14. Uncertain Future

Ways of Seeing Meditations: 14. Uncertain Future

Acts 1:10,11 They were looking intently up into the sky…why do you stand here looking into the sky?

Pauses: I don’t know about you but I sometimes think life goes on pause. Something happened you were not expecting. It just seems like you are left wondering and you realize you are standing there doing nothing, just like it must have been with the disciples. Jesus had risen and they had spent a number of weeks with him up in Galilee, not ministering to the crowds but just being alone with him while he taught them about the kingdom. Now what is strange is that Luke doesn’t tell us any more about what he taught; in a sense that was past history and when he wrote he was more concerned with what followed, how the Holy Spirit came and led the early church. But in between the teaching and the moving of the Spirit there comes the unique event – a one-off never to be repeated – of the Ascension.

Jesus literally rose before their very eyes and disappeared from sight in a cloud – gone! And the disciples are left standing, probably with their mouths wide open, saying nothing, with their minds full of a combination of fear and wondering. It was the most amazing thing they had ever seen. Yes, they had over the past three years witnessed amazing healings, deliverances and even some being raised from the dead but all that was not almost  a dreamlike past as in front of them the one they had followed for three years, literally started lifting off the ground and continued going up and up, his clothes perhaps flapping in the wind, and then he’s gone! Silence reigns. No one knows what to say and they just stand there still gazing up.  But then, from nowhere, two men in white appear and challenge them.

Stop it! Now they don’t actually tell the disciples to stop it and get on with life. All they do is tell them that one day he will come back the same way they’ve seen him go, in the sky. That is the most important thing. Don’t expect him to just turn up at breakfast tomorrow; you’ve got a long wait. Don’t expect him in the years to come to just walk into the room where you are. It won’t be like that; the whole world will see him coming again. And with that there is an air of finality about the present.  All they can do is go back to Jerusalem and do what he said – wait for the Spirit to come. End of present phase of life.

I can’t help but think of another time when it is the end of one phase and beginning of another: “The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Sam 16:1) As we are continuing to consider how we see life, we need to realise there are phases in God’s economy, seasons if you like, when one season comes to an end and a new one begins. We aren’t so good at coping with change because most of us like what is familiar. Moreover we are not sure about what is to come because it is unseen and as yet unknown. There is a truth in the old adage ‘we’ve never walked this way before’.

A New Day: But here’s the thing, getting near the end of the first year of the Pandemic (will there be another year of it?) many of us struggle to hold on to the past and resurrect it and bring back what we knew before, what was familiar. We must stop doing that. If the Pandemic was just a ghastly mistake by some scientists in China, a mistake with no meaning or purpose of positive outworking, then we might as well just remain miserable and despondent, but I don’t believe it was. At the risk of repeating myself, then yes, I do believe it was the work of careless, sinful mankind, but I believe the Lord allowed it for a variety of reasons. One of them was to put a brake on the Church, the way it was going in order that we may stop and reflect and consider how we had been falling short of the divine plan.  

One thing I am sure of is that God does not want us to just continue on as we did before, whether it is in respect of a Pandemic or a Presidency. Just recently I restarted a prayer meeting in our church – socially distanced and conforming to Government strictures for numbers and meeting indoors (before it was shut down in the second UK lock-down. As far as prayer meetings go, it was pretty reasonable but afterwards I had this distinct feeling that we had missed it, we had not moved on, we were still doing the ‘same old, same old’.

Now I’m still not sure what the new is but at the second one I went into it with no plans or expectations other than we would turn up and, without any direction from me, we would let the Lord lead us – and He did! We prayed with some of the most authoritative and power praying I’ve known for many a year. Is this the message from heaven – let me lead at the moment? Wait on me for new power? If the Lord allowed the Pandemic to herald the end of one season and the beginning of another, we really need to ask for His grace to be able to let go of the old. Samuel received a firm word to get him moving on to herald in the new era, even while the old one was still in existence.

That’s the thing, the old one still seems to be in existence in some ways, but don’t let that deceive you. God wants His church back, He wants it to stop planning and strategizing with human thinking, He wants to lead it, He wants to release power in it and through it, He wants to transform it. As He said to me the other day, if we don’t let Him, if we don’t pray for it, some of us will simply be left with buildings that stand only as monuments to past religion. As I wrote a few studies back, in the meantime we are to remain faithful, available, obedient, prayerful and yearning for Him to come, as we wait for His coming in power and revelation. Don’t cling to the past, look to the horizon for signs of His coming with power.  

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