If you are just starting out in this series of blogs, welcome. Might I recommend that you go back through the first 4 parts of this series though? It is so much more fun when the story is read in order. You don’t want to spoil the ending do you? Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.
We interrupt your regularly-scheduled programming to give you this breaking news. In an astonishing and sudden event, it appears as if God has shown Himself once again. 20 years ago, He appeared to the world and we haven’t heard from Him since, except for a mysterious love letter to the world that was sent to the Vatican. A few years after that, a man named Joshua appeared, claiming to be God. However, after three years, the people became fed up with Joshua and had Him executed for treason. Reports filtered in that Joshua was raised from the dead, but due to a lack of evidence, experts remain skeptical. Today – only a few hours ago – people across the globe report being able to communicate directly with God at will. It is unclear at this time if this is due to God’s reappearance or another factor. Stay tuned for more.
You thought I was done didn’t you?
So did the disciples when Jesus died. The people who had followed Him loyally for three whole years had watched the culmination of His promised reign suddenly come to an abrupt end. They thought it was over and simply hid in fear in an upper apartment.
But it wasn’t over. Jesus did raise Himself from the dead to demonstrate His power over death and to give us hope in a future resurrection.
At that point, Jesus went into the entire world and showed everyone that He was alive. He talked to Pilate and Herod, who had sentenced Him to death. He spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees who had watched His torture and death with smirks on their faces. Everyone realized they were wrong and repented.
Wait…that’s not what happened?
Haha. I was just making sure you were still awake and not skipping over important stuff. The truth is, Jesus appeared to a very small number of people and then ascended into heaven in the same way He arrived on Earth – with few spectators.
After this ascension, the disciples went to Jerusalem and waited like Jesus had told them to. Then in Acts 2, something crazy happens. The gift that Jesus had promised to send to His disciples came in a rush of wind and suddenly the Holy Spirit resided in the apostles and they began prophesying.
Holy Spirit? What the what? So Christians are possessed now?
Okay. Let me rewind a second. I’d like to point you to a specific part of Scripture that I don’t think many people have read.
The book of Daniel is a pretty amazing book. Many of you probably know the famous stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel in the lion’s den, and the writing on the wall of King Belshazzar. But after these events, the book of Daniel gets confusing and scary and I stop reading, because I just don’t understand what is going on. But by the grace of God, I came across this Scripture and was struck with a revelation that I wanted to share.
Okay so Daniel has been mourning at the revelation of a prophecy for three weeks, calling out for an explanation of his vision. He’s barely eating anything, his skin is dry and cracked, and at an age somewhere around 80, this is weakening him. Finally, an angel comes to Daniel and causes Daniel to faint. The angel then taps Daniel on the shoulder and says.
“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” Daniel 10:12-13
Okay. Let me explain really quickly. This guy who has come to Daniel is basically saying that from the very beginning, God heard Daniel’s prayer and sent him to answer it. But he was detained by an evil angel (demon, spirit, what-have-you) in Persia, and was engaged in intense spiritual battle for 3 weeks. All this time, Daniel is mourning and fasting and growing weaker, so Michael (one of the big-time good guys) comes in to assist our unnamed angel so that He could break away from the battle to go explain the meaning of Daniel’s vision.
Cool story bro. Angels and demons fighting and stuff. Sounds like a good movie. What’s your point?
Well, compare this passage from Daniel with the second half of Acts 1 where the disciples cast lots to decide which disciple would take Judas’ place among the twelve. Why were they gambling over such an important decision? Because Acts 2 hadn’t happened yet. Jesus was gone, but the Spirit hadn’t yet arrived. They could pray to God for an answer, but how would they receive it? Would they have to wait 3 weeks for an angel to be available? No, instead they received their answer in the lots that they cast. But this kind of thing happens nowhere else in the remaining Scripture, because the arrival of the Holy Spirit is the very next event.
So my point is this: Daniel had to wait for his answer from God because the answer’s messenger was delayed. But today, we don’t have to wait on messengers to arrive with their messages from God anymore (and I’m sure the angels are grateful for the downtime).
Still not following my logic? Good. Keep reading.
The Holy Spirit is the third form of God. All throughout Scripture, the idea of the Spirit residing within us upon the receipt of our salvation is very prevalent. So if the Holy Spirit is in us, that means God is in us.
Now this isn’t some Unitarian view of “God in us all – we are all God” kind of thing. No, the Bible seems to point to it as more of a synthesis. God’s Spirit and our spirit come together and work in unison. Paul even says in Romans 9 that “my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit”. This means that the Holy Spirit – who is God Himself – is in communication with Paul’s conscience. And this is the same for all people who accept Jesus’ sacrifice.
Imagine that! God speaking to us from within. That’s kind of convenient. No need to wait by the phone or check the mailbox every morning. Daniel, who was “highly esteemed” by God, had to wait. God sent Daniel His answer immediately, but the postman got held up in Persia. But nowadays God gives us His answers on the fly.
So why don’t we always hear an answer immediately? I like to think that it’s, again, because God loves us. What else could it be? He knows what it’s like to be disappointed. He knows what it means to suffer. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) That sounds like the epitome of suffering to me. Willing to suffer in such a way sure seems like love to me.
I believe fully in one of the most well-known verses of the Bible.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Maybe, just maybe, God has an ultimate plan for us that we cannot even fathom. Perhaps His timing is much more perfect than our timing. What if His silence is like the silence that spreads through the auditorium just before the orchestra begins those brilliant notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5? We don’t know when the silence is going to end, but we know that when it does, things will start happening.
Maybe, just maybe, we should pray Then wait. And listen.
So how does God show us His love and presence today? Well He shows us His love through the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection which guarantees us victory over sin and death if we only accept His sacrifice. He then goes on to show His love through His presence! He has drawn closer to us than He has ever been – even in the time of Adam and Eve. Now His Spirit resides in those who accept His salvation. He makes Himself completely accessible – our Abba (approachable Father) with whom we can have a personal relationship.
Now that’s an Awesome God.