May 2010


New York City’s newest fireboat .

As part of the annual Navy Fleet week in New York City harbor, a special commissioning ceremony was held Wednesday at the Navy Museum pier. While we were waiting to meet up with our son from the ship USS Iwo Jima, we watched the ceremony from afar since the event was “invitation only”. We did get to see the Mayor and many dignitaries first hand as they exited and managed to come up with a souvenir program that was discarded by one of the ‘invited ones’. I’ll no doubt be posting on our visit to the NYC area and our reunion with our son David. But for now enjoy the video of the launching last September 11 of Fireboat 343.

Related post at NPR on Terror Fighting Fireboat

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As recorded in the book of Acts, Holy Scripture.

Read the most viewed E4Unity post: The Coming of the Missionary Spirit by Roland Allen (1910)

A classic reading: The Christian’s Strength

The difference between “ what would Jesus do” and “what IS Jesus doing”! You may be familiar with the popular fad that was revived in recent years that sought guidance for Christians in daily decisions by answering with WWJD. Like so many fads in Christianity, I always felt that though the intent was a sincere attempt to influence life’s decisions by reference to the historical Jesus, this version of what it means to be a disciple of Christ completely missed the heart of the Biblical Gospel.

In the last few days, I have been reading a book which confronts this misunderstanding in the American churches with a fresh exposition of the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus. The book which was published in 2004 by Gerrit Scott Dawson, is entitled –

Jesus Ascended: the meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation“.

I read a lot and have considered myself a full-time student for over 50 years. It has been a long time since I have been as profoundly moved as I have in reading this book about the present life of Jesus of Nazareth now in His heavenly session as our King-Priest. The fact that I have been celebrating the Festival of the Ascension for over a week now was the preparation needed to be able to profit so much from this author and the mature understanding he has of this neglected part of the Biblical narrative. I would love to recommend this book to everyone but I won’t because of one principle that is a priority here at E4Unity and that is the recognition that each individual is unique and in no way would the many be able to profit in the same way I have from reading any book. In the area of what is called “spiritual formation” that means that real progress is made only when we are able to see these things for ourself, through the “eyes of faith”, and that means we must be patiently brought in life’s experiences to desiring such things as this present world can never give or satisfy our inner spirit with.

I want to leave you with some quotes from Dawson. He is an excellent writer and this book is very “reader friendly” in the sense that he tells you what his topic is, tells you how he is going to approach it, and even gives you upfront a short direction on “how to use this book”. I will tell you that he is a Presbyterian pastor and so he is thoroughly pastoral- that is he concerns himself in the end with the purpose of this doctrine in living here on planet earth, the life of Christ in heaven transmitted to us by the Holy Spirit as we learn to live, not in the flesh, but by faith in God’s abundant provision in His beloved Son Jesus.

He has included some of the rich comments from past teachers in the churches, both from the Patristic fathers as well as men like John Calvin,  Andrew Murray, and Lesslie Newbigin. He has a robust exposition of what the the Ascension of Christ has meant to the Church in the past as well as how it can be instrumental in reviving us in the challenge we are now facing in our own generation.

“We have such difficulty conceiving how, or even believing that, the body of Jesus went to heaven that we may want the doctrine to remain in obscurity” (p.3)

“In no way, then, did the ascension signal simply a return to business as usual between God and humanity. Rather, the ascension of Christ is a vital hinge on which turns the work of the Mediator, the incarnate Son, our Redeemer in all his offices.” (p.8)

“My premise is that the church- our local church and the churches of the west-needs to recover the meta-narrative of the gospel as a counter-story, indeed a better story to the one the world tells. . .one of those episodes, the ascension, has been sorely neglected in the church’s telling of the story. The silence. . .cuts us off from the present work of Christ in heaven and from the conclusion of the story. . .recovering a proper and robust doctrine of the ascension can reconnect us to a sense of our true citizenship in heaven and the implications of that identity for life in the world.”(p.25)

Dawson’s book is divided into three parts, and we haven’t even reached the second one yet. But I don’t want to impose on you so I will close for now with one more, this time, a quote from Andrew Murray. Murray has also been one of my favorite devotional writers for a long time. Dawson may be the first Presbyterian writer that I can think of among contemporary ones that utilizes the treasures in Murray so often and so freely. He says here, that ” the church can reclaim the fullness of its story, with spectacular results.” And then quotes Murray-

” Faith has in its foundation four great cornerstones on which the building rests- the Divinity of Christ, The Incarnation, the Atonement on the Cross, the Ascension to the Throne. The last is the most wonderful, the crown of all the rest, the perfect revelation of what God has made Christ (to be)for us. And so in the Christian life it is the most important, the glorious fruit of all that goes before.” (p.26)

In part two, one of the highlights for me was his discussion of Calvin’s interpretation of the Lord’s Supper as one of the means of grace directly connected with the ascension. We will have a great deal to come back to on another occasion. For now, we must get ready to celebrate once again another Festival: The Day of Pentecost.

The link to the book is the on-line edition where you can read most of it at Google.books.

Celebrating today with Sir Beethoven’s help.

The Ascension of Christ is an integral part of the Biblical story of the Incarnation; it’s public knowledge or what is referred to on this blog as “the open secret”. I am in the process of reading two books that I want to post about before the Day of Pentecost. One was written 100 years ago, the other in 2004, but both have the same objective: to encourage the revival of the Festival of the Ascension in the churches where it has been neglected or is unknown. They both are rich in the meaning the Biblical writers attach to the historical event and what it means in the spiritual life of the Christian Church, tracing it through church history. The festival indeed continues!

A wonderful discovery regarding worship resources. I find encouragement from many places in the blog world and yesterday was an outstanding example. It was on a blog that I had not visited before (believe it or not) called “Stay on the Rock“, that turns out to be the blog of Lifewayworship.com. I don’t feel bad singing their praises since I have spoken several times of my appreciation for the worship resources of other denominational sources such as that of the United Methodist.

The sacrament of communion

What caught my attention first was the theme of the post: Worship at the communion table. For those that don’t already know, Lifeway is the publication arm of the Southern Baptist Convention of churches and is the largest supplier of protestant material. Many churches that are not Baptist use it as for resources.

The Baptist tradition as well as the larger evangelical church, has come under fire from those of the liturgical churches for a weak theology of worship by men the likes of J.I.Packer and John Stott, Anglicans, just to name a few. So you can imagine my delight to find someone in the inside of Lifeway worship team who is reading something outside the Baptist tradition like Robert Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship”. The post let me know that the guys producing worship resources for the churches understand that the theology of the church is important. Just another example of how rich the different traditions are and that by being willing to consider what those outside our own limited tradition have to say can only enrich everyone.

I made a short comment on the post but I wanted to publicly say to the blogger and his team- “congratulations”, for their important contributions to the churches. If you visit the post, you will note at the bottom a link to a long list of church music deemed appropriate for the communion service including both traditional hymns and contempory choruses. Here again, the rich theology of the Lord’s Supper should dictate what is best appropriate to make this one of the most blessed experiences of our corporate life together.

So thank you Lifewayworship team for your faithfulness and for including some of this bloggers favorites such as “I Love Thy Kingdom”, “In Christ there is no east or west”, “One Day”, “The Wonderful Cross”, and “Come to the table”.

See my own post last year related to Communion

I am so glad there is an interval of days between the Ascension of Christ and the Day of Pentecost. I admit that in the past I have not paid enough attention to Ascension Day. And if I did, it was to focus more on the disciples, what they were doing in obedience to their Lord’s instructions.

By continuing now to give my spirit free reign to roam through the narrative looking for additional ways the Ascension is referenced by the Biblical writers, I am finding all sorts of treasures. Some of these I have added as comments on the previous post.

Gifts of the Ascended Christ

Since this one deals so directly to the theme of E4Unity, the unity of the universal Church of Jesus Christ, and the necessity of that unity as related to the perfecting of the Saints, I want to post this separately. Read how the Apostle Paul, reasoning from the historical Ascension of Christ, emphatically states how the Church is to perfect herself in this present age: Ephesians 4:7-16

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds  and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

This I believe, is exactly what the Apostle had in his spirit and in his prayers for those first recipients of this letter (see chapter 3: 14-21). This is the vision the Father has allowed me to see for most of my adult life- the vision of His purpose for His new creation, not the race of Adam but the race of the last Adam, even Jesus Christ.

Most of our American calendars do not even have this very special day in the Christian Faith marked. Too many Christians don’t celebrate the significance of what that historical day means.

” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

John’s Gospel, 16:6,7

But the Ascension, just like the birth, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has a vital part of the Biblical narrative to contribute. The ancient Christian Faith cannot do without it. And if we want to understand our role in that faith tradition, we must search out what was happening on this historic occasion. So I urge you to search the Scriptures with the help of  some of the excellent resources available to inform yourself of how this part of the Jesus story expresses God’s wisdom for His creatures. I found this excellent meditation from Robert Hart. He provides us the kind of resources that makes the journey a little easier and enjoyable.

“When we consider the Ascension, we must pay attention to the emphasis given by these scriptures to the coming of the Holy Spirit, so that the Apostolic Church would continue the ministry of Christ as an extension of his incarnation in the fallen world.
(To Continue reading)

There is a lot to discuss these next ten days before Pentecost. That event is also full of significance in the Biblical story as we tried to speak to last year. Keep your Bibles open and keep reading together with the Church.