Ascension Thursday

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Painting of Jesus Ascending into Heaven

Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775

On this Ascension Day, we celebrate that Jesus is not dead. It’s not just that He was once raised from the dead … but that He was resurrected, appeared to His disciples and many others, then was visibly taken up into heaven where He still resides today! Acts chapter 1 records for us:

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”(Acts 1:9)

What a marvel it would have been to behold!  You can understand the disciples’ jaw-dropping awe as they stared up long after He was out of their sight.  (As an aside, we use the word “awesome” in so many lesser ways, don’t we?  This would have truly been an awe-inspiring moment!)  It’s no wonder that the men/angels/messengers looked at them and said:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? …” (Acts 1:11a)

But here’s the part that not only inspires awe in us, but creates HOPE … the men continue:

“… 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.” (Acts 1:11b)

Because Jesus did not stay dead, but was resurrected and ascended into heaven and is still living and reigning on His throne, at the right hand of the Father … and because He promised to return again, we have hope.  It’s as if we are living in the blink of eternity between Christ’s ascension and His return – which will be like a “reverse ascension” … He will return in the same way, visibly in the clouds.  Speaking of this event, Jesus himself said:

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 1:26)

And the Apostle John’s records his vision of this event in the book of Revelation this way:

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Which is why we Christians are so adamant about telling people about Jesus – He lives. He reigns.  He will return!

As some have said, “it was Christ’s last command, so it ought to be our first concern.”  The very last words of Matthew’s gospel are what have been called the Great Commission – Jesus sending us into the world to make disciples:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And ending where we began, Jesus last words to His disciples just before He ascended were:

“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.” (Acts 1:8)

So this Ascension Day is all about witnessing and hope.  We have hope that Jesus is still alive!  And we have hope that Jesus will one day return to make all things right, and new.  And because of this, we witness to others what His life, death, resurrection, ascension and imminent return mean to everyone. We want this same hope for others … and so we tell of this great news – Jesus is not dead, He is alive and reigning on His throne in heaven!

When He returns will you welcome Him?

Were You There …

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our sins have died with Christ ...

our sins have died with Christ … Good Friday at Redeemer’s “Crosses of Calvary” display

At last night’s Good Friday service, we all “laid our sins” on the cross of Jesus Christ.  There they were put to death with Him!

His blood became your blood as He died to take the punishment you deserved … and I deserved … and the whole world deserved.  Why? … Because He loves you.  How? … Because He is the Son of God.  Only His Blood has this power – to do what no other blood could ever do.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Now as we wait for Easter Sunday, we wait patiently with hope – because we know the end of the story!  Jesus does not stay dead …

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime” – Martin Luther

… and neither will you and I!  Look around you – flowers are coming to bloom.  Seeds are sprouting to life.  They were lying dormant in the ground, only to burst forth in beauty and splendor!

It is so fitting that Easter is in Spring.  What a great reminder that Christ’s death … and our death too! … only looks like it’s the end.

May you be filled with hope as you await the Resurrection!

Only by God’s grace,

Pastor Augie.

“I Have Done No Wrong … “

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Since we are in Holy Week, the Psalm reading in the Life Journal for April 17th, struck me to be applicable to Jesus’ Passion (i.e. His suffering and journey to the cross) …

I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
  (Psalm 59:4)

Doesn’t this remind us of Our Lord, Jesus?  In His perfection, He was attacked and sent to the cross for our sins.

And the Psalmist’s crying out in anguish, “Arise to help me; look on my plight!” sounds much like Jesus’ plea in the Garden at Gethsemane, “if it be your will, Father, may this cup pass me by” (Luke 22:41-43) … and again from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

May your “triduum” (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter) be filled with thoughts of reflection, penitence, and ultimately … joy!

Contemplating Christ’s sacrifice with you,

Pastor Augie.

John 3:16 – The Greatest Story Ever Told

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For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,
So loved – and longed to see forgiven,
The world – in sin and pleasure mad,
That he gave – the only Son he had,
His only Son – to take our place,
That whosoever – Oh, what grace,
Believeth – placing simple trust,
In Him – the righteous and the just,
Should not perish – lost in sin,
But have everlasting life – in HIM.

I referenced this poem in a recent sermon.  It is very fitting for our Lenten contemplation and preparation.  Not only is it poetic, but it captures the simplicity and essence, and yet the power and profound nature of each phrase within the well known, and much loved, John 3:16.  I do not know who the original author is, but I found it in a sermon entitled “John 3:16 – The Greatest Story Ever Told” by preacher Joseph Wallis.

May we recognize and appreciate the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus, which opened to us the gates and glory of Heaven!

In Christ’s Name,

Pastor Augie.

Who Is The Son of God?

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Lent is drawing to a close, and we turn our sights toward Easter. I can hardly wait to sing out the Alleluia’s again! Sometimes when I reflect on the somber tone that defines the Lenten season, I ask myself why we as Christians continue to celebrate this season – with all its mourning and fasting. We know, after all, that while Jesus was indeed crucified, He was more victoriously raised to life! Now that His suffering and death has passed, shouldn’t we leave that in the past and focus on the future? Yet, if it were not for His crucifixion, there would be no hope of resurrection. And if it were not for His suffering, there would be no joy.

So it is our mission to make Christ known to the world! For in this one Man, we see all of humanity and also all of divinity. So beginning on Easter, we will introduce the Son of God who came to live the perfect life, and die the perfect death for sinners, so that we might have the hope of eternity with God. Then on the four weeks following Easter, we will unpack the question – Just Who Is the Son of God? We will see that He is …

Week 1: “The Son of Man” – looking at Luke 5:17-26, we will see that Jesus identifies with us in our human condition. He is not only fully God, He is fully Man.

Week 2: “The Sinners Friend” – looking at Luke 18:9-14, we will see that Jesus doesn’t shun the outcast and the weak, but loves the lowly, broken and sinful.

Week 3: “The Anointed One” – looking at Luke 4:16-30, we will see that Jesus ushers in a new Kingdom, and with it, He issues a call to His followers to live new lives.

Week 4: “The Coming King” – looking at Luke 19:28-38, we will see that Jesus reigns over those who receive Him as King.

In addition to the messages on Sunday morning, there will be a Growth Group Bible Study on these topics that will allow you to dig more deeply into the Biblical content and themes that underlie each of these aspects of Jesus life and ministry. That Bible Study will be at 9:45am in the lower level of the church, and will coincide with the four weeks of the message series.

There really are lots of ways for you to engage with the Son of God. Attend the services, dig into the Bible, pass out some door hangers, and invite your friends. We even have some witnessing booklets that you can use to plant Gospel seeds! (Pick them up at the resource table.) But whatever you do, pray that God will use you and will use us to bring more to encounter Christ. Pray that they come with questions and even doubts. But pray mostly that they come with open hearts asking question like, who is the Son of God? Is He the way to God? Did he die for me? Is He alive? Does He care about me? Then pray that the Holy Spirit provides them with life changing answers to those questions, through Jesus … THE Son of God.

Serving Christ with you,

Pastor Augie

The Impact of the Resurrection

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“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It’s true, isn’t it?  If Christ has not been raised from the dead then it means several (bad) things:

1. He wasn’t who he said he was
2. He didn’t have the power he said he had
3. Either God doesn’t care or is powerless to raise from the dead
4. or the Father didn’t accept Christ’s sacrifice
5. much more…

But thankfully Christ WAS raised from the dead, and in fact He *is* still raised, living and reigning on the throne of heaven!

There are many such websites out there, but here are a couple that will provide much evidence and support for the Resurrection of Jesus.  Enjoy!

http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html (Josh McDowell)
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/proof-of-the-resurrection  (William Lane Craig)

Blessings in Christ – our RISEN Lord!

– Pastor Augie.