Acts 1v6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me[a] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus Ascends to Heaven
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
It's interesting that in this one event, the disciples are given two pieces of revelation about the prophetic that we can really benefit from. In the first instance, they are told that it is not for them to know times or seasons which are only for the Father to know, and in the second they are told the manner in which Christ will return. In the first instance, we learn that there are CERTAIN times and seasons which are never for us to know about because the Father has determined that it is only good that He should know it (and we do well to accept that), but this doesn't mean that there aren't times and season that we can't know about and that aren't beneficial for us to be made aware of. Jesus Himself rebuked a crowd who listened to Him because they couldn't' discern the time they were in, and therefore could not discern who stood before them (notice that understanding the time they were in was crucial to understanding the message that Jesus gave them. Because they didn't understanding the time they were in, they didn't accept what Jesus spoke to them as they didn't think that it was for them or even relevant to their lives in any way):
Luke 12 v54: He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
Interpreting the time they were in was crucial in order to respond to Jesus in the correct way, and follow Him in a way that was wise and beneficial. The above passage also shows us that Jesus was saying that we are supposed to interpret the natural things that take place, both in the sense of nature and human goings on and events, as those things which God uses to show us where we are in His timeline of things and in relation to what He is doing through His Son on the earth. Such things are very important because they direct us in regard to what manner of service we should be giving and how we should go about that service. It also shows us how active we should be in Jesus' service, especially during times that indicate that increased distress is coming upon the earth:
John 9v4: We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.
Jesus could tell that a time would come when His people, for whatever reason, couldn't do His work. Can we discern what time we are in now? Can we discern that there isn't long left to be fruitful in our service for Him? Do we even realise what KIND of service Jesus is wanting us to do and what manner we should do it in? If not, very little fruit of service will come from our lives (and ultimate very little reward), if so, much fruit will come because we'll be greatly spurred on to do the Father's works that He is wanting us to do and in the wisdom that He gives us to do it in the manner He desires. Notice the rebuke that Jesus has for those that cannot interpret the time we are now in (Luke 12v56). This should be a further motivation for us to understand how important where we are in the Father's timeline of things is. And what is this work? The same passage reveals what we should be about:
Acts 1v8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me[a] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Holy Spirit has come upon all believers, and so we have been given the power we need to be His witnesses wherever we go, and this is what the Father desires that we be for Him. Prophecy via an understanding of the times and seasons, though in part, should not only give us hope for the future (i.e. knowing that Jesus will return one day and in what manner it will happen -Acts 1v11), but should motivate us to be about exactly what Jesus was about: witnessing, preaching, encouraging, teaching and healing. Jesus knew His time on the earth was short, and he knows that our time too is short and that we live in world that is violent towards Christians- so we cannot even know if we will have tomorrow:
James 4v13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Matthew 11v12: And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.the kingdom of heaven suffers violence
Jesus encourages us to know the times and season we are in, in as far as it relates to understanding Him, His Word (and what He is now saying to us in revelation) and His will for the work that He is now doing and that He wants us to be doing now as well (and for the manner that He wants it to be done in). And as an extra motivator, He also gives us part of the picture of the hope that we have if we go about His work, which is that one day He will return, and He will reward us for the work that we now do for Him-
Rev 22v12: "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
Wednesday, 7 January 2015
A thought that is really challenging me at the moment is this (bare with me here, because I will definitely get to the point)- Jesus didn't give us our lives so that we could just 'enjoy them'. Yes, initially God created us to just enjoy them with Him, as we see in the fact that He created a garden for Adam and Eve to enjoy in His own presence. This was a life of perfect enjoyment and the experience of what God had intended for His creation- to enjoy uninterrupted joy, pleasure, peace and goodness with no need for anything. However, when sin came we know that humanity's relationship with God was virtually destroyed, creation fell, and so a great need then arose: the salvation of souls in order to restore that relationship. From here God would make a covenant with His own people that He chose (Israel), but also with a long-term view of bringing salvation to the Gentiles as well. So while, in Adam, we/humanity rejected God, He chose us and mankind again, and He obviously plans to save many more before the end. In light of this, our relationship with God in the garden went from being something where we could just 'enjoy' our lives with God, to something that now also includes striving after that for which Jesus strove during His lifetime- to save souls and build His Church (build His Church meaning encouraging the saints, teaching and equipping one another and giving what the Spirit gives us to give others, in whatever capacity we feel the Spirit is leading us to do these things). These were two purposes that Adam and Eve originally never had while in the garden because they weren't needed. Now there IS A NEED to live for these TWO PURPOSES. Now the fundamental purpose of our lives; that which undergirds and drives everything should not only be working in order to survive and so that we might have a enjoyable physical garden (e.g. house, home, family, friends, and an enjoyment of God's physical creation) but living and working in order to accomplish those two things. This doesn't mean that enjoying God, dwelling with Him and communing with Him should be forgotten, in fact this should obviously still be the most fundamentally important purpose of our lives. But it does mean that if we are not doing those two things: aiming to reach the lost and helping build God's Church, all we are concerned about in our lives is enjoying them in a very selfish sense. We are saying to God, "God, it does not matter that men don't know you and that they are lost and broken. And it doesn't matter if they never hear about you or the Gospel either. It doesn't matter that the Church isn't encouraged or built up, or that they do not really understand who you are, what you love and hate, or that they aren't really being fruitful in their lives for your sake. It doesn't matter that they don't understand their callings or what the gifts of the Spirit are, and it doesn't matter if they don't understand what love is or how it operates. It doesn't matter what the hope of their calling is, or what the dangers of sin are, and it doesn't matter if they don't understand who the enemy is or what his schemes are." We are saying to God, "All that really matters is that I enjoy my life for what I can and what I want to get out of it. I'll do the bare minimum; I'll work to survive and to build my physical garden, and I'll enjoy spending time with you, but it won't bring any fruit for the TWO PURPOSES THAT ARE MOST DEAR TO YOUR HEART.
If we are honest with ourselves, myself included, we often live more for our own enjoyment than for Christ and His will and work. We may try and justify it all we want for where we are right now in our lives, but all that really matters is asking ourselves these two simple questions for how we are living/serving RIGHT NOW IN THE MOMENT WE'RE IN: "How are we helping His people and His Church and how are we reaching the lost?" Yes, we need to work, and that is good! That obviously is serving Christ and bringing fruit, but is it bringing fruit for those two purposes just mentioned? If not, there's more that needs to be done! No matter who we are, we've been called to those two things, because much of the world is still the same as many still have broken relationships with Christ and do not know Him. Similarly, His people are needing constant encouragement to continue to follow and serve Him, and are needing the gifts of the Spirit and the ministry of such things in order to grow in their knowledge of Him and His ways and in the hope of His calling.
While we shall one day live a life of perfect enjoyment with the perfect world He'll create, that day is not yet. Yes, it is a good hope to have within our hearts, but we are not called to live that life just yet. There is work to be done! There is a calling to achieve! There is a lost world out there! There is a Church that needs strengthening and that is needing to grow and be equipped! There is a Church that needs to know God and His way if it is to itself be fruitful! If we are only living to survive and to build our own physical garden of fleshly enjoyment in this life, we are living selfishly, lazily (In the Bible God calls the lazy servant the wicked servant! (Matt 25v26)), disobediently and we are burying our gifts and talents in the grounds, and that is an extremely serious thing. We are also not honouring Christ's desires and His sacrifice for us. Christ Himself gave up His life and died for us and humanity for the purposes previously mentioned, and shall we not care about this!? Will this not move or motivate us?! Will we remain indifferent to those purposes for which He served His whole life and suffered and died for?! If we live for ourselves, we in fact do all those things. But while the Spirit may be rebuking us here, myself included, He is also spurring and encouraging us! In His grace He has forgiven us for all our shortcomings and failings in His service, and now we have a great opportunity to not live for ourselves but for Him who raised us, and this is what we're called to! Christ loves us, His people and the world. And He wants us love Him, not only in abiding in and with Him, but by being fruitful for Him. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the good things and good blessings God gives us, but we, like Jesus, are called to always be about our Father's business, and His blessings are never designed to hinder or stop this, but rather encourage it all the more!
2 Cor 5v14: 'For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.'
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Most of my life I think I've wanted to be strong so I can be strong for the Lord. In my mind, I've wanted to feel strong and capable and complete in myself, and also to have those things I thought I've needed in my life, before I actually do something for the Lord. In the meantime however, the Lord has prevented me from having some of those things, and even made me feel extremely weak and incapable in myself. It is in that place that I've felt He's wanted to, and actually has, used me to serve Him and serve others (as small, incomplete and imperfect as that service has been). While I was overseas recently, I was blessed to have a word from someone who said to me, "His strength is made perfect in weakness." When I was younger, I would've thought that this meant, "He is most powerful in me when I at my weakest." But since then I've learnt differently. God's power does not change in any way- He is always as powerful as He's always been. What God meant when He said to Paul (who knew what it was to be weak- even having a thorn from God to ensure he did!), "My strength is made perfect in weakness," was that we are perfectly able to be used when we are weak, because we will be humble in such a place. That is the 'perfection'; it is the moral humbling of ourselves which God allows to happen to us, as we are forced to see ourselves for just how weak and insufficient we truly are. That is why Paul, when Paul got this answer from God, said, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12v9). Paul realised that while God had made him spiritually whole in the sense that, just like the Word says, we have been given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1v3), conversely in a practical sense God wanted Him in a place of trial and weakness so that he could continue to be used by God. If God didn't have us in a continual place of weakness, trial and seeming insufficiency, we would never be able to be used by Him, because we would quickly become proud, thinking that the power and Godly influence that comes from us is in some way to do with us or because of something that we are. Paul even DELIGHTED in weaknesses. Think about that for a second. He didn't wish his weaknesses would go away, and he didn't say that he was incomplete and wounded because of them (although he must've felt this way in the natural), rather he delighted in them because of what it meant that God would be able to do through him- 2 Cor 12v10 'That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.' While personally I'm not at this stage yet (I'd still rather not have thorns and trials), I understand why Paul himself could say this, and so I am encouraged by why he delighted in them, and so want to make this one of the aims of my life as well. Initially Paul PLEADED with the Lord 3 times for the Lord to take his thorn which produced his weakness, away from him, but then he realised that not only would it have been detrimental for his spiritual life, but it would've also made him unusable to the Lord. So he actually ended up BOASTING about those things that made him weak, and DELIGHTING in weaknesses and trials. Such was the greatness of Paul's desire that ONLY Christ would be glorified and revealed in and through his life, and that ONLY Christ would be seen through the power which God allowed to come through his life, that he was willing to be extremely weak and undergo extreme trials for His sake.
Do not be someone who continually pleads with the Lord to be free from trials, for such a person is very spiritually immature and does not understand the nature of how Christ works in His people and how he fits them for service. Do not be someone who believes that they need something they don't already have to serve Him, for God has already given us EVERYTHING we need for LIFE and GODLINESS (2 Peter 1v3, and so no matter what weakness may beset us, we are always equipped and ready to do what God has called us to do in whatever season of life we are in. Weaknesses are not given to us to hold us back and stop us from service, but they are given so that we may be useful to Him now, and usually more useful to Him in the future. Do we, like Paul, want revelation? Do we want to see the power of God work through us? Do we desire to be very effectual for him and to greatly benefit others by the fruit and service of our lives? Then expect for the Lord to allow weakness in our lives, and don't expect it to go away any time soon, or even ever in many cases. Expect trials, weakness, sickness, rejection from others, loss, persecution and above all expect to see your own great insufficiency- not so that we'll despair and throw in the towel, but so that we shall continually be humbled, and so that we shall decrease, but He shall increase. If we want to be used by the Lord, expect that we experience what Christ did, for no one is above their master in this, and He was known as the suffering servant.
Sunday, 4 January 2015
Was really humbled to have this happen at my house the other night (click on the link at the end of the post to see the photo of gold dust at my house). I'd just got off the phone and without even thinking about it, took my feet off my footrest. One foot had been on top of the other (cross legged/crossed feet), and I underneath it I saw gold dust! I've never had this happen before, but I knew it was exactly that. I looked very closely at it and it was definitely not sand or dust and it couldn't have been glitter because the size of the pieces were all different, and there wasn't any other pieces of the substance around me or on my feet. Some of you might say, "So what?" and "That's just weird" and "Why would God do that?" But in the Bible, in the Old Testament in the Holy of Holies, which represented Jesus; His person, character, goodness, glory and His ways, was covered in gold. So gold dust like this represents Jesus and those things. Furthermore, this dust was directly under my feet, which just confirmed the message/s of the Church that I'd gone to that day which was essentially to "Go out into the world and preach the Gospel". Not only that, but an awesome testimony was given by someone who had gone out with a group the previous night (to Surfers or Burleigh- can't remember exactly where) and not only shared the Gospel, but had allowed the Lord to demonstrate it through them by many mighty miracles. I knew the Lord wasn't just speaking to me through this gold dust (I'm nothing special and just a sinner saved by grace just like everyone else), but to the Church I went to, and all of you out there that are His children. He is wanting us to go out into the world and share the Good News, and to demonstrate it with allowing the Lord to work through us in miracles, just like the disciples of old did. This gold dust was under my feet, and I knew that the Lord was saying, "Go be my feet!" and "Go out and do what you've heard others do!" The Lord says this to all His children and all His disciples, and if you doubt that, have a read of the scriptures below. Notice that they're said to those that BELIEVE IN HIM (CHRISTIANS); and ALL HIS CHILDREN ARE THOSE THAT BELIEVE IN HIM:
Mark 16v15: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
John 14v12: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
A friend of mine also sent me this scripture when I told him about what'd happened:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
If you have a heart to do this, please let me know. As I'd love to do it with others who have a similar heart for this. We can be bold with the Word He has given us on this, as He will be with us! I've seen the Lord do miracles through everyone, so don't get trapped thinking He only uses certain people. We all have the Spirit of God inside of us, so He's wanting to use us! And I know that too because He's always wanting to confirm His Word through miracles, because both Jesus and His disciples were used in this way:
Mark 16v20: Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Hebrews 2v4...: This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles…