offering was complete and that His work is done.

On the cross Jesus said "It is finish

Theo Groeneveld
Emmanuel Presby Church Cell: 082-5510752

The Ascension and being seated at God's right hand is the conclusion of the matter. It is God saying "Come sit at my right hand my Son - Your work is done!"

We could describe Jesus' work with three C's: The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown. The ascension is a culmination of all the enthronement psalms we read in the Old Testament. The Ascension is the announcement of His success and His victory. The ascension is the confirmation that He is our great High Priest and King.

(Although His sacrificial work is done - Our Lord Jesus continues to take the priestly role of empathetic intercessor and representative, but that's a cool story for another dev...)

For now we take comfort in the fact that He "sat down" - His work is done and there is nothing more that needs to be added. This is our great comfort and hope!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

EmmDev: The Ascension Matters

Apologies for the gap in devotions, with all the public holidays it has been a topsy turvy time and I also took some leave... Hope you enjoy this new series.
God bless,

Understanding the Ascension of Jesus

The Ascension matters

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."      (Acts1:9-11)
When we talk about Ascension Day, the first thing people say is: "What a pity it isn't a public holiday any more..." But, if pushed, I wonder how many of us would know why the Ascension of Jesus is important to us?

Over the next couple of days I'd like to share seven ideas around the importance of the Ascension. My hope is that our appreciation for the Biblical and theological significance of this event will increase and that we would be filled with awe and wonder and appreciation.

Just to whet your appetite, here are the seven thoughts that I'll be dwelling on:

  1. Jesus has completed His Priestly Ministry: He sits at God's right hand.
  2. He has taken our humanity into heaven.
  3. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit
  4. He entrusts His work (making disciples) to us.
  5. Jesus intercedes in prayer for us.
  6. He prepares a place for us.
  7. He will return and will judge the living and the dead.

For now though, I'd like you to put yourself in the shoes of the disciples. Jesus has risen from the dead. He has spent intimate time with the disciples for 40 days. (During those 40 days significant conversations, like the one with Peter on the beach in John 21, took place.)

Jesus must have felt that the disciples were ready.
I wonder if they felt the same.
But just before He departed Jesus gave them a command and a very special promise:
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit... 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

As we journey through the importance of the Ascension, let's also bear in mind that the Ascension is "pregnant" with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Let's enter this journey with the same anticipation.