50 Days

Praying til Pentecost Day 1

"Until the day when He was taken up to Heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father promised, 'Which, He said, 'you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' " Acts 1:1-5

Back to basics is a common theme that is repeated often in many disciplines of life. One of the great stories of Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, comes to mind. He would gather his team, veterans and rookies, each year at training camp and review the basics of the game. His first session would begin with him standing in front of his experienced athletes and holding out a football in front of them. He would say, "Gentlemen! This is a football!" Lombardi built great teams on good players who knew the basics, and carried out their assignments with precision and passion.

John Wooden, basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins, who led them his teams to an unprecedented string of national championships had a different approach, but a similar emphasis. Coach Wooden would gather his team on the first day of practice and have them take a seat on the bench. He would instruct them to take off their shoes and socks, and then he would hand them a brand new pair of socks. He would then instruct them on how to put on a pair of socks so that their feet would not become blistered by wrinkles or misplaced seams.

Years ago I heard a seminar leader coin the phrase, "The way you come on is the way you go on." The significance of his point escapes me, but the accuracy of the statement is spot on when it is applied to the way Jesus approached ministry.

Jesus introduced the constitution of the Kingdom of God to His followers with the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes were the preamble to the precepts that Jesus would lay out for entrance into this Kingdom. When Jesus returned to spend 40 days walking and talking with His disciples, He went right back to basics. What Matthew's Gospel records in chapters five, six and seven become the reservoir from which Jesus draws. Luke's account in Acts says that Jesus came back to review with His followers what He taught them from the beginning about the Kingdom of God. Jesus was not forming a secret society, but mobilizing the company of the committed with a solid background in what their message would be as they became witnesses of the Risen Christ.

The Kingdom of God is built on the cornerstone of the Risen Christ, but as we return to the Beatitudes we learn that the citizens are called "blessed." What Jesus taught in Matthew 5:2-12 established the criteria of the principle of paradox that would mark the uniqueness of this Kingdom. Things are not always as they seem.

People who think less of themselves and more of others are valued the highest. Those who mourn are merely on their way to comfort. Humble people are heirs to all that God has. Holy hunger leads to spiritual fulfillment. On and on the lessons unfold until the citizenship papers of the Kingdom are stamped with the authenticity of transforming people from victims to victors.

For the next 50 days, pray that the Risen Christ will awaken in you a desire to be filled with all that The Promise of the Father has in store for you. Do not settle for entrance in the Kingdom by the skin of your teeth. Allow your life to be saturated by the Presence of the Holy Spirit. When the early disciples received the Holy Spirit, and He took up permanent residence in their lives, they were transformed from victims of circumstance to overwhelming conquerors.

The last words of Jesus on the cross were, "It is finished!" Remember, He is not on the cross, and the tomb in empty. The best is yet to come.