With Jesus in the Boat

The early church viewed Jesus’ miracle of calming the troubled sea (Mark 4:35-41)
as a sign of His saving presence amidst persecution
that threatened to overwhelm the church.

In early Christian art, the Church was portrayed as a boat
being driven about on a perilous sea and,
with Jesus in the midst, there was nothing to fear.

rembrandt_christ_in_the_storm_on_the_lake_of_galilee

A Good Word If You Are Burdened Today

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

We serve a God who sustains and gives rest to His burdened children. He helps his children endure times of difficulty. The word “burden” can mean lot in life… that which is given by God. That which is given to us by the Lord in his providence. However, we can create our own burdens by our own sinful choices and actions (2 Timothy 3:6).

The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 speaks of ‘burden’ in the first sense – an affliction, difficulty, and overwhelming circumstance: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”

This example is a good reminder of what happens when we hold onto our burden rather than cast it on the Lord by prayer… we become overwhelmed and we despair.

In 2 Corinthians 5:4, Paul reminds us that just living life in a broken and fallen world brings its own burden.  – “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

When I forget this about the Lord, I carry the burden. I try to solve the problem. I become anxious, worried, and bothered by the burden. I attempt to box with God regarding why I have this burden in my life. Like the text says, I am moved and shaken. I totter, slip, and fall.

Jesus’ prescription for those who are burdened is simple: “Come to me,”  “learn from me,” and “take” from me!

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

It appears that the Apostle Peter picked up this teaching of Jesus when he calls believers to “cast all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6).

If the truths of Psalm 55:22 were more real to me, how would I live differently?

Rather than becoming anxiously burdened down, I would more quickly cast my burden on the Lord. What a wonderful resource is prayer for unburdening my heart in the presence of the Lord. Lord, help me to more quickly avail myself of access to your presence and power through prayer.

Experiencing the soul rest that the Lord Jesus promises empowers me to bear others burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Show me Lord how to do this today!

A Worship Service – Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord

PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Today is Ascension Day, and that means that it is a day of great joy for all who believe that Christ rules the world and our lives. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Christ’s ascension means that in heaven there is one who, knowing firsthand the experience of suffering and temptation, prays for us and perfects our prayers. The ascension is a witness and guarantee of our own bodily resurrection, as well as an invitation for us to set our hearts and minds “on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” …

The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have begun thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Let me say with tears that as far as material possessions, time, energy and talents are concerned, all too many Bible-believing Christians live as though their entire existence is limited to this side of the grave.
— Francis Schaeffer, No Little People, “Ash Heap Lives”

CALL TO WORSHIP Hebrews 4:14-16
Leader: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
People: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Leader: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
People: So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

HYMNS OF PRAISE

COME, CHRISTIANS, JOIN TO SING – Trinity Hymnal (TH) #302

Come, Christians, join to sing–Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King–Alleluia! Amen!
Let all, with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice–Alleluia! Amen!

Come, lift your hearts on high–Alleluia! Amen!
Let praises fill the sky–Alleluia! Amen!
He is our Guide and Friend; to us He’ll condescend;
His love shall never end–Alleluia! Amen!

Praise yet our Christ again–Alleluia! Amen!
Life shall not end the strain–Alleluia! Amen!
On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore,
Singing forevermore, “Alleluia! Amen!”

COME YE SINNERS, POOR AND NEEDY—HYMN #472
Come, ye sinners poor and needy, bruised and broken by the Fall
Jesus ready stands to save you full of pardoning love for all
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more

Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of Him
He will save you, He will save you ‘tis the gospel’s constant theme
He will save you, He will save you ‘tis the gospel’s constant theme

Come ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry ‘till you’re better, you will never come at all
He is waiting, He is waiting to embrace you in His arms
He is waiting, He is waiting to embrace you in His arms

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly let no other trust intrude
None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good
None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good

[Repeat All]

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Heidelberg Catechism (Qs 46 & 49, 1563 AD)
What do we mean by saying, “He ascended into heaven?”
That Christ, while his disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make a goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
CORPORATE CONFESSION OF SIN
Almighty Father, You raised Jesus from death to life and crowned him Lord of all. We confess that we have not bowed before him or acknowledged his rule in our lives. We have embraced and been led by the false values, priorities, and commitments of this present world that is hostile to you. We have failed to set our minds on heaven and give our ascended King the honor and homage that He deserves. Forgive us and free us from the bondage of sin so that we may live as your faithful people, obeying the commands of our King who rules the world and is head of the church, his body. Amen.

PERSONAL CONFESSION OF SIN

ASSURANCE OF PARDON 1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

SONGS OF ASSURANCE

Before the Throne of God Above (Charitie Lees Bancroft and Vikki Cook)

1.  Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love, Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart—
I know that while in heaven He stands, [no tongue can bid me thence depart.]

2.  When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free—
For God the just, is satisfied, [to look on Him and pardon me.]

3.  Behold Him there!  The Risen Lamb, my perfect, spotless Righteousness!
The great unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself I cannot die, my soul is purchased with His blood—
My life is hid with Christ on high, [with Christ my Savior and my God.]

GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS

GIVING OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
OFFERTORY
SCRIPTURE READING Philippians 2:9-11; 3:17-21

2:9 – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is
above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in
heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
3:17 – Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk
according to the example you have in us. 18For many, of whom I have often told
you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame,
with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it
we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to
be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things
to himself.

THE SERMON Longing for Heaven: Our Heart’s True Home
#1 in the series – Jesus Ascended into Heaven

I. The ascension of Jesus galvanizes us to resist accommodation to our culture (3:17-19).

II. The ascension of Jesus prompts a change in our citizenship. This prompts us to long for heaven  (3:30-21).

III. The ascension of Jesus guarantees our own bodily resurrection. This enables us to affirm the goodness of this world
and of our bodies (3:21).

PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

SENDING HYMN

WHO SHALL ASCEND THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD – TH #292
Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord,
To search the mystery in heaven stored,
The knowledge of the Holy One adored? Alleluia! Alleluia!

One King alone, whose hands and heart are pure,
One servant of the Lord with purpose sure,
Can enter in that glory to endure. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He only can ascend to God’s right hand
Who first came down as His high mercy planned,
True God and man has earth and heaven spanned. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Before the clouds receive the King on high,
A cross lifts up His form against the sky;
The Framer of the worlds has come to die. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He shall ascend the mountain of the Lord,
The King of glory, whose own blood outpoured
Paid that dear price that mercy did afford. Alleluia! Alleluia!
BENEDICTION Ephesians 1:18-19

May you know the hope to which God has called you, experience the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and trust his incomparably great power for us who believe. Amen.

Reflections on Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

Matt. 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be
satisfied with your likeness” (Psalm 17:15). To behold God’s face and to be changed
by that vision into his image, so as to partake in his righteousness, this is my noble
ambition; and in the prospect of this I cheerfully waive all my present enjoyments.
My satisfaction is to come; I do not look for it as yet. I shall sleep awhile, but I shall
wake at the sound of the trumpet; wake to everlasting joy, because I arise in your
likeness, O my God and King! Glimpses of glory we have here below to stay our
sacred hunger, but the full feast awaits us in the upper skies. Compared with this
deep, ineffable, eternal fullness of delight, the joys of the worldlings are as a
glowworm to the sun, or the drop of a bucket to the ocean.
– Charles Spurgeon

The pure in heart are blessed because they will see God. Although this will not be
ultimately true until the new heaven and earth, yet it is also true even now. Our
perception of God and his ways, as well as our fellowship with him, depends on our
purity of heart. The visio Dei (vision of God)—what an incentive to purity.
– Don Carson

This is surely the most amazing thing that has ever been said to man, that you and I,
such as we are, pressed with all the problems and troubles of this modern world, are
going to see Him [the Lord] face to face. If we but grasped this, it would
revolutionize our lives…Do you not agree that this is the biggest, the most
momentous, the most tremendous thing that you can ever be told? Is it your
supreme object, desire, and ambition to see God?
– Martin Lloyd-Jones

Lord, I ask you today for a pure, clean, and uncluttered heart. I long to see Your face, that there would be nothing between You and me. Lord, show me what to say “no” to, so I will have time and energy to reflect on my heart before You. Cleanse my heart from gluttony, lust, greed, uncontrolled anger and impatience, self-pity, laziness, competitiveness with others, and pride. May I surrender to Your will this day, remembering Your loyal love. May it soften my will and transform me to follow Your leading and presence in every decision I make this day. AMEN.
– Peter Scazzero

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be

filled. This beatitude prompts a look at our heart’s desire. What hungers and

desires operate within us? Which of them commands our utmost loyalty?

– John W. Miller

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is

immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are part

of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with

us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the

proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you

have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

– St. Augustine

It is the desire for God which is the most fundamental appetite of all, and it is

an appetite we can never eliminate. We may seek to disown it, but it will not

go away. If we deny that it is there, we shall in fact only divert it to some

other object or range of objects. And that will mean that we invest some

creature or creatures with the full burden of our need for God, a burden

which no creature can carry.

– Simon Tugwell

Reflections on “Blessed are the meek!”

Christ was master of the paradox. His teaching is salted with shining contrasts like:
Last is first, giving is receiving, dying is living, losing is finding, least is greatest,
poor is rich, weakness is strength, serving is ruling. For Christ, paradoxes were an
especially effective way of getting people to see essential spiritual truth – in this
instance, (Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth). This mark of the
Holy Spirit makes us gentle, humble, sensitive, and patient in all of our dealings
with others. – Kent Hughes
The man who is truly meek is the man who is amazed that God and man can think
of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do… Finally, I would put it
like this. We are to leave everything—ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole
future—in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.
– David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
There is probably no more beautiful quality in a Christian than meekness. It is the
humble strength that belongs to the man who has learned to submit to difficulties
(difficult experiences and difficult people), knowing that in everything God is
working for his good. The meek man is the one who has stood before God’s
judgment and abdicated all his supposed ‘rights.’ He has learned, in gratitude for
God’s grace, to submit himself to the Lord and to be gentle with sinners.
– Sinclair Ferguson

When You Meet with Ingratitude From Those You Serve

Jesus said: “I am among you as one that serves” and “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” The Apostle Paul’s idea of service is the same as our Lord’s: “Ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does. The mainspring of our service must not ultimately be love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and brokenhearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love to God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men.

Paul’s realization of how Jesus Christ had dealt with him is the secret of his determination to serve others. “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor”—no matter how men may treat me, they will never treat me with the spite and hatred with which I treated Jesus Christ. When we realize that Jesus Christ has served us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet with from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, February 13th.