A Bible book that has really inspired me is the book of Acts with the incredible story of the apostolic movement. Chapter after chapter unfolds as the fresh gospel message makes it’s way through the world despite of countless challenges and stark opposition. A chain of miracles empowered dedicated Spirit filled men and women as they moved forward in faith. Looking at the church today we do not witness the same power and consecration. And yet I believe that in many ways the book of Acts is an unfinished book. Surely there is a record of God’s movement today. Surely His church is still being observed and followed by unseen eyes. But what needs to happen for us as God’s movement today to continue the story of Acts and write the final chapters, which are to be just as glorious, if not more glorious, than the first. Without doubt the final chapters will contain another outpouring of God’s Spirit that you and I can take part of. What an awesome thought that our names could be in the book of Acts, that is the full edition. Who knows we will one day have access to this edition and maybe in chapter 5345 there is a story about you! I know that I am allowing my fantasy to run now, but one thing is for sure, God wants you and me to experience something similar to what the early disciples experienced. What was it that allowed them to turn the world upside down? In order to find out let us journey back to the Mount of Olives. Here the disciples are gathered around Jesus, their master and close friend. It was the last time they would speak to him face to face. Last words are exchanged and last words are often important words, certainly here as Jesus gives His final instruction to this impetuous group of men.
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” —Acts 1:4-5
Jesus gives His disciples clear instruction to go to Jerusalem and wait. I have not met a lot of people that enjoy waiting. Our society today has an aversion against waiting. Everything has to happen now. And yet Jesus knew that during this waiting time important things were going to happen. It would be a time of heart searching. It would be a time of confession and repentance as the disciples would move into unity no longer desiring to be the greatest, but with a passion to serve one another. In hindsight we can look beyond the Mount of Olives and know that this happened and resulted in the promise Jesus said would come, a baptism with the Holy Spirit. But the disciples were not sure at first. They had another plan and believed they knew what was to happen next.
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” —Acts 1:6
Catch the audacity in the words of the disciples. Jesus had just commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, but they had a better idea. According to them it was time for Jesus to establish His earthly kingdom. It is as if they are looking at the world of Jesus through a different pair of glasses. They have not yet fully understood His identity and mission. And yet soon they would. But all would depend whether they would pursue their own plans and purposes or surrender to the plan and purpose Jesus had for them.
“And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” —Acts 1:7-8
Times and seasons are in the authority of the Father. The word for “times” and “seasons” in Greek is “Kairos” and “Chronos”. I guess we get our English word “Chronology” from the Greek word “Chronos”. Chronology is a word not just dealing with time but with a specific order of events. It seems that Jesus is telling us that not only is God ultimately sovereign over time, but that He also has a divine plan and purpose that is to unfold in the way He has prepared it to. We can see how this happened to the disciples. They surrendered their plans and purposes and entered into the “time and season” that God had prepared for them. The book of Acts is the result! The question is if we are still, figuratively speaking, on the Mount of Olives. If we are still telling God what He should do and when He should do it instead of entering into the experience He has already prepared for us. I have heard people giving very specific prophecies about end time events that are not clearly revealed in scripture, but that enter a world of speculation. It is like putting God in a diagram and schedule, but He is far too big for that. We certainly have prophecies and revelations regarding future times and seasons, but we must never forget that they are in the authority of the Father and that we need to tread carefully removing our shoes so to speak as we are standing on holy ground. When obscure man made time prophecies are upheld as a test of fellowship or a condition for salvation we are on dangerous ground. There are enough clear directions given to us through scripture and we need not move into the realm of speculation. Instead we can step into God’s plan for us and fulfill prophecy as He has foretold it. But in order to trust God’s plan and purpose for our lives we must first be confident that He indeed has our lives in His hand. Let us probe a little deeper into God’s sovereignty over times and seasons.
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” —Acts 17:24-26
Paul is addressing the people of Athens. He tells them that God is the Creator and that He is unique and different from all the idols and gods they worship. Then he distinguishes God from all other gods as the one that is in control of time. “He has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings”. In other words God determines when we are born, when we exist, and where! It is all in God’s sovereign hands for a specific reason. What is that reason?
“So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” —Acts 17:27
So that we will seek and find the Lord! To grope is to search in the dark by feeling your way around. If God can be found this way He is not far away! Contemplate this text for a moment. He knew when and where you would be born and gave you all you would need to find and encounter Him. You might think that your circumstances have always been against you, but God knew that how ever dark those circumstances would get they would cause you to grope after him. When you carefully trace your life I am sure you will find the fingerprints of God all over it. Is it not a mind-blowing awareness to actually fathom that God planned our lives and that He has always had His eye on us? Could it be that he has brought us into existence for a specific purpose at a specific time? There is an incredible story tucked away in the Old Testament that confirms God’s ways and reveals His purposes. It’s the story of a young man that was called by God to be a prophet amongst the Jews. Jeremiah was called at a time of national apostasy in the land. The majority of God’s chosen people had abandoned the truths that had been passed down to them from generation to generation. God saw this coming because an attribute of God’s being is that He knows the end from the beginning (Is 46:10). Knowing that the people needed special direction and guidance at such a time as this, God thought about Jeremiah. Jeremiah began existing in the mind of God before he was born! Listen to the words of God as He speaks to Jeremiah.
“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” —Jeremiah 1:4-5
Wow! What a Revelation! In my minds eye I can see Jeremiah shaking on his feet as these words echo through his mind. Jeremiah has come to the cross roads in his life. I am sure that as a young man he had plans for his future. As a responsible citizen he most likely had sketched out the main direction of his course in life. Now everything changes! His own plans collide head on with God’s revelation. And yet Jeremiah, young and inexperienced, nerves and timid, places his life in the hands of his maker. As the words continue to echo through his mind I can imagine that an overwhelming awareness of God’s love must have come upon Him. What a God! He knew me before I was born. He thought about me before I even existed. He planned the course of my life and then gently and skillfully knitted me together in my mother’s womb. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! (Ps 139:14-17). The rest of the story of Jeremiah as a mighty prophet was only possible because this young man surrendered to God’s plan for his life. The rest of the book of Acts was only possible because the disciples surrendered their plans and embraced the last words of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. How about you? Do you realize that you are not an accident or coincidence due to an explosion billions of years ago, but that God thought of you? Then He determined the time of your existence and the place of your dwelling. We often question if God has a purpose and plan for our lives. The Biblical evidence is overwhelming! Of course He does because this is rooted in who He is. Our lives gravitate to Him and we find our ultimate identity and life calling in Him. The question is if we have surrendered our lives to Him and embraced His purpose for us. Doing this will result in the greatest joy and fulfillment that this life can give. It does involve a risk, but true love does not exist without a risk. A story that makes this point most clear of all is the story of Esther. Through providential leading she, as a Jew, became the wife of the Persian King and thus queen of the Persian Empire. As time went by circumstances threatened the Jewish nation and it seemed that God’s people were destined to destruction by a decree issued by Haman, a high-ranking Persian and enemy of the Jews. It looked like there was no way around this one! Then Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, sends a message to Esther and tells her that this is her chance to speak up for her people.
“And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” —Esther 4:13-14
Esther had a decision to make. Either to acknowledge that God had led her so far and step up to the occasion or deny God’s hand in appointing her dwelling and making God deliver the Jews through someone else. You see Mordecai was totally right. The Jews would not be destroyed because Jesus was prophesied to come! If Esther did not step up somebody else would be used to save the nation. But what a privilege for Esther to play her part! How fulfilling it must have been! It was a risk, but the risk was worth it all. Maybe you are here “for such a time as this!” In all of earth’s history Bible prophecy reveals that we are living close to the end of time. Soon the promise of Christ’s second return will take place. God appointed when you would be born and brought you into existence to be a witness for Him. Are you ready to step into the “season” God has for you? May you experience what you were made for and not miss a thing!