Ascension Day

Ascension of the Lord | May 30, 2019

Acts 1:1-11 • Psalm 47 • Ephesians 1:15-23 • Luke 24:44-53

Luke 24:44-53 New Living Translation (NLT)

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.

49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.

Today is Ascension Day – 40 days since Easter – 10 days before Pentecost. Jesus had gathered his disciples on the Mount of Olives and gives them some parting instructions. This event is important enough that Luke records it both in his gospel of Luke and in the first chapter of Acts.

(The first version of this didn’t post – so I’m trying again.)

There are three things that Jesus mentions in these final words – the Gospel of Jesus – that he would suffer, die, and then rise again on the third day; That He was giving authority to the disciples to proclaim this gospel; thirdly, he told them that they would be able to proclaim this gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Paul writes in Ephesians:

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 1:19-20

It was through the Holy Spirit that Jesus received His power while here on earth. Remember Paul also tells us that Jesus humbled himself to the point of being a slave – with no power – even obedience in death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8.) It was the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. We are told that the same power that raised Christ from the dead also dwells in us. Jesus told His disciples that unless He went away, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. This Holy Spirit would dwell in the hearts of all his people. It is this Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead that gives us power to be witnesses to the story of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples:

46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’

Luke 24:46-47

Jesus wants the people who call themselves Christians – or Christ-followers to be witnesses to the power and authority of the Gospel. When ministers are ordained, they are commanded to:

take authority to preach the Word of God, to administer the holy sacraments, and to perform the duties of an ordained minister in the Church.

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave this authority to everyone who was a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even though we are now many generations removed from that moment – through the power of the Word (Jesus) we have been given authority to do the same – in the same power that raise Jesus from the dead. So what are we waiting for?

Memorial Day 2019

Last night in commemoration of Memorial Day, we watched the National Memorial Day Concert. It was the 30th anniversary of the concert which is held on the West Lawn of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. I always find it a little disconcerting to hear the words, “Happy Memorial Day.” Today is a day of remembrance – not a celebration. Here in a few moments, we will be getting ready for the Eldred Memorial Day parade. In out town they close down Main Street – the only through street – and we honor those who have paid a great sacrifice for our country – so that we might be free.

Following the parade there is a short ceremony behind the Elementary School. It is all very moving to remember those who died in service to their country. So, today, let’s pause and reflect and remember.

Sunday Night Thoughts

It’s hard to believe that it is the last Sunday of May. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I didn’t realize until today that the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix are often held on the same weekend, as is the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte.

Tomorrow our church will have a float in the Eldred Memorial Day Parade as we remember the fallen. We had a float last year and many have told us how much they appreciated our church being involved. I have been working on getting everything ready for that this afternoon. Once I get done with this, I will finish up.

The summer-like weather has arrived, but we have also had cool weather over the last week. This past week I ended up driving many van miles for the various schools. I was also trying to get the grass cut, but between my schedule and the rain, it was tough.

Yesterday I was honored to be ask to be part of a memorial service for a pastor that had died a few weeks ago. I was asked to be part of the worship band and played acoustic and electric. It’s been several years since I have played in a full worship band, so that was cool. The service did a great job at celebrating the life of Rev. Fred Moore. I was glad that I was part of it.

This week, I need to get ready for our local church conference, which will be next Sunday. On Wednesday, I get a chance to present our ministerium scholarship to a local student at the school’s awards ceremony.

I think once we get past next Sunday, things will slow down a bit for the summer. We did have a good service this morning. I preached about John Wesley and his Aldersgate experience. That’s about all I have. Have a great week.

Prayer for the Week

Sixth Sunday of Easter

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Running Update

There are days that running feels more like the picture above. Today was one of those struggle days. Although as I moved into the final mile, something clicked – it didn’t feel any better but my stride improved and my pace went down. Most of the rest of the run my legs felt like lead.

My goal mileage wise for May is 108. This would tie last May, but I am currently at 68 miles. 40 miles by next Friday would be a stretch at best. However, if I stick to an alternate plan, I can at least come up with 30 to 32 miles, which would take me to 100. I would be happy with that.

This week I was able to complete 22 miles – 16 running and 6 walking, and all of those miles since Thursday. Maybe that’s why I was a little sluggish. That about wraps up this week’s update. Pressing On!

You Play the Way You Practice

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This spring has been busy – to say the very least. Pam and I are involved in our local clergy association and spring is a very busy time of year and because I am the musical one, I design our worship experiences as a faith community. Up until Easter I did good, in spending private time with God to worship. Then Easter came and there was yard work to do, along with helping to plan a baccalaureate service and leading worship at a pastor’s gathering. The past couple weeks I ended up concentrating on the urgent – not necessarily the important.

I could feel in my soul and spirit that I was a bit weary. Tuesday night I was especially weary and decided to get alone with my guitar. I started by playing Billy Joel’s “Allentown.” After that I did a little jamming on some songs that I have learned for the sake of not playing with music or chord charts, “Leader of the Band,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “Wayfaring Stranger.”

I pulled out my worship book from Sunday. Our Baccalaureate Service was on Sunday and the songs I used were in there. This time with no pressure to perform – plus on Sunday night I had a technical glitch that I could figure out, which took away from the experience – I played through the songs again, adding some that fit. I ended up spending about 45 minutes to an hour in worship of our great God and it was amazing. It was an uplift to my spirit and I felt myself spiritually renewed.

Which brings us to the title of this post You Play the Way You Practice. One of the dangers of being a worship leader is that you are always leading worship for someone else, and sometimes we forget the One for whom we do this. My college choral director was fond of telling our choir that you play the way you practice, meaning that if you do it sloppy in rehearsal, you will slop through the performance.

I am a huge believer in both corporate and private worship and this week I was reminded of the importance of private worship – with no one to sing to EXCEPT the Audience of One – who is the only one worthy of our songs of praise in the first place. Before we ever desire to be leading in corporate worship, we need to have our hearts prepared in private worship. My prayer for my worship leader friends is that they are always prepared by worshiping in private before leading in public worship.

Aldersgate Day

May 24, 1738 – the day that John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed. The day that he received the assurance of salvation – that God truly had forgiven him of his sins. Wesley grew up as a preacher’s kid. He was saved from the fire as he quotes “as a brand plucked from the burning.” He studied at Oxford and was ordained as a deacon and then a priest in the Anglican Church and yet, he felt something was missing. All of that changed on this day in 1738. Here is what Wesley writes in his journal.

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will.

After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.

John Wesley’s Journal Entry for May 24, 1738

Three days earlier, his brother Charles also had his own conversion experience. Charles has given us a wonderful hymnody, writing over 6,000 hymns. On the first year anniversary of his conversion he wrote, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Today we sing several of the verses but here are the original verses:

. Glory to God, and praise and love,
Be ever, ever given;
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

2. On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of righteousness arose,
On my benighted soul he shone,
And filled it with repose.

3. Sudden expired the legal strife;
‘Twas then I ceased to grieve.
My second, real, living life,
I then began to live.

4. Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine;
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Saviour mine.

5. I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me he loved – the Son of God
For me, for me he died!

6. I found and owned his promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I know,
When written on my heart.

7. O For a thousand tongues to sing 
My dear Redeemer’s praise! 
The glories of my God and King, 
The triumphs of His grace!

8. My gracious Master and my God, 
Assist me to proclaim, 
To spread through all the world abroad
The honors of Thy name.

9. Jesus! the Name that charms our fears, 
That bids our sorrows cease; 
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears, 
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

10. He breaks the power of cancell’d sin, 
He sets the prisoner free; 
His blood can make the foulest clean, 
His blood avail’d for me.

11. He speaks, – and, listening to his voice, 
New life the dead receive; 
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice; 
The humble poor believe.

12. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, 
Your loosen’d tongues employ; 
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come, 
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

13. Look unto him, ye nations; own
Your God, ye fallen race; 
Look, and be saved through faith alone, 
Be justified by grace.

14. See all your sins on Jesus laid; 
The Lamb of God was slain; 
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

15. Harlots, and publicans, and thieves,
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes,
From crimes as great as mine.

16. Murderers, and all ye hellish crew,
Ye sons of lust and pride,
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Saviour died.

17. Awake from guilty nature’s sleep, 
And Christ shall give you light, 
Cast all your sins into the deep, 
And wash the AEthiop white.

18. With me, your chief, ye then shall know, 
Shall feel your sins forgiven; 
Anticipate your heaven below, 
And own that love is heaven.

Let us celebrate a man, whose conversion, some say changed the course of history in the 18th Century England.

All Who Love Me…

Sixth Sunday of Easter | May, 26, 2019

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on

Acts 16:9-15 • Psalm 67 • Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 • John 14:23-29

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

John 14:23-29 New Living Translation (NLT)

This week we are again in a passage that occurs before Jesus’ crucifixion. This conversation that he his having with his disciples occurs after he states that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The disciples aren’t so sure that they know the way to the Father, and Jesus reminds them if they have seen Jesus, they have seen the Father. He promises them that they will do the same things that He did and even greater works because the Holy Spirit will come and dwell within them.

The Holy Spirit will do the work of the Father in our lives. This is where we pick up in today’s text. He reminds his disciples that if we love Him, we will do what He says. If we don’t love Him, we won’t obey Him. Jesus makes it seem all so black and white. It really is our love for God and our obedience to Him that shows to the world that we are His disciples.

During this conversation, Jesus reminds his disciples that He is going away, but the Holy Spirit will come and be an Advocate. When we think of this, think of the lawyer who is with you at a trial. We also use the word Counselor – this is the same thought. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us along the way – the Holy Spirit is on our side and directs us in our Christian living.

Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will obey him. He is not requiring anything of us that He isn’t already doing. Jesus knew that his time was coming to a close and that in order to bring salvation, he must endure the cross and the same and be obedient to the Father.

Sometimes we say, but if I could learn more about Jesus that would make me a better Christian. Many years ago, I heard a quote – and it is haunting. I heard it in a class that I was taking on the life of Jesus. Most of that class was focused on the gospel of John. The professor said this, “We are educated well beyond the level of our obedience.” Ouch! We know what to do – the Holy Spirit, if He is dwelling in us (and He should as believers) will guide us into the truth. The Holy Spirit will guide us into obedience if only we let Him.

Let’s truly love Jesus by doing what He says.