Encouragement From The Word

An under-appreciated feast

Yesterday was Ascension Day, the day the church marks the ascension of Jesus into heaven, 40 days after his resurrection (that’s why it always lands on a Thursday).  Though it is a national holiday in some countries, for most of the Christian world, Ascension Day is undercelebrated.  So, in honour of this special day, I simply encourage you to reflect on these two passages from Scripture.

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.  As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!
                                                                         – Acts 1.6-11, NLT

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
    Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the Lord Most High is awesome.
    He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
    putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
    the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves. 


God has ascended with a mighty shout.
    The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
    sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King over all the earth.
    Praise him with a psalm. 
God reigns above the nations,
    sitting on his holy throne.
The rulers of the world have gathered together
    with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
    He is highly honored everywhere.      – Psalm 47, NLT

One of my favourite Ascension Day choral anthems is based on Psalm 47.  It was written by Gerald Finzi (apparently an agnostic Jew, himself).  Enjoy it along with me here.

By the way, some of you have been praying for my mother, and I appreciate that.  She died a week ago today, and her funeral took place yesterday – Ascension Day!  My wife and I appreciate your prayers as we deal with both grief and administration and execution of her will.  We are greatly comforted in knowing she now sees the Lord she served by faith face to face.

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Songs in the Key of Life: 5. God Is Gone Up

On this Ascension Sunday, we looked at 2 Samuel 6.1-15 and Psalm 47.  The Samuel passage gives the original-context background for the Psalm, and the Psalm is also one commonly associated with Jesus’ ascension.  (I’ve had this anthem by Gerald Finzi running through my head all week.)

Have a listen to the message (and my muted rant on political correctness therein!):

Encouragement From The Word

A (Limited) Fascination With Royalty

Earlier this week, an heir to the British royal throne was born.  Should the monarchy last that long, this child would be third in line to be king.  Anticipation over the impending birth was palpable.  The media were camped out outside the hospital where the child was to be born for at least two weeks prior to the birth.  It was the top news story on television ante, mid, and post partum.

This is nothing new, however.  North Americans – even those ‘rebellious’ citizens of the United States – share equally in the western excitement over celebrity.  In its own muted way it was always present, but was ramped up significantly with the engagement of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.  It escalated further with the untimely death of Diana, and has continued in its frenzied, Hollywood-like way up to the present.

Our society has a fascination with royalty – but it is a limited fascination.

Why is it limited?

Royalty that acts like celebrity is lauded, but royalty that takes, shall we say, the road less travelled, is ignored.

Consider Jesus.  His birth was foretold to be a royal birth, and it delivered (if you’ll pardon the pun).  It was little-noticed at the time, but that was overcome when the celebration of Christmas became popular.  Even in a secular culture, the celebration of Jesus’ birth (twisted though it can be) is still a big deal, and is a significant part of our fascination with royalty.

But it wasn’t all rosy, was it?  Right up to his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was lauded as a hero.  But when Judas’ kiss was given, and the whistle of the whip could be heard, and the sound of nails piercing flesh echoed, all of a sudden, the fascination with royalty evaporated.  This is still true:  look at your church’s attendance on Christmas Eve, and on Good Friday.  Notice any difference?!

The celebration of the resurrection brought back King Jesus’ fame, because everybody likes a happy ending.  Yet he falls out of favour again when we carefully and lovingly read his Word in Scripture, which provides challenge as well as encouragement.  Jesus, through his Word in Scripture (not just the ‘red letters’, but the entire Bible) can shake us to the core of our being.  What he says is not always popular, but because he is God (more than just royalty!), we are invited to obey.  We are invited to be more than fans.  We are invited to be fully-devoted followers of this royal Son, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
 Shout to God with joyful praise!  For the Lord Most High is awesome.
 He is the great King of all the earth.  He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet” (Psalm 47, NLT).