Wednesday, April 30, 2014

P2 The Holy Spirit's work of illumination means He is illumination's Agent

Acts 10:9-14 On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 

Introduction and review
Yesterday we began considering the ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers that is commonly called "illumination". We briefly defined it as the work He does in enabling believers to observe, interpret and apply the scriptures. We also considered an illustration of illumination as turning the lights on in a building to light the way for people. Then we finished up considering illumination's relationship to four other important teachings regarding the relationship between the Spirit, the scriptures and Christians: revelation, inspiration, canonization and preservation of the Biblical text. Today we continue further by seeing what the work of illumination looks like when it is in action.

The Apostle Peter and the Divine illumination of the Holy Spirit
The Book of Acts and the New testament Epistles fit like hand and glove when it comes to establishing doctrine and practice for the Christian life.  The Acts of the Apostles give us flesh and bone examples of God's New Covenant revelation in Jesus Christ being put to practice.  The New Testament Epistles (most of which were written in the same time frame recorded in Acts) provide much needed explanation and clarification of what is seen in Acts.  With that said, we see in Acts 10 an amazing work of the Spirit in a man's life by the name of Cornelius. 

Cornelius was a leader and commanding officer in the special Roman legion called "The Italian Band" (Acts 10:1). As was becoming more common in those days, Gentiles who were influenced by the teachings of Judaism and revelation of the Old Testament were called "God-fearers".  Such people evidenced piety, appreciation and somewhat sympathy for the plight of the Jews - with Cornelius being a prime example of this group.  No doubt He was devout in a piety and a religious man, but in terms of the Gospel still needing conversion. He is one of the two men we find featured in Acts 10.  We could certainly spend more time on Cornelius' pre-conversion life as told in Acts 10:1-8, but our interest lies of course in the second man featured in this chapter - Peter.

Peter of course was an Apostle to the Jews and the lead spokeman of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Much had occured in the 12-14 months since Pentecost.  History and understanding of God's salvation had shifted from Old Covenant or Old Testament to a New Testament era.  The cross, Christ's resurrection and Pentecost function as the Divine International date line so-to-speak. Much illumination from the Spirit of God was going to be required for men like Peter to make the shift.  Seeing how the Spirit of God worked in his life to be ready for men such as Cornelius instructs us in better understanding the Spirit's work of illumination.  Note the following key thoughts:

Illumination's Agent - The Holy Spirit. Acts 10:13,19,28.
Though we have already pointed this out, it is worth noting again how the Holy Spirit is the Divine agent of illumination. Acts 10:13 describes the Spirit as "a voice" directing Peter to get up, kill and eat the animals he is seeing in His vision.  We know that this "voice" is the voice of the Spirit as seen in Acts 10:19 "While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you." Acts 10:28 further confirms this truth when Peter attributes the revealer and explainer of the vision as God Himself.  When all taken together, God in the Person of the Holy Spirit is the Divine Agent of illumination. (compare 1 Corinthians 2:10-13) 

More tomorrow......

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

P1 The Holy Spirit's work of illumination - Opening thoughts

John 16:12-14 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bearthem now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you."

Introduction: Briefly defining the Spirit's illumination
In today's post we are interested in understanding an important ministry of the Holy Spirit to Christians that we can term "Illumination". The illuminating work of the Spirit simply has to to with the insight and understanding He gives to Christians concerning the observation, interpretation and application of God's Words. Jesus of course promised this to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. Following His resurrection and even moreso His ascension, the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost included the Spirit's work of illuminating Christians to the truths of God's written Word - the Bible, and God the Living Word - Jesus Christ. 

Illustrating the Spirit's illuminating ministry
When I walk into the church on a Sunday morning before anyone's arrival, as I turn on the lights I will often say to myself: "illumination". Why?  Because in that building that is dark, shadowy and un-illuminated lies rooms that are empty and difficult to navigate in low light. We need lights turned on to see and to know our way.  Furthermore, as a pastor I know that in the proceeding hours, the hallways and rooms of the church building will be bustling with physical life and spiritual life. The Bible will be taught and preached, and those sitting under the physical illumination of those lights will also receive a measure of spiritual illumination from the same Holy Spirit who authored the sacred scriptures. Unless He shows up and attends the teaching and preaching of God's Word, no insights, meaning, application nor change will occur.

Relating the Spirit's illumination to four other vital concepts: revelation, inspiration, canonization and preservation. 
The work of illumination lies at the end of the process by which the Holy Ghost brought to us the scriptures. He began of course revealing it to His Apostles and Prophets - or what is called "revelation" (2 Peter 1:21). Then they wrote it down of their own accord as so directed by the Holy Spirit, producing error free original documents - or what is called "inspiration". (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Then The Holy Spirit providentially worked through His people to recognize what had been written as inspired scripture - or canonization. As each book of the Bible began to circulate and be used, those documents had to be hand copied, translated and used throughout the centuries of church history.  Today in our English Bibles we see the words and message of God still with us in what is called "preservation". (Matthew 5:18; John 10:35) Those four consecutive works: revelation, inspiration, canonization and preservation, function as the Holy Spirit's train of authority, carrying the entirety of inscripturated (written down) revelation in the 66 books of the Bible. So then what is the caboose? Illumination. 

More tomorrow.....

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Need to Wait on God - A Personal Testimony

Psalm 37:3-5 "Trust in the Lord and do good;Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it."

These past several posts have been dedicated to showing the need to wait on God.  We have been focusing most of our attention upon those final instructions Jesus gave to His disciples prior to His ascension to "wait" in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8.  We thus far have discovered that the reasons why God has us to wait are due to the following:

1). Wait for reception of the Father's promise. Luke 24:49a & Acts 1:4

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49b & Acts 1:8a

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. Acts 1:8b

I thought in today's post I would get a bit more autobiographical and speak from personal experience of the seasons wherein God has had me to wait, what I learned and how I saw such seasons benefit me. Hopefully what I write today may aid readers a little bit in their own Christian walk. 

Personal lessons learned from seasons of waiting on God
This writer has went through three extended seasons of waiting and numerous occassions of smaller periods of time wherein God has put the proverbial brakes to things. Through them all it seemed God was oftentimes silent and I wondered whether He was going to ever use me again.  

In the first such season of waiting my wife and I were in our mid-twenties with our two oldest children being toddlers at the time.  I had served as an Assistant Pastor on staff and had finished that ministry with a deadly combination of pride and anger in my heart.  Without going into all the details - I felt like I had gotten the short end of the stick on many things in my life at that time and felt like God "owed me".  Perhaps you have been in such places - its not a good place to be.  At the time my wife and I moved.  I enrolled in Seminary, beginning my studies in the Fall of 1999.  I can recall telling God that I had no interest in preaching ever again, and that I had my own plan and was going to go to Seminary to achieve that plan (which at the time entailed being a Professor).  

Needless to say after a year or so of working through my classes, a time came when God broke me, some people confronted me over my arrogance and self-pity, and perhaps for the first time in nearly two years I felt the fog of confusion lift.  By 2001 I was serving with some other wonderful Christian people in a ministry outreach and by 2003 led my family to a wonderful little church where I got ordained.  God was every so gentle in His Fatherly discipline of me. 

As Hebrews 12:5-6 notes - "and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”  God taught me in that first season of waiting and that long dark period of silence that He was and will always remain my Heavenly Father, and that I by the Spirit of adoption am His son (Romans 8:16). 

So in the first season of waiting, which lasted for roughly four years, God had to sift out pride and anger.  The second season entailed God teaching me about following and serving.  Interestingly enough that season followed on the heels of the first one - although the two were clearly distinct.  Often when you are going through something, you cannot discern its rate of progress or purpose until after you have completed it, and not until some time has passed. 

Thankfully this second season, which lasted for a year, occurred at the very church where I was ordained.  My wife and I knew God was calling me to pastor, and God had me to serve under a wonderful man who is to this day still my friend and serving at a church in the North East.  I learned the ropes of pastoring from Him, went on visits and did whatever it took to advance the cause of Christ at the church.  The eagerness to preach and pastor was growing in my heart, but I knew that if I was going to get anywhere in ministry or life, being prideful and taking up offenses (i.e getting bitter) was not going to work.  If I were to assign a verse to this second season of waiting on God, it would be: 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  

As only God can do, the time had come for my family and me to answer a call to a place, which we did and which God gave us some instructive years of ministry.  It was challenging, at times blessed and even along the way God gave us some dear life-time friends. Ultimately though it ended in sadness and dissapointment but through it all - God showed Himself to be good.  It was in 2009 that we moved out to Oklahoma, where God would take me through my third major season of waiting.   

The third major season of waiting on God entailed about 20 months of time.  In some ways it was the most spiritually uplifting and deepening time of my life.  However in otherways it was the most spiritually challenging, humbling and at times frustrating time.  By this point we had two more children - equalling four in all.  When we moved to Oklahoma, I didn't have a job, no money and no church to go and pastor.  God provided friends who worked with us to aid us in making the transition from where we had been to Oklahoma.  As this new season of waiting had begun, my heart was filled with sadness and dissapointment.  All my wife and I knew was whatever God was going to be taking us through - His whole purpose was going to involve healing our hearts.  We had come to Oklahoma broken, anguished and having more questions than answers.  During our third season of waiting, further lessons about service, as well as the deepening of my prayer life and honing my ability to hear God were learned.  God placed people in both of our lives who were intercessors and who had been places with God that you read about in books but rarely ever meet.   

At the time such seasons of waiting are not fun - however they are essential.  After each season I have found God brews forth a message.  Waiting on God serves the purposes of working forth whatever message from the Word God would have you and I to tell. As that third season was coming to a close - God called us to the wonderful church where I am serving and pastoring in South Eastern Oklahoma.  The one passage that guides me through that third season was Psalm 37:3-5, quoted at the beginning of today's post.  

Closing thoughts
I'll admit that the message He poured into me during those 20 months is still unfolding.  I know healing has occured - and like broken pieces of metal that are welded back together, the seam where the welding takes place makes the overall metal stronger than what it was before the break. I'm a different man today (2014) than I was in 2009. God the Father always knows what is best.  It is always worth waiting on God. Truly whatever gifting or calling or message is worked in and through you - it always exceeds you.  Why is that so important? Because the Lord Jesus Christ who gives you and I our giftings, callings or message always exceeds those things - Thus Jesus Christ is Supreme in all things.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Need to Wait on God - To tell the world about the Message of Jesus

Luke 24:49 "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Introduction & Review
In yesterday's post we were interested in understanding the need to wait on God for the sake of being empowered by His Spirit to do His bidding. Between the time Jesus ascended in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was 10 days. In yesterday's post we also looked at other scriptures that feature ten day periods of time as signifying those seasons in which God desired to impart new insights, faithfulness, strength or tests of character.  That timeframe was to be the specific time of waiting for those 120 disciples in the upperoom in Jerusalem. In these past couple of posts we have explored how both sets of verses in Luke and Acts give us some reasons as to why Jesus had these disciples to wait.

1). Wait for reception of the Father's promise. Luke 24:49a & Acts 1:4

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49b & Acts 1:8a

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. Acts 1:8b

In today's post we once again consider the need to wait on God - with the emphasis being upon positioning ourselves to minister the message about the Son to all people.  Truly we wait, as the the early church had to wait, to receive more about Who God is and what he has for us, as well as to be empowered for His work.  But in this post today, the way we know we are to go from waiting to doing is when we have a message to tell.

We need more of God's presence and power in our lives and churches
Ronnie Floyd is a pastor of a large church in Arkansas who has written a wonderful book entitled: "The Power of the Prayer and Fasting". The one statement he writes is really apropos to the subject of our post today on the need to wait on God.  The quote is a couple paragraphs but well worth the read: "God can do more in a moment than I could ever do in a lifetime. God can also do more in and through the church in a moment than programs, ministries, technical excellence, great worship or mere machinery. No one can take the place of God. Nothing can take the place of God. I am weary of what I hear about the passivity of the churches today in our nation and world. While many churches sleep or act daily as if they are out for an evening drive, many other churches are chasing the latest fad for the church today. It appears that most are looking for a short-term success and a shortcut to get there. What is the problem? 

When we look at the church today, we are seeing what man can do. While we may have greater technology or more expressive worship or more fine-tuned targeted ministries, let me ask you this:Do we have more of God? I am convinced today more than ever before in my ministry that it is past time for the church to see what God can do."1

What Ronnie Floyd wrote is so true! I echo with him the fact that we need more of God in our churches and in our lives.  So often I'll hear in conferences or read in books how leaders and pastors need to "cast a vision" for their church or people will often ask: "what is our mission?" or "what is our message?" Whenever you look at the early church and how Jesus positioned his disciples to wait upon God, you understand that lest they had waited per His instructions -they would not had had a message to tell, nor a vision to cast!

We wait on God who is the message we are to tell
Two key passages must be considered together to understand the message that the early church communicated throughout the Medditerranean world of the first century.  The first text is what we call "The Great Commission" and is found in Matthew 28:18-20  "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The second text is the one we have been focusing upon these past several days - Acts 1:8 "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Both of these texts appear to have two seemingly different emphases: Matthew's text has Jesus telling His Disciples to "go and tell" and the Acts 1:8 passage has Jesus telling His disciples to "wait" before going and telling.  Harmonizing both of these texts together yields the pattern of waiting and then going. For 40 days these disciples had been in a "holding pattern" as Jesus made various post-resurrection appearances to them, instructing them and demonstrating to them the new realities of His post-resurrected humanity.

Now as Jesus was getting ready to ascend out of sight, they would need to wait ten more days until the full outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost occurred. The message of the Great Commission required an accompanying time of meeting with the Lord.  

The linkage between the heart and the mouth in scripture
A question for you and I to consider is: "how well do we know the Jesus revealed on the pages of the Bible?" Only when we get to know Him in the scripture will we then come to grasp what the Spirit is telling us about Him in our hearts. Oftentimes in the scriptures we see the link between the heart and the mouth. Matthew 12:35 "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil." Luke 6:45 "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." 

As we come to the epistles, the linkage between the heart and mouth in spiritual matters is continued. Romans 10:9-10  "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Ephesians 4:29 "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edificationaccording to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."  In all of these passages the idea is made plain: that whatever message flows out of our mouth comes as a result of the overflow of the heart. When we communicate, its not just the words, but the way in which we say the words, the tone of our voice and the main topics of our discussion.  

How God uses waiting periods to brew forth a message from the Word for all to hear
I find it interesting how often God would have His people go through seasons of waiting to brew forth some changes in their hearts.  Only a changed heart can communicate a life changing message.  Moses spent 40 years on the backside of a Midianite desert, Elijah the prophet was brought to a brook in a desert, Jesus Himself spent the first 30 years of His life in relative obscurity and the Apostle Paul spent 3 years in Damscus following His conversion.  All of these, and many more, went through extended seasons of watching and waiting before going forth to proclaim their message.  Habakkuk the prophet relays how in waiting on God he was getting prepared for the right moment to deliver God's message: "I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, And how I may reply when I am reproved. 2 Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run.
3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay."

Such waiting seasons are often prescribed by God to give ourselves a chance to recallibrate our hearts to the rhythm of His voice and leading in our lives. The message of Jesus Christ is not just about Him, but is Him.  Whenever we show God how willing we are to follow Him, only then can we be effective in calling others to do the same.  

More tomorrow....

1. Ronnie Floyd. The Power of the Prayer and Fasting. B&H Books. 2010. Page 144

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Need to Wait on God - Empowerment from on High

Luke 24:49 "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Introduction & Review
In yesterday's post we did an overview of what scripture had to teach on the subject of waiting on God and zeroed in on Jesus' final instructions to His disciples in His post-resurrection appearances in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1. Between the time Jesus ascended in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is 10 days.  That timeframe was to be the specific time of waiting.  We saw yesterday how both sets of verses in Luke and Acts give us some reasons as to why Jesus had these disciples to wait.

1). Wait for reception of (greater illumination) of Who God is and what He has for you. Luke 24:49a & Acts 1:4

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49b & Acts 1:8a

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. Acts 1:8b

We focused mainly on the first thought and concluded that one of the reasons Jesus had his disciples to wait, and why He often has us to wait, is to receive what He has for us and who He is. Jesus in His post-resurrected humanity breathed out additional grace and Spirit enablement upon the disciples. He "upgraded" them so to speak so that they could relate to Jesus. Soon He was going to be ascending and was going to be glorified ever further in His post-Pentecost state at the right hand of the Father.  In order for the apostles and the early church to enjoy and commune with the Post-Pentecost Jesus, they would require the full-orbed outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Much like what would take place if we plugged a toaster wired for 120 volts into a 240 outlet, these disciples required 10 days of waiting and refreshment and empowerment from on high to operate in all God was going to be requiring from them. Today we consider the second main reason we need to wait on God, so as to receive empowerment from on high.

A great quote that relates waiting on God and prayer
E.M Bounds was a preacher who prayed and a prayer warrior who preached.  His classic book: "Purpose in Prayer" is a standard on the subject of prayer and is recommended for the reader.  In the book Bounds explains how there can be no substitute for prayer, which touches upon our subject today about the need to wait on God.  E.M Bounds writes: "We cannot run our spiritual operations on the prayers of the past generation. Many persons believe in the efficacy (effectiveness) of prayer, but not many pray. Prayer is the easiest and the hardest of all things, the simplest and the sublimest (most profound); the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities - they are limited only by the omnipotence (all powerfulness) of God."

Jesus had the disciples wait in order to be empowered by the Holy Spirit
Truly prayer can be likened unto a lightening rod that points up into the air.  A saint who is in a posture of waiting on God will be likened unto that lightening rod.  Lightening rods can go for long extended periods of time before lightening strikes. Saints who wait on God do so until God in His Sovereign activity chooses to strike with His Omnipotent power to both energize and mobilize the saint. As Jesus was instructing His followers in the days leading up to His ascension, He knew they would need further enablement and empowerment to operate in the level God was calling them.  Luke 24:49b states - "but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Any Jewish person would had recognized the prophecies of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Jesus' phrase "clothes with power from on high".  Prophecies such as Isaiah 32:15 and Joel 2:28-29 looked forward to a time at the end of history where messiah would return, restore the nation in repentance and salvation and pour out the Holy Spirit.  Undoubtedly as the disciples heard jesus speak these words, they would had perhaps been amazed at the fact that Jesus was moving up some dates so to speak - and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was going to be previewed in them.  Acts 1:8 re-echoes Jesus' words - "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Why empowerment was needed, and why waiting was required
We have mentioned this already but it is worth noting again, namely that whatever experiences the disciples had with Jesus, a measure of the Spirit's presence and power was required for them to appreciate and enjoy Him.  In John 14:16-17 Jesus indicated that the Spirit of God had been "with them" in their journeys with him during his earthly ministry.  However the time was coming when the Father in His name would send the Holy Spirit to dwell "in them". When Jesus died on the cross, the Disciples' fellowship with the pre-cross incarnate Jesus ended. 

However following His resurrection, a whole new experience and level was going to occur - namely the post-resurrected incarnated Jesus. Unlike before, Jesus now could walk through walls, dissappear from plain site and take on different forms.  It is no wonder He breathed "upon" and "into them" a greater measure of the Spirit in John 20:22. For 40 days the disciples would be encountered ten times by Jesus, instructed in further teachings about the Kingdom and shown further miracles. (Acts 1:1-3). Much like a computer that receives periodic upgrades to handle greater loads of information and new demands, Jesus' did the same for His disciples.

But now the 40 days were coming to a close, and the post-resurrected incarnate Jesus was getting ready to ascend into Heaven.  Jesus in His humanity was going to be experienced by the disciples in a whole new dimension and altered way like never before. The moment Jesus began to defy gravity and ascend into the clouds, His ascension transformed his human nature from that of post-resurrection glory to what would be the post-pentecost incarnate Christ following the day of Pentecost.

Why the disciples had to wait for ten days 
The waiting period of ten days between His ascension and Pentecost is not a random period of time.  Studies throughout the Bible reveal that ten day periods of time were used by God and His people to communicate increased illumination, empowerment and further defining of identity.  David in 1 Samuel 25:38-39 acknowledges God's deliverance of him from an enemy following a ten day waiting period of silence and anticipation until the enemy died. Jeremiah in Jeremiah 42:7 had the people of Israel wait ten days until he delivered a message from God to them regarding their future. Daniel in Daniel 1:12-14 fasted from meats for ten days to demonstrate to the pagan authorities the ability of God to sustain he and his friends. When we study other passages concerning the relationship between empowerment and waiting on God (Psalm 27:14; 123:2; Lamentations 3:25; 2 Cor 12:9-10) it is crystal clear that the pattern of waiting on the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:13-2:1 was Divinely ordained was for the sake of further empowerment.

Life application: 
If we as the church today are ever going to move forward in the Lord, we need to practice waiting on God for the sake of being empowered and illuminated by His Spirit through His Word. The church of history is a connected to that infant Pentecost church by the Holy scriptures.  So if anything, we need to return back to the Bible. Waiting on God does not necessarily equal inactivity. 

Secondly, in Acts 2:1 we see the early church gathered "in one accord" in the upper room.  This phrase "in one accord" carries with it the idea of prayer and intercession, an idea we find similarly expressed throughout the book of Acts. (1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 12:12) Thus increasing our emphasis upon prayer will practically enable us to be in a mode of waiting on God. 

Then thirdly, as we return back to the Bible and become a people of prayer, waiting on God includes the idea of doing it together in assembly with one another. The repetition of "together" and "with one accord" meant that the people were placing themselves corporately in order under God's authority as a local church. Unity does not happen automatically, it require intentional effort on the church's part. By getting back to the Bible, to prayer and to fellowship with one another, we can put into practice the necessity of waiting on God, and then we will empowered by Him to move forward to do His bidding.

More tomorrow.....
1. E.M Bounds. Purpose in Prayer. Moody Press. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Need to Wait on God - To receive what He has and a greater illumination of Who He is

Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

I thought I would begin today's post with a quote from one of my favorite writers - Oswald Chambers. In the quote Oswald Chambers is explaining how and why God has us to wait: "Whenever God gives a vision to a Christian, it is as if He puts him in "the shadow of His hand" (Isaiah 49:2). The saint's duty is to be still and listen. There is a "darkness" that comes from too much light. (When that happens), is the time to listen. The story of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16 is an excellent example of listening to so-called good advice during a time of darkness, rather than waiting on God to send the light. When God gives you a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will bring the vision He has given you to reality in your life if you will wait on His timing. Never try to help God fulfill His word."

Chambers then tells the account of Abram and Hagar heeding Sarai's advice and producing Ishamael by natural means.  Rather than waiting on God for an Isaac, and Ishamael was the result.  As the piece draws to an end Chambers writes: "There is never any need to pretend that your life is filled with joy and confidence; just wait upon God and be grounded in Him (see Isaiah 50:10-11). Do I trust at all in the flesh? Or have I learned to go beyond all confidence in myself and other people of God? Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? 'I Am Almighty God-El Shaddai, the All-Powerful God (Genesis 17:1). The reason we are all being disciplined is so that we will know that God is real. As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison."1

On a bright day it is sometimes good to come inside and rest the eyes and get readjusted. I can recall living in Pennsylvania and in the wintertime coming in and not able to see for a few seconds due to "snow-blindness".  My eyes would need time to "readjust" to the interior of the house before I could go and do other things. The need to wait was necessary.

Whenever we turn to Jesus' words in Luke 24:49, the instruction carries with it the command to stay in the city until the Lord clothes them with power from on high.  The disciples had experienced "much light" so to speak in regards to insight and instruction from Jesus. Acts 1:3 states Jesus had appeared for a period of 40 days to these men, instructing them about the Kingdom of God and showing them convincing proofs that He was alive.  In addition, upon His first appearance to them He had breathed upon them the Holy Spirit to prepare them for such a "download" of profound insight.  

They had experienced the Son in the glory of unglorified, pre-cross, pre-ressurection incarnated humanity (they of course got a sneak peak of His Divine majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration). For over 3 years they walked with the Son as God in human flesh.  But now Jesus was coming to them, but now He was God not just in human flesh, but God in post-resurrected humanity. What they thought they knew about Jesus was not only going to be added to, but enhanced.  This was their encounter with the post-resurrected, pre-pentecost Jesus.

The time had come for Jesus to ascend back into heaven. Undoubtedly reeling from what had been five weeks of intense experience (the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection and subsequent appearances), the disciples needed time to process - and to wait on God. 

Oftentimes when we focus on Jesus' final words to His disciples, many will refer to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 - and certainly that is a very important command. But very few focus on this instruction - the need to wait on the Lord before proceeding any further. Why did Jesus have these disciples to wait in Jerusalem? Today's post aims to begin unpacking this significant instruction from Jesus to His apostles, and why waiting on the Lord is so important for you and I today.

Waiting on God is very important in the scriptures
As one begins to survey the Bible, it is very clear that God often had seasons of waiting in His people's lives as evidenced by the emphasis He placed on waiting. Psalm 27:14 
"Wait for the Lord;Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Or consider Hosea 12:6 "
Therefore, return to your God,Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually." As the saints of God grew in their faith, over time they learned the benefits of waiting upon the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 is perhaps among the most familiar passages on waiting: "Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."  Certainly by the time we arrive at the New Testament, we find Simeon in a posture of waiting in Luke 2:25 "And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him." Undoubtedly the concept of waiting upon the Lord is vitally important in God's Word. So then what of Jesus' instructions to His disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit should come upon them?

Jesus instruction to wait in Luke and Acts
The sequence of events that took place from the time of Jesus' resurrection until His ascension entailed much activity. We read in John 20:22 that upon Jesus second post-resurrection appearance to His disciples on the Easter Sunday evening (the first being to Mary Magdalene), He breathed upon them the Holy Spirit.  Jesus did that to prepare them for what would be an intense 40 day period of illumination, proclamation and final instruction. According to the NIV Harmony of the Gospels, Jesus made no less than ten post-resurrection appearances to his disciples and followers. The grace and power that came with Jesus' outbreathing of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples was for that 40 day period.  

In the chronology of Luke's Gospel and the Book of Acts, it appears that Jesus' instructions in Luke 24:49 for the disciples to wait could be followed by the words we see written in Acts 1:1-8.  Being that Acts is the sequel to Luke's Gospel, Luke is doing a quick review for Theophilus from whence he ended. Thus after the events of Acts 1:1-8, both the events of Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 parallel quite nicely with one another. 

Between the time Jesus ascended in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is 10 days.  That timeframe was to be the specific time of waiting to which Jesus was referring.  Both sets of verses in Luke and Acts give us a couple of reasons as to why Jesus had these disciples to wait.

1). Wait for reception of the Father's promise. 
Luke 24:49a states - "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you....".  Acts 1:4 notes - "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised,“Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me."  Jesus of course is referring back to what He had spoken to his disciples in the upper room on the eve of His crucifixion about the Holy Spirit in John 14:16; 15:26-27 and 16:7.

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
Luke 24:49b "but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:8a defines this Power "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. 
Acts 1:8b "and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Unpacking Jesus' instruction to wait on God
Now notice the three main purposes of waiting as gleaned from our observations in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:1-11: reception, empowerment and then ministry. 

These men needed to wait in order to receive from God before they could give to men what God had told them.  Unless I have something in my hand to give and something in my heart to tell you, I won't have anything to give or tell. John the Baptist said in John 3:27  "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven." For 40 days they had been receiving instruction, shown further evidences of Jesus' post-resurrection power and were encountered by Jesus Himself on ten different occasions.  Imagine trying to process all of those events! Furthermore, the task these men had ahead of them far outweighed all the previous 40 days and 3 years of their time with Jesus combined.  They needed to be yielded to the Father in a posture of waiting to demonstrate they could remain yielded to the Father's will in their process of going.  Their prior time with Jesus was like a sprint.  The upcoming 30 years that would follow in the Book of Acts was going to be a marathon. 

Perhaps you reading this have been sprinting for the Lord in your church, your job, your family and in your life. God has something up ahead He would have you to do.  You know so much about Him, but do you know Him?  You know how to do for Him, but have you cultivated the much needed discipline of waiting upon Him? To realize that He is the Promising God who deals with us in covenant relationship prevents us from developing an aloofness to His Presence in our lives.  We are often so busy being Marthas that we fail to be Marys. (John 11) There will be those times of course where we have to be a Martha, and of course it was to Martha that Jesus gave the insight about He being the resurrection and the Life in John 11:25. Nonetheless we need to be sure not to neglect waiting upon God, otherwise we won't be in the position to receive what He has and Who He is.

More tomorrow....
1. Oswald Chambers. My Utmost for His Highest. January 19th reading.