There are two Greek New Testament words for time: “Chronos,” which refers to “tick-tock” time, the kind of time we can measure, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, etc. This is calendar time, as we know it on planet earth. It is the word from which we derive other words, such as an instrument that helps us to know the time, a “chronometer,” and “chronology” (i.e.the proper ordering of time as we know it, the arrangement of events or dates in the order of their occurrence). The other word is “Kairos,” which refers to the times we cannot measure, such as the “times and seasons” the Bible speaks of, times known only to God – the kind of time referred to in such biblical expressions as “it came to pass,” “in the fullness of time,” “the appointed time,” and “at that time.” Jesus referred time and time again to the hour of His death and departure saying, “My hour has not yet come,” and then on His way to Jerusalem for the last time He told His disciples, “My hour has come” (i.e.the time appointed for His death).
The Old Testament prophets were naturally concerned for the times in which they were living, but their primary concern was not for the times represented by the endless ticking of a clock, but rather for the times that had been predetermined by the hand of God. In the spirit of the prophets who had preceded him, God’s prophet, Isaiah, admonished the people of God to put their confidence in their omnipotent God, the God of history, the God who is sovereign and in control, the God of the covenant, the God of justice and righteousness, the God whose eternal plan extends from the time before time (i.e from eternity past, time before creation, to time as we know it) to creation, and from creation to redemption – and for us, those who live on the other side of the cross, we would add from redemption to the ultimate manifestation of God’s plan for the end of time as we know it, when there will be a “new creation,” a “new heaven and a new earth,” when the risen and reigning Christ returns to earth in power and glory as we are told in the writings of the apostles and other New Testament authors.
Luke, whose writings along with the letters of the Apostle Paul make up the greater part of the New Testament, tells us in The Acts of the Apostles that the resurrected Lord told His followers just before His ascension into heaven, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons (i.e. the periods of time) that the Father has set by his own authority” (1:7). The Apostle John, in the Revelation given to him by the Risen Christ, tells us how he saw in his vision what no man had ever seen, and which no one else has seen since: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…” (21:1 – also prophesied by Isaiah 65:17, and by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8, the renewal of all creation, freed from sin and all its “labor pains” (8:22). Suffice it to say, believers throughout the world today share this eschatological hope, and also believe that all the events in their lives are also known by God, who is omniscient, who “…knows when we sit down and when we rise up” and “…who is acquainted with all our ways” (Psalm 139:2-3), including those happenings that are so often seen as “accidents” or “coincidences,” but are understood and interpreted by many of us as “GOD-INCIDENTS,” manifestations of the working out of God’s purposes in our lives.
Such occurrences often amaze and mystify both believers and nonbelievers, for they are surely more than a matter of chance. They cause us to ask, “What are the odds?” They are inexplicable happenings, shrouded in what the Apostle Paul calls “mystery,” events that defy simple explanations. Therefore, it should not surprise us when they are seen by so many believers as proofs of God’s providence, instances of divine intervention, signs of God’s sovereign power to work in all things for good in the lives of those who are seeking to fit into God’s plan and purpose for their lives (Romans 8:28). Just as we had nothing to say or do about our own birth, and most of us will have little or nothing to say or do about our own deaths, so there are many events in our lives that occur because they are God’s pre-determined happenings at pre-determined times — things that occur “in their own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). According to the Bible everything has its time, determined by God: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…God has put a sense of past and future into our minds, yet we cannot find out what God has done (I do no violence to the text when I add “is doing,” or “will do”), from the beginning to the end” (vs.1, 11).
Which brings me to this personal testimony, my call to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments. When we use the term also we are bearing witness to the fact that the Christian ministry is more than a job; it is a “vocation” (a word that simply means “calling”). It is not the only career that is a “calling,” but it is true that most people only have a job, even believers. It is sad, but I believe it is also true that many believers have actually missed their calling. Why? Simply because they never seriously considered the possibility that God had a definite plan for their lives, that God had given them particular gifts, potentialities and possibilities for a special “calling,” a lifework that would be satisfying and fulfilling. Sadly they ended up in a job that was not that rewarding; and even worse, many have not even liked or enjoyed their “job.”
I almost missed my own calling, but that’s a long story. More about that in a future post; for now I want to go back to the beginning, when God first planted the seed in my mind, and used my maternal grandmother, Edith Foree, who was known to me and the other grandchildren as “Deedee,” to do the planting. In the “Parable of the Sower” Jesus tells us that the seed is the Word of God, the “Word of the kingdom,” and the One who actually does the planting is the Son of Man (i.e. the King – Matthew 13), but He uses others as His instruments in the process of planting the seed and then nurturing the seed that has been planted.
“Deedee” was the one the Lord our God used to plant His Word in the minds and hearts of so many people. She was a very godly woman who had a love affair with God’s Word. She meditated on the Word day and night. She was a very gifted Bible teacher. Her Sunday School class, the “Wesley Comrade Class” at the New Castle Methodist Church in Henry County, Kentucky, was larger than the congregation at worship. People even came from adjoining counties to attend her class. In fact, her influence extended even farther, for she also had a prison ministry, visiting the state prison to teach a Bible class, introducing prisoners to Jesus, and discipling believers in the “church behind bars.” Later, after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, former prisoners to whom she had ministered, as well as members of her Sunday School class, would visit our home to let their beloved Bible teacher know how much she was appreciated. When she was very weak and dying she called for me to come to her bedroom, and then motioned for me to kneel down beside the bed. She placed her hand on my head, prayed for me, and then said: “You are going to be my little preacher.”
Furthermore, I am not exaggerating when I say I can even identify with God’s prophet, Jeremiah, when he shares his sense of call, which began before he was born: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Notice the expression, “the word of the Lord,” which is always an important part of anyone’s call to serve the Lord; and it is the implanted Word of God that brings forth fruit to the glory of God in “the fullness of time” in the lives of those who are called to be prophets, apostles, preachers, teachers, servants of the Lord. Also, the message of those who are called is always God’s Word, and whenever and wherever that Word “falls on good ground” (i.e. in “good soil“), and is “received with joy” (Matthew 13), it always “bears fruit, yielding in one case a hundred fold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (vs. 23).
Personally, I can truthfully say I feel a real kinship with the psalmist when he tells the Lord, “It was you, Lord, who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…wonderful are your works…Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed…Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139). I can say with deep conviction that I am convinced nothing that has happened in my life, from the time I was in my mother’s womb until this present time has taken God by surprise, but I am still amazed when I look back and see the amazing and wondrous ways in which God has worked to make His sovereignty known, and to accomplish His purpose in my life and ministry. It is indeed “so high” that I cannot comprehend it. I will be even more specific in future posts in order to show how God has made His providence, His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence, known, not only to me, but to my wife and family, in ways that are truly inexplicable. So many things have happened that cannot be explained apart from God’s presence and power at work in our lives; experiences that could not have been “happenstance”, merely “coincidences.”
No, I came to the conclusion very early in my ministry that these events which I will be sharing were definitely “GOD-INCIDENTS,” experiences that were predestined (i.e. “pre-determined” by Almighty God), and they are still happening during these latter days of our lives. Thanks be to God!