Devotions

Category Archives: Encore

Ready | How?

Ready | Devotion #6: How?
Ken Perry

In school, I was always fascinated with the English language. Physical education was my favorite class by a good margin, but I remember liking English fairly well, too. Do not get me started on math class though, I dreaded it and was very glad to only need two years to graduate.

One thing that plagued me in English was how to use proper punctuation. I always wonder about commas, colons, semi-colons, and does the period go before or after the quotation mark? To this day, I am still a bit confused. Thankfully there are people much smarter than me to proofread these devotions and catch my mistakes and run on sentences.

You might be wondering what punctuation has to do with this devotion. My only goal is to use it as an illustration. As we have been going through this Encore series, we have explored the topics of Recognize, Believe, Obey and now Ready. The Ascension of Jesus Christ is the Scripture passage being used. The work of Christ in redemption rests on four truths that are essential to being a Christian. 1. Jesus was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life. 2. He paid for our sin by His death on a cross. 3. He conquered death through His resurrection on the third day. 4. He ascended into Heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the Father constantly interceding on our behalf. He is alive forevermore!

Here is the connection. To gain a clearer picture, and just for fun, maybe we can look at those truths as punctuation marks. His life can be represented by quotation marks. The Bible is the spoken Word of God, and Jesus’ life is obviously depicted. His death is the period. Sin was defeated, end of the sentence (think about that one). His resurrection could be the comma. When we see a comma, we take a breath because there is more to come. His ascension might be the exclamation point. It is the ultimate mic drop of the encore. Pastor David Jeremiah said Jesus was “completely and finally demonstrating that His atonement forever solved the problem sin created.”

Jesus walked this earth physically for forty days after the resurrection. He was seen multiple times and at one appearance by over 500 people. These appearances convinced His disciples, beyond any doubt, that He had risen from the dead. He had accomplished the purpose set before Him from the foundation of the earth, and now He ascends to the Father. Acts 1:9 says, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Hebrews 12:2 adds,Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

That is glorious news! The very thing that we as believers want most, to be in Heaven with our Savior, has been accomplished by Jesus. Did you know we will be “lifted up” as well? “Harpazo” is the Greek word used 13 times in the New Testament and its translation means to be “caught up or lifted up.” The bottom line is that we are to be ready. How do we do that? Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are to run this Christian race throwing off the hindrances and sin. We are to run with perseverance “fixing our eyes upon Jesus” who ran the perfect race before us. Here is an important point to remember, without the ascension, there would be no Holy Spirit by which we are convicted of sin, convinced as to our need for a Savior and, according to Lamentations 1:16, comforted to the point it relieves our soul. Christ had to leave (ascend) for the promise of the Holy Spirit to take place.

There is no order of importance with these truths. Of utmost importance, though is that you believe them. If you are reading this and have not asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, please refer back to the four truths mentioned in the second paragraph. Believe them and ask Jesus, the only One with the power to save you from eternal separation, to come into your heart. Are you ready?

Ready | Why?

Ready | Devotion #5: Why?
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

About ten years ago, I was working at Stepanski Early Childhood Center in Waterford. At one point in my life, I had dreams and aspirations to be a pre-school teacher, so I went to school for my Early Child Development Degree and got an internship that led to a part-time job at S.E.C. I am pretty sure that the janitor and I were the only men that worked at that building, so needless to say, I was super popular with all the kids. While I had only two classes that I primarily helped with, recess time was a free for all. During recess kids wanted me to play with them. Kids in the sandbox would ask me to play, kids on the swings would ask me to push, kids running around would want to play tag (this was many pounds ago), and kids on the play structures would want me to watch them. Recess that was normally super fun became exhausting!  Trying to be there for every single kid was hard, and I did my best every day we went out, but I was spent at the end of the day.

I have been asked from students, “if Jesus came back from the grave, why did he leave to go back to Heaven?” That is such an amazing question, on so many levels. Jesus defeated death, Hell, and the grave because He died on a cross. He died for the world that crucified Him. Three days after His death, Jesus rose in victory, proving that no grave could hold him. Jesus’ victory was sure, and yet He stayed around. Sure, we could say Jesus wanted to see His mother, Peter, James, or Thomas before He left. Not only does He see them, but He also teaches some amazing lessons, and just stays on earth. Jesus stayed on earth for forty days after His resurrection to show that He was alive, but then He decided to leave.

In Acts chapter one, Jesus and His followers have gathered around, and one asked when Jesus was going to restore Israel. Jesus responded and then made one of the most amazing promises in the Bible. In verse 8 He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Then Jesus just leaves. To me, this is the craziest mic drop moment in the Bible. No evidence of Jesus explaining what the Holy Spirit was capable of, no explanation of what the game plan was on how to run this thing called “the Church,” just “you get Holy Spirit power, go witness, I am out!” The amount of “whys” should flood our minds reading this!

The thing I love most about reading the Bible is connecting the dots. Sometimes to understand something we have to be able to take something apart. Since God exists in the Trinity ( Father, Son, and Spirit), we have to be able to see all that encompasses the Trinity when we ask our “whys.” Each part of the Trinity is God, but each has a “job,” so to speak.  Throughout the whole Bible, we see that God is humble. Jesus’ entire life, He was humble and submits to His Father. If you read Philippians chapter 2, Father God will exalt Jesus, the Son, with the name above all names. Throughout the Bible, we see God the Father sending the Holy Spirit.  To answer the question of “Why did Jesus ascend” we need to look in John chapter 14. Jesus tells us in verse 16 that when He returns to Heaven “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” Even more crazy, before He says all of that Jesus says in verse 12,  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”  Jesus knows that the disciples “greater work” was made possible because of His work on the cross, and this “greater work” will be fueled by the Holy Spirit.

“Why did Jesus leave?” I feel with all that information, Jesus left so He could send the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that the Spirit would be able to help guide, teach, protect, and ensure believers would always have a way to communicate with God. To say Jesus cannot do something is a dangerous place to be, but Jesus never existed in multiple places in the world at once. Jesus left because He knew by leaving the Holy Spirit could (and would) be everywhere around the world. Crazy to think even Jesus was humble enough to know, He could not be everywhere at once.

Ready | When?

Ready | Devotion #4: When?
James Mann | Children’s Director

When did the ascension of Jesus Christ take place? There is a short answer to this and a long answer. First, is the short one. Acts 1:3 tells us, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Jesus waited a total of forty days until He ascended back to Heaven. Many people will ask, “Why did He wait forty days to go to Heaven? Why not go back right away?” Jesus was crucified in front of many people. What is a better way to prove to people that Jesus is who He said He was than to go to people after He conquered death, Hell, and the grave? You might ask, “Why not go see just a couple people and let them tell everyone He had risen?” How many people did it take to tell you about Jesus before you finally believed? How many times have you questioned Jesus or God, because you have not been able to see Him with your own eyes? Jesus gave “many proofs,” and they were convincing proofs. They were life-changing proofs.

Everyone Jesus encountered, will never again question whether or not Jesus is the Son of God. You would think that after 33 years of being on the Earth, performing miracles, people would have no doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, but it was not so. This is Jesus’ final way of showing in the flesh that He is the one God had sent. Jesus went around telling those He came into contact with about how things will be for the near and far future. Acts 1:4-5 says, “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Jesus could have stayed in Heaven and enjoyed eternity, with no problem at all, but He chose to bless us by coming back down and spending forty days proving to people who He was one last time. After His forty days back on Earth, He took His disciples with Him so they could witness Him ascend back into Heaven.

Ready | Where?

Ready | Devotion #3: Where?
James Clouse | Student Pastor

People come, and people go. There are times that I look back at some of my friends from high school and wish that we were still friends. There are some that I still talk to, some that I am “friends” with on Facebook, and some that I have not spoken with in years. However, I can look back and see exact times in my life where these friends have disappeared from my life. One of the things I know is that I may never see these people again and I have no idea where they went.

When it comes to the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were wondering the same thing. It is almost a humorous picture when you read Acts 1:9-11:

“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”

I picture the disciples looking at the sky, standing on the Mount of Olives, in disbelief of what they just saw. Jesus ascended in His human form on a cloud! They had never seen anything like that before. As they are standing there, two angels appear and start speaking with them.

An important aspect to this is knowing that we will see Jesus again in this form. Unlike the friends that I no longer see, I know that Jesus will be there when I go to Heaven. We know exactly where Jesus went and that is at the right hand of His Father. When we pray to our Heavenly Father, we know that Jesus is standing (physically standing or sitting next to) His Father with our prayers.

The ascension of Jesus also shows us that He will appear one day again in His physical form. So many across the world that are seeking redemption and love will one day know where to look.

Matthew 12:36 says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”

So as the disciples on the Mount of Olives and people all over the world in our time wonder where Jesus went, we know that one day all will not have to ask that question anymore.

Ready | What?

Ready | Devotion #2: What?
Brett Eberle | Production Director

I have attended a few churches throughout my life, and something that they all had in common is that they did some sort of Easter production. My parents and I have participated in more Easter productions than I can remember. Ever since I was hired on at The River, I have gotten to be more involved with the planning of what we call the “Passion Play.” Starting somewhere in October, we have weekly meetings about what the Passion Play is going to be in the coming year and every year without fail the question of whether or not we can ascend Jesus at the end of the play will be discussed. When I began researching what the ascension was really like, I realized that it lined up with many of the qualifications that we have for the play. It is good to look at what a few of those qualifications are.

Acts 1:6-11 says, So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”

If you read our Fallen book that was used to go along with our Fallen series, then you know that Lucifer was cast out of Heaven like a bolt of lightning. Knowing that is how he was cast out, it is logical to think that Jesus may have ascended in the same manner. Maybe it was more like Superman jumping into flight, breaking Mach 3 before his feet leave the ground as he takes off. While literally jumping into Heaven may have been super cool, the Bible tells us that is not how it happened. Verse 9 tells us that the disciples watched as Jesus was carried out of sight. It was slow and deliberate. This has always caused us problems in the play because we always want to have a song that goes with the ascension and attempting to lift someone two stories through the ceiling takes an extremely long song.

Verse 11 tells us that Jesus will return in the same manner that He was taken to Heaven. This has never caused us any problems in the play but last year I had the privilege of traveling to Israel and one of the first places that we went was the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended to Heaven. As we stood at the top, we looked out, and the first thing you notice is thousands upon thousands of graves where people have chosen to be buried as close as possible to where Jesus will return.

One of the toughest parts about making the ascension happen in the play was finding a chance to put the harness on the actor playing Jesus. When we choose to do the ascension in the play, we are then forced to portray the things that Jesus did in the days before He ascended and hiding a harness is not an easy thing to do. The fact that the ascension was physical takes away any ability for us to portray it using the screen or flashing lights to hide the fact that there is a thick cable hanging from the ceiling.

While the ascension may be an incredibly difficult task for us to pull off as a production staff, we know that it happened and it was a visible, physical, and deliberate act as Jesus went home. Just do not forget what the angels told the disciples, Jesus is coming back the same way that He left. It will be visible, physical, and deliberate.



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