The Ascension of Christ

We are meditating on the last words of Christ before He ascended to heaven (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). Before ascending from Bethany on the Mount of Olives. His instructions to the disciples were:

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

God can do more in five minutes through His Spirit working in you and through you than you can do by yourself, attempting to work things out in your own human strength and ability. We all have God-given abilities and natural strengths that God has placed within us. These gifts are to be used for God’s glory. The words “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) denote something that is being bestowed upon them for a specific purpose. This power from on high was necessary to transcend what they, the disciples could do through their own human efforts. What a wonderful thought that God can clothe us with His strength and His Spirit to do His work here on earth!  He adorns us with Himself even while we are in this earthly form. I find this truth to be very encouraging because it tells me that, even when I am feeling helpless in a situation, out of my depth, or just inadequate for a task, then I know that His Spirit is sufficient for me. After spending time with His disciples, instructing and preparing them for forty days, it was finally time to leave them, physically:

50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God (Luke 24:50-53).

The vicinity of Bethany is the other side of the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Luke writes again in the Book of Acts about this same account when Christ was taken up from them in bodily form:

10They were looking intently into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” 12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near the city, a Sabbath day’s journey away (Acts 1:10-12).

While they waited for the Spirit’s filling, the disciples used the time by boldly meeting together in the Temple courts and praising God (Luke 24:53), not caring about anything that the religious elite might do to them. In quiet surrender, have you ever held your hands up to God and asked Him to fill you? Are you thirsty for more of Christ? That is the major qualification to be filled with the Spirit:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not been glorified (John 7:37-39).

Why don’t you come to Christ today and abandon your life into the Good Shepherd’s hands? He wants to take away your doubts and fill you with His Spirit if you will ask Him. Jesus has promised the believer His abiding presence. He promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. Whatever this life holds in store for you, He promises that you will not face it alone (John 16:7-14).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 66 at this linkJesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-53). Keith Thomas.

Why Wait Until Pentecost?

We are meditating on the appearance of Jesus and His words to the disciples after His resurrection (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). As Jesus ate with them, He gave them specific instructions about waiting. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Why did they have to wait forty-seven days until the Day of Pentecost? What was the purpose in waiting?

The period of waiting was crucial to their empowerment, i.e. their being clothed with the Spirit. Often, we seek to go in our own strength and do not wait for God’s power and leading. A.B Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, has something to say about this passage from Luke concerning waiting until we are clothed or filled with the Spirit. He said: “These waiting days were necessary to enable the disciples to realize their need, their nothingness, their failure, and their dependence upon the Master. They had to get emptied first before they would get filled.” Luke wrote that Jesus appeared again and again to them over a period of forty days after His suffering:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

What was He doing in those forty days? He was strengthening them in their faith and teaching them about the kingdom of God. We must be emptied of self and be right with God and others before we can be filled with the Spirit. When the Day of Pentecost came, they were completely ready and abandoned to God’s work, experiencing great unity, and being in one accord with one another: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1 KJV). The Spirit filled or baptized them, dipping them into Himself, soaking and saturating them with His presence.

The time of waiting had created a thirst that could only be quenched by God the Holy Spirit Himself. They were in a place of dependence on the Spirit because Jesus had left them and ascended to the Father seven days before the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:3). The eleven disciples were not supermen. They were just like you and I. They needed God’s Spirit to accomplish the task of taking the message to others. Dedication and dependence on God working through them by His Spirit enabled them to complete their mission. It is no different for us.

In Acts 1:4, Luke recalls Jesus’ saying, “Wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” If the promised Holy Spirit is sent as a gift, why would we not want to receive Him and all that He wants to do in us and through us? Some doubt that God will give them the Holy Spirit. Why would God not give the One that He has promised? Does God ever hold back on His giving? “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32). Of one thing I am sure: when God gives a gift with a promise, the least we should do is to receive what He wants to give! We receive Christ by faith, and when we do, the Spirit takes up residence in our lives. If you are a Christian, you have the Spirit: And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). If you are a believer and trusting fully in what Christ has accomplished for you, you have the Holy Spirit. The most important thing is does the Holy Spirit have you? Have you fully abandoned your life to Christ? Does He have ownership of your life?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 66 at this linkJesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-53). Keith Thomas.

Waiting for God.

16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. 1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you (Genesis 16:16-17:6).

When we look at the life of Abraham, we see a man who had learned to wait. The end of Genesis chapter sixteen points out to us that Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael, but chapter seventeen tells us that nothing had happened for 14 years until God finally spoke to him again at ninety-nine years of age (Genesis 17:1). What can we learn from what is not written about that time?

Why do you suppose God made Abram wait so long? What work does God do in a person through making him or her wait? Some of the greatest lessons I have learned have been in times of waiting. God does His best preparation work in His servants in the waiting times. The prophet Isaiah gives us a picture of the preparation of a servant of the Lord:

Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver (Isaiah 49:1-2).

For every servant of God called to do an important task for the Kingdom of God, there is a preparation time that is compared to the making of an arrow. There is a personal calling, then a preparation of what issues out from his lips, a cleansing of his language. He or she are also drawn close to the Lord, an intimacy under God’s hand before a polishing of his character.  And then, lastly, there is the concealment in the quiver. During this phase of training and preparation, a man or woman of God are not allowed to do anything that is “seen” by the world, at least for a time. He or she is called to be in hidden ministry that has to wait until the right timing to be shot in ministry from the Lord’s bow. Think of Moses and his having to wait forty years while shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness of Midian. God made him wait until he was eighty years of age before the Lord would use him to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. He definitely had to endure the hiddenness and waiting of the quiver!  Imagine how hard it would have been for him to be trained in the best schools of Egypt, and then do nothing seemingly of value while he shepherded the sheep in the desert. Why would God do that to a man? The greater the task, the greater the training. It is hard to wait for God’s timing, but it is part of the training. Keith Thomas

Are You Waiting on God?

Everything that Jesus did was one of modeling to us about how to live a Christ-centered life, even His waiting on the Lord’s timing. He lived a life of dependence on the Father. Sometimes it is hard to wait for God to move. We can be so eager to go and do God’s work that we can go without God. Moses, for instance, acted outside of God’s timing to help the Israelites in Egypt before he was ready, and had to spend forty years as a shepherd in the Desert of Midian before the Lord called him to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Act 7:23-30). There are things that God wants to do in us before He can use us. A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” I think that is so for nations too. The Chinese people have had to go through many trials and persecution until the kairos time, the defining moment has arrived for them to now send many missionaries to other nations, such as the Back to Jerusalem vision of going with the gospel to all the nations to the south and west of China bringing the gospel back to Jerusalem. Sometimes, just waiting on God’s timing can be painful. The worst thing that can happen to a man or woman of God is to be sent out in ministry before they are ready and prepared by God. There are many that have shipwrecked their faith because of going before God’s work had been done in them. We are to take the beam out of our own eye, before we can take the sliver out of someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:5). We have a picture of the making of a man or woman of God found in Isaiah 49:

1Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor” (Isaiah 49:1-3).

Notice the work of God in shaping the man or woman of God. First of all, there is a calling on his life. From the womb God has been at work, calling him [or her] by name. One of the most important things that has to be shaped by God is a man’s word. A man’s tongue is to become a sharp sword that is to be Spirit-led and empowered of God. There is no room for coarse language or deceitful lips. Old habits of speech are put behind us now that we walk with the Lord. The picture that is used is that of the making of an arrow. It has to be made pliable in the hands of the arrow maker, and straightened on a rack. The process requires being polished which speaks of being rubbed the wrong way, and heat applied to the character before it can ever be used. Then the hardest part of the transformative work of God is to be placed in the quiver (A quiver is a leather bag used for carrying arrows on the back of the archer). The hardest part of being shaped and made effective is the period of time of waiting for the Master to put you into His bow to be fired at the time of His choosing. God wants to use all of His people, but more fruit comes from a life that is disciplined and brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. We are to walk in step with Him and not do our own thing, going out under our own power. Take the time to wait upon the Lord:

Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see [it] (Psalm 37:34).

Keith Thomas