The Heidelberg Catechism on The Ascension

This coming Lord’s Day, we will be considering Luke 24:50-53 in the preaching of God’s Word. Most weeks, as we profess the Apostles’ Creed in worship, we declare that “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” The Ascension is a cardinal Christian doctrine, but we often overlook its significance for our daily life as believers. The language of the Heidelberg Catechism is helpful in understanding the comfort this doctrine brings to our lives and to our deaths. For your edification, consider these words below.

46. How dost thou understand the words: He ascended into Heaven? 
That Christ, in sight of His disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven; and in our behalf there continues, until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

47. Is not then Christ with us even unto the end of the world, as He has promised? 
Christ is true Man and true God: according to His human nature, He is now not on earth; but according to His Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us.

49. What benefit do we receive from Christ’s ascension into heaven? 
First, that He is our Advocate in the presence of His Father in heaven. Secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven, as a sure pledge, that He, as the Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself. Thirdly, that He sends us His Spirit, as an earnest, by whose power we seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on the earth.

Arguing with a Madman

“If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by clarity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”

—G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Co., 1909), p. 32

A Caution to Aging Men

John Calvin’s commentaries are rich in both biblical exposition and social commentary.  In preparing to preach in Genesis 7 this coming Lord’s Day at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, I came across this comment regarding Genesis 7:6 which resonated with me.

 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. Genesis 7:6

“It is not without reason that he again mentions the age of Noah.  For old age has this among other evils – that it renders men more indolent and morose.   Whence the faith of Noah was the more conspicuous, because it did not fail him in that advanced period of life.”

For more hard words about growing older, check out my review of  A Word to the Aged by William Bridge.

Liberty to the Captives

It is of the essence of the gospel to proclaim liberty to the captives.   At Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18-19

In reading Arthur Pink’s Gleanings in Genesis, regarding Abram’s rescue of Lot, I found the following passage a good reminder of our calling to proclaim liberty to captive, not tell him “I told you so.”

It is beautiful to observe the effect of this intelligence [regarding Lot’s capture] upon our patriarch. Abram was not indifferent to his nephew’s well-being. There was no root of bitterness in him. There was no callous, “Well, this is none of my doing: he must reap what he has sown.” Promptly he goes to the aid of the one in distress. But note it was not in the energy of the flesh that he acted. It was no mere tie of nature that prompted Abram here — “When Abram heard that his brother (not his ‘nephew’) was taken captive.’’ A brother — a spiritual brother — was in need, and so he

“armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan” (Genesis 14:14).

And has this no voice for us today? Surely the spiritual application is obvious. How often is a “brother” taken captive by the enemy, and the word comes,

“Ye, which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

The Sower’s Song

Oh God, I am furrowed like the field
Torn open like the dirt
And I know that to be healed
That I must be broken first
I am aching for the yield
That You will harvest from this hurt

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
As I abide in You

So I kneel
At the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn
At the glowing edge of spring
When the winter’s edge is gone
And I can see the color green
I can hear the sower’s song

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
Let Your word take root
Remove in me
The branch that bears no fruit
And move in me, Lord
As I abide in You

Andrew Peterson from The Sower’s Song on The Burning Edge of Dawn

Art for God’s Sake

Art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart. Its artifacts embody the ideas and desires of the coming generation. This means that what is happening in the arts today is prophetic of what will happen in our culture tomorrow.  It also means that when Christians abandon the artistic community, we lose a significant opportunity to communicate Christ to our culture. Furthermore, when we settle for the trivial expressions of truth in worship and art, we ourselves are diminished as we suffer a loss of transcendence.  What we need to recover (or possibly discover for the first time) if a full biblical understanding of the arts — not for art’s sake, but for God’s sake.  

Philip Graham Ryken in “Art for God’s Sake”

A Needful Reminder

“The very same impulse that makes the loving heart carve the beloved name on the smooth rind of the tree makes it sweet to one who is in real touch and living fellowship with Jesus Christ to speak about Him.  O brother! There is a very sharp test for us…. Shut up [that impulse] and it will be like some wild creature put into a cellar, fast locked and unventilated; when you open the door it will be dead…. For the direct work in speaking the name of Jesus Christ is possible for every Christian, whoever he or she is, however weak, ignorant, uninfluential with howsoever narrow a circle.  There is always somebody that God means to be the audience of His servant whenever that servant speaks of Christ.  Do you not know that there are people in this world, as wives, children, parents, friends of different sorts, who would listen to you more readily than they would listen to anyone else speaking about Jesus Christ.”  

Alexander Maclaren, “Christ’s Witnesses” An Exposition of Acts 23:11

Mary’s Song by Luci Shaw

Mary’s Song

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest …
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.
Luci Shaw