The 120

A few years ago I became enamored of a television show called The 100. I love all things science fiction and this really captured my imagination. The premise was based on the earth’s apocalypse and the survival of humankind. After a devastating nuclear event rendered earth uninhabitable, a group of people fled to an orbiting space station. Three generations later, the space station’s life support system began to fail, and so a plan was devised to send one hundred delinquent juveniles back to earth to see if life can now be maintained. From this small number, civilization begins to regroup. They are eventually successful after seven seasons of twists and turns.

This premise is biblical in two ways. First, it supports “remnant theology,” which teaches us that God always preserves a remnant of humanity for the future. We see this from the Genesis flood narrative to the diaspora stories in the Old Testament. The New Testament picks up the theme when a band of twelve becomes a global movement. Second, it reminds us that God uses small seeds to reap great harvests. His faithfulness to us is evident all throughout the Bible.

This show came to mind this morning when I read the scripture assignment for today. Right away the number one hundred twenty jumped out at me. I love reading about the early formative days of the church, and today is no exception to the wonderment of it all. Think of it: at one point, we were only one hundred twenty strong as a church of Christ-followers. A quick Google search reports that the number today is 2.3 billion.

From tiny beginnings, great things grow!

Acts 1 (Common English Bible)

15 During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons. Peter stood among them and said, 16 “Brothers and sisters, the scripture that the Holy Spirit announced beforehand through David had to be fulfilled. This was the scripture concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 This happened even though he was one of us and received a share of this ministry.”

I appreciate the Common English Bible’s use of the word “family.” It is comforting to remember that at one time, those who loved Jesus and his message were a family. I doubt that the same thing would be said of us today. Our extreme denominationalism has fractured us into disparate entities. Competition, resistance to opposing view points, and our tendency to erect walls around our doctrinal beliefs have rendered us incapable of functioning as a whole unit of believers.

21 “Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 So they nominated two: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.

24 They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two 25 to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” 26 When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles.

In selecting a new apostle, the eleven prayed for discernment and left the decision to God. They knew that he would examine the thoughts and desires of the candidates and would reveal his choice in the casting of lots. By this method, the integrity of their group would be maintained…and from that tiny band of twelve, many would join and the numbers would grow.

The challenge for us today is to realize that in our warring of ideologies, we would do well to simply pray for discernment and leave the decisions to God. People too quickly weigh in on all kinds of issues that are better left to prayer. Where is God calling you to water, rather than uproot, the seeds he has planted? Do you really have the full picture of the garden he laid out thousands of years ago? Who is the Master Gardener?

It is a matter of “trust, and obey.” And pray.

Lemon Tree by Bev Mineo

Timing is God’s Business

Think for a moment of all the times you have wished for something, and wanted something to happen that didn’t go the way you planned. Maybe you even prayed about it and your prayers were met with silence. I try to remind myself that God ALWAYS answers our prayers, but sometimes we don’t like the answer. For the most part, his response is one of three things: yes, no, or wait. Of course “wait” might be the hardest one to hear, as it leaves you in some kind of limbo, wondering if he heard you at all.

He did.

But his measure of time and his sense of timing are far higher than ours, just as his thoughts and his ways are higher. When things happen in God’s timing, it is always for our good. But we are an impatient people who want the world and we WANT IT NOW. (Cue Veruca Salt…)

Can you think of a time when you had to wait on God’s timing? Waiting is HARD.

In our Ascension passage today, we find the disciples watching Jesus return to his father after a 40-day period of their being with him after the resurrection. Their hearts are troubled. They don’t want him to leave, but they know that he will come back someday. He promises that if they remain in Jerusalem, they will receive a baptism even better than the one John performed:

Acts 1 (The Message)

1-5 Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God.

As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”

Waiting is an important part of this story. Things were not happening quickly, or according to their wishes, but rather at a pace that God had set. Part of what needed to happen during the waiting was for them to readjust their expectations of what Jesus’ return would actually bring:

When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”

They were still looking to Jesus to overthrow the existing power structure and establish his kingdom. Even with ALL they knew about their Messiah, they still didn’t quite get the fact that the kingdom he brought was an internal one. It was not time for Jesus to rule the kingdom of Israel just yet:

7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”

As we anticipate the second coming of Christ, let us be about our Father’s work and spread the gospel to Jerusalem (your local community), Judea (your state and country), and Samaria (international destinations). There is much to do while we wait…but as we wait, let us remember that timing is the Father’s business. In his time, he makes all things beautiful.

Waiting for Sunrise