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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Old order Mennonite boy riding in pickup
Yesterday we came up behind this little Mennonite boy riding in the back of a horse-drawn pickup truck.  I suppose many of us recall the thrill of riding in the back of a pick-up truck when we were children.
(Actually I still like riding in the back of a pick-up!)

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"Ascension Day"

After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "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" (Acts 1:9-11).

My grandpa riding bike in his eighties
What kind of experiences are you now having that you'll eventually want to tell your grandchildren?  As a young man my grandpa, George Washington Steincross, traveled out west by hitching rides on trains and once climbed Pike's Peak alone at night by following the cog rails.  I wonder at the time if he thought, "These will sure be neat stories to tell my grandchildren someday."

PaPa (as we grandkids called him) was a colorful man who was married to my MaMa for 65 years. While in his eighties he would still ride a bike, especially on his birthday. (Yes, that's him in the photo to the right on his 80th birthday.)  Now his aging grandchildren get together and reminisce as they too have their own interesting stories to pass on to their grandchildren.

Can you imagine the stories Peter and the other disciples shared with their grandchildren?  Visualize with me the children sitting on Peter's lap as he told them about the time he, along with James and John went up with Jesus to a mountain and there Jesus' face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light.  He would surely tell about the horrible events that took place before Jesus was crucified; how he, himself, had failed the Lord but was restored shortly after Christ was resurrected from the dead.

In deep contemplation with expressive voice his stories would unfold one by one.  Any of these action packed stories would likely precede the final amazing story where Peter explains that, before his very eyes, he saw His Lord and Savior being taken up into the clouds.  He likely expressed to his attentive listeners, "I saw Him disappear into the clouds and hoped that he might reappear as soon as the clouds cleared, but that was my final viewing of the Master.  Each day I still look up in the clouds hoping that I might see Him again since the angels who suddenly appeared to us on that day told us, '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.'  So, children, keep looking up because one fine day the angels promised that He will be coming back."

We look at this past historical event with a little added color in today's message as we honor Ascension Day. In most of Christendom this day doesn't have nearly the emphasis as other notable events in our Lord's earthly life such as His birth, death, resurrection or Day of Pentecost which followed His Ascension by 10 days. I wonder how many readers even recalled that this was Ascension Day prior to reading today's message?

The old order communities of faith in our area place great emphasis on this holy day. As we traveled through that part of the county yesterday we noted that many of the stores and businesses are closed on Ascension Day with special services being held.

Ascension Day artworkToday's Scripture portion gives us the most complete record of the Ascension found in the Bible.  Jesus had just reinforced the Great Commission, the church's primary mission, and then "He was taken up before their very eyes."  This was important for the disciples to witness and is an essential part of the Biblical record. It reinforces that Jesus Christ is God and that He returned to His home in heaven 40 days after He was resurrected from the dead. An ancient creedal statement of the early church is found in 1 Timothy 3:16, "He was taken up in glory."

That promise of His return is reinforced and elaborated on throughout the New Testament. Paul calls it the "blessed hope."  One day, soon, maybe even today this glorious event will take place.  Let us faithfully serve the Lord, who now sits at the right hand of the Father, until that great day!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, though we don't know the day nor the hour, You already have the blessed event of Christ's return on Your heavenly calendar.  Even as the Son of Man ascended into heaven He will come again, but this time we have the blessed hope of ascending with Him in the air and joining with those of like precious faith.  Thank You for loved ones and witnesses of the truth who have repeated this glorious life-transforming message to us over the years preparing our hearts for this major event.  May it be the resounding message from our lips as we anticipate the glorious moment when we will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye.  Amen.  

Of course the Bible does not specify that Peter or any of the disciples were grandpas but it is a reasonable conjecture.

A Recollection of Brooksyne

Last night we were listening to "Family Life" with Dennis Rainey, a program on our Christian radio station. It was a recording of Bill Bright  being intervied shortly before he went to be with the Lord. He shared just how excited he was about going to heaven and how this was an outlook instilled in him by his godly mother when he was a child. This in turn prompted a memory for Brooksyne:

As a child Grandpa talked to me about heaven more frequently than any other subject.  He was in his 70's and greatly anticipated the day when he would join with the hosts of heaven in praising God.  It was troublesome to me as a child because I wanted to cling to my loving grandfather here on earth.  But when his time of departure eventually came I was about 23 years old.  The flashbacks of him sitting me on his lap and telling me how excited he was about going to heaven flooded my memories.  As much as I loved him it sure made saying good-bye a whole lot easier.  I'm sure looking forward to meeting him on the other side and I would be thrilled if it were today!

Brooksyne with her Grandpa (in the mid-seventies)
This is a photo of my Grandpa, Elbert Sherrell and me (when I was a junior in college) sitting on the banks of Horsehead Lake in Arkansas. As a child we often visited this mountain lake since it was about four miles down the back of the mountain from where Grandpa farmed.  It was an extremely rugged trail but Grandpa never got tired of leading us down this trail. The bigger challenge was climbing back up, yet he always took the lead!

79422: HeavenHeaven  By Randy Alcorn / Tyndale House
As the years pass and we watch more and more of our family, friends and mentors pass away, it is only natural to ask questions about heaven. However, our understanding of heaven is often limited to a few half-forgotten Sunday school lessons and the insubstantial images provided by popular movies and T.V. Fortunately, in Heaven Randy Alcorn provides us with a thoroughly researched and biblically definitive description of heaven. As Alcorn addresses our most serious questions about heaven, including the nature of judgment, and answers a few of our less serious questions as well, including the accessibility of cafe mochas the sweet by and by, we will develop a deeper understanding of our eternal destination and will find the courage to strive for heaven while were living on earth. Click here for more information or to order online.

Yesterday I shared a mystery photo of a field of poppy flowers. It was taken in Afghanistan by a young man who grew up in the church I pastored in New England who is now serving there, but is expected to return to the states soon.

It's interesting that I would read this disturbing piece news analysis yesterday by commentator Gary Bauer:

After weeks of rumors, Jake Tapper of ABC News has confirmed that Bibles sent to U.S. troops in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed. The Bibles were translated into the predominate Afghan languages and were intended as gifts U.S. soldiers could give to the people. The Pentagon said the Bibles were a violation of regulations prohibiting proselytizing and could endanger the lives of our forces in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation.

But even if that argument is compelling, it is outrageous that the Bibles were burned or destroyed in some other way. The U.S. military has been ordered to go to extraordinary lengths not to “defile” a Koran. At GITMO our soldiers are required to wear gloves when handling that book so as not to offend Muslims. Is it too much to ask that orders be issued that Bibles be handled with as much respect?

When a Koran is mishandled Muslims riot all over the world. In contrast, when the Bible is defaced there are no riots in the Bible Belt, because we tend to remember the teachings of Christ that urge us to “turn the other cheek.” Frankly, I am running out of cheeks.

Mark Griffin at CBMC meeting
Yesterday I attended a CBMC meeting where my friend Mark Griffin shared his testimony.  Mark is a VP of Human Resources in a local company and shared as a Human Resource professional the specific challenges of this type of work in today's economy, particularly when it comes to dealing with downsizings. Twice in his career he has been the recipient of downsizing which helps him to approach his HR role prayerfully and with empathy when companies are forced to exercise this difficult task. CBMC is an organization I belong to comprised of businessmen seeking to honor Christ in their work. My relationship with this group is primarily due to my corporate chaplaincy ministry since I am not a businessman.

CBMC friends Ron Hoover and Rick Steudler
Ron Hoover and Rick Steudler are two friends I saw yesterday at the meeting. I have a chaplaincy relationship with both of them in the companies they operate.  Ron also leads a local Convene group here in Lancaster County.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.

"I can only imagine"
Video Mercy Me
Listen to a vocal version from the Galloway House

Listen to an instrumental version with an outstanding saxophone instrumental from this site.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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