By Pastor Jeremy Bailey
Four weeks ago, in Briefing #5, I wondered whether we would still be in lockdown on Ascension Day. Well that day is nearly here. The last Lord’s Day was the Fifth Sunday after Easter which means that this Thursday, 21st May is Ascension Day. To our shame, as Independent Evangelicals, we often do not mark this day in any way. But we should. It celebrates the fortieth day after Easter when our Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, returned to his Father in heaven. The forty days had been spent giving the disciples comfort, instructions, and indisputable proof that he was alive. Let us allow Luke to describe the scene, “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Luke 24 v 50 – 52
Don’t you find that strange? The disciples had just witnessed their Lord and Master leaving them and ascending into heaven, yet they were filled with great joy! We might have expected them to be sorrowful at the thought of separation. But no! They were filled with joy, because they knew what it meant for Jesus to return to heaven. Why should the ascension fill us with great joy? It means that our Saviour has returned to his Father. It means that his mission to save us is completed. It means that he has now been crowned with all glory and honour. It means that his sacrifice for our sins has been accepted in the heavenly temple. It means that he ever lives to make intercession for us. And it means that the Holy Spirit has been sent to equip the church for service and sanctification. A study of the passages that deal with the ascension can, with God’s blessing, fill your heart with joy. John 16 v 5 – 16; Acts 1 v 1 – 11; Ephesians 4 v 7 – 13; Hebrews 2 v 5 – 9; Hebrews 4 v 14 – 16; Hebrews 6 v 19 – 20; Hebrews 7 v 23 – 28
Brief Devotional: Live one day well
Psalm 4 and Psalm 5 seem to be twins. Psalm 4 is an evening Psalm because it includes this prayer I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. V8. Psalm 5 on the other hand, is a morning Psalm because its prayer is In the morning, OLORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. V3.
We may find it strange that the evening comes before the morning. We live our days mornings first then evenings. But remember the order of creation? There was evening and there was morning, the first day. So our Old Testament brothers and sisters started their day in the evening and ended them the following evening. But whichever way round we count it, the important thing is to live each day well. How do we do that?
I am reading Faith Cook’s biography of William Grimshaw. He was curate of Haworth from 1742 to 1763, the time of the Wesleys and Whitfield and the beginnings of Methodism. Not many people remember Grimshaw. When we think of Haworth we tend to remember a later curate, Patrick Bronte and his three daughters, Charlotte, Anne and Emily but they did not arrive until 1820.
William Grimshaw, like all early Methodists, was very disciplined in his devotional life. He once wrote to his parishioners to tell them how to Live one day well. This is what he suggests:
“As soon as you awake in the morning, employ half an hour in five things: Bless God for the mercies of the night past; pray for the blessings of a new day; examine well your own heart; meditate upon some spiritual subject; and lastly, plan the business of the approaching day. Then rise at four o’clock, but never later than five if well. (Faith Cook adds a note here that ‘Without electricity these people would often have had seven or eight hours sleep by this time’. It’s good to remember this when we read Christian biographies!) …..While you are at your work, meditate, praise or pray; or converse religiously with those about you…At going to bed, revise the thoughts, words and actions of the past day. What appears amiss, beg pardon for. What is well, bless God alone for; and never close your eyes with any unforgiven sin upon your conscience.”
Whilst we don’t encourage a slavish obedience to rules, this advice may be helpful as we each develop our own method of keeping close to God through the day and aim to live one day well. Remember, you only have to live one day at a time. (Matthew 6 v 34)
Brief Prayer Requests
1. Last Saturday was the AECW Assembly. Usually this is held in Newtown but this year it was online only. We are asked to spend some time this week praying for the churches in the AECW and particularly the churches in our Swansea cluster. Noddfa, Pontardullais; Bethel, Gorseinon; Ebenezer, Swansea; Libanus, Morriston; Bethel Clydach; Mount Elim, Pontardawe and, most recently, Penyrheol, Gorseinon are in our cluster. Their needs will all be very similar to ours with joys, sorrows and pressures due to lockdown. Please pray for our brothers and sisters.
2. One AECW church especially needs our prayers. Noddfa, Abersychan has known real blessing over the last few years as the small and elderly congregation has grown and they have been able to reach out into their community. Their Pastor has asked for prayer because thieves broke into the chapel last week and stole several very valuable musical instruments which had just been bought with grant money. The instruments were intended to be used to enable youngsters from the very deprived area to learn to play.
3. Pray for Mark Drakeford in Wales, Arlene Foster in Northern Ireland and Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland as they lead their devolved governments through some very difficult waters over the next few weeks. Also, pray for our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson as he leads the UK government. In 1 Timothy 2 v 1 – 4. We are told to include requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for them and for all people.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday until Wednesday of next week.
Wed 20th Psalm 73 Thursday 21st Psalm 74
Friday 22nd Psalm 75 Saturday 23rd Psalm 76,77
Sunday 24th Psalm 78 v 1 – 37 Monday 25th Psalm 78 v 38 – 72
Tuesday 26th Psalm 79 Wed 27th Psalm 80
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 18th May 2020