Thursday, May 09, 2013

Gone but not for good

"Ascension of Christ" 
Tiffany window Union Congregational Church,
Montclair, NJ, Designer unknown

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 1:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.'" Acts 1:10-11

Even after Jesus rose from the dead His disciples didn't grasp his plan. For when they were together they quizzed Him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

It was only after His answer and then His ascension that they finally understood that this wasn't going to be an earthly kingdom He would set up any day now. 

The two "men who stood by them in white apparel"  promised that Jesus would be back, would actually return in the way they had seen Him go. His coming is talked about throughout the Bible. It's in the Old Testament (Psalm 98:9; Daniel 7:13; Zechariah 14:5). Jesus referred to it repeatedly (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27). And it was the hope of the Apostles (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3).

The early church expected it to occur any day. There was even a wait-instead-of-work controversy that developed because, these early Christians reasoned, why bother working when Jesus will come back any day anyway.

We are still waiting. God's definition of "quickly" (Revelation 3:11) is obviously not the same as ours. But in the meantime, The Bible tells us to occupy ourselves in:

  • Readiness - because Jesus' second coming will be unexpected - Matthew 24:44.
  • Stewardship - because we will be held accountable for what God has given us - Luke 19:13.
  • Waiting - 1 Corinthians 1:7.
  • Charitableness - because God who knows things we don't about motivations behind others' actions  and will judge people by His standard of truth - 1 Corinthians 4:5.
  • Holy living - so we will be preserved blameless - 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
  • Obedience - 1 Timothy 6:14.
  • Joyful expectation - because Jesus' glorious return is a "blessed hope" - Titus 2:13.
  • Constant abiding - so that we can meet Him without shame but full of confidence - 1 John 2:28.

It's tricky living with one eye toward the sky, the other on the things of earth. But it's also very freeing as we keep in mind how transitory this life is, how we need to travel lightly (both materially and in judgment) and always keep our relationship with God clear, open, and strong - so we will be ready for His return. It could be today!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for this account of Your visible ascension into heaven and the clear promise of Your return. Help me to occupy myself productively and in ways that will please You as I wait. Amen.

MORE: Ascension Day

Today the church celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven. The liturgy for the day begins with this Collect:

"Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

"We Shall Behold Him" written by Dottie Rambo, sung here by Sandi Patty

(The lady Sandi Patty hugs at the end of the video is Dottie Rambo.)


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
Bible Drive-Thru

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