Monday, May 28, 2007

The Day After Pentecost

Yesterday was Sunday, May 28th. It was not just an ordinary weekend. Yes, it was part of Memorial Day weekend, but that isn't what made it so special. Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. It's the day we celebrate the birth of Church Universal. On that day some two millennia ago, the disciples of Jesus Christ were in a prayer meeting that lasted 10 days. As they prayed and sought God, the Bible records this happening:

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance."

I am sure that the 120 followers of Christ there in that upper room that day were taken by surprise. They knew that somehow they would receive power. The Lord had told them that 10 days prior, just before he ascended into heaven. And now here they were, suddenly empowered by the Spirit of God, and they began to speak in languages that they did not know. They spilled out onto the streets, speaking in these languages. The city was full that day of folks from all over that region for the feast of Pentecost. They suddenly heard these disciples speaking in their own native languages "the mighty deeds of God". God used this event not only to fill his church with his spirit, but to bring a whopping 3000 souls into his Kingdom that day.

How many times have I been in services not too unlike that? Times when I have witnessed people being baptized in the Holy Spirit? The times that I have seen people healed by God's power? Most importantly, seen people running down the aisles to accept the Lord Jesus as the Savior as the Spirit of God drew them? I have been in some great services where heaven really touched us. It is an amazing thing to experience.

But I think this is area we need to be careful. I have found from my personal experience that we can begin to think that the Spirit's power is for having great church services. There is a place for that, certainly, but that isn't the point. We have been empowered by the Spirit of God to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ, not to simply "have church".

Once the service is over, and we make our way back home, back to our everyday lives, is when the real work begins. That first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as well as our fillings nowadays, serve to prepare us to minister to a lost world. The real meat and potatoes begin the day after Pentecost.

That is where we find Peter and John. They weren't back in the upper room trying to get what they felt the day before. They were on the way to the temple at the hour of prayer. In other words, life didn't pause at the initial experience, it went on. They were doing what all good Jews were supposed to do. Spend time in prayer. But that is when they found a need. That is where they saw him, the man who couldn't walk. He was a beggar. He sat at the temple gate daily, begging for money. He had no other way to make a living. But that was all about to change.

I suppose they could have run back to their friends and taken a collection. Preachers are good at that, aren't they? But that would serve to prolong his condition another day. He didn't need money, he needed a good set of legs. So, that is when we see Peter telling this man that he had no money, but something far greater. He said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk". He stuck out a hand, and lifted him to his feet. The Bible says that immediately, his feet and ankle bones received strength, and we went leaping and running into the temple, praising God!

You see, we are empowered by the Spirit for this. It is for everyday life. Going to work. Taking our kids to the doctor. Shopping at Publix for groceries. You get the point. That is where the people are. There are souls out there in the balance, they need to hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We may not happen upon a lame man everyday, but we encounter spiritually immobile people every day.

That day of Pentecost, as Pastor Noland Colkmire, associate pastor at my church, said last night, was heaven touching earth. And indeed it was. But heaven desires to touch earth now, through vessels of human skin. Every time we meet someone where they are and show them the Lord Jesus in us, heaven touches earth. Every time we give a hot meal to a homeless person in Christ's name, heaven touches earth. Every time we lead a sinner to the Lord Jesus for salvation from their sin, heaven touches earth. We were filled so God can use his people to touch this world.

I hope and pray that you "make the most of every opportunity" as the Word of God tells us (Ephesians 5:16; Col. 4:5). God bless, my friends!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bahamian Reflections

Hey, all. Forgive me, I know that it has been too long since I've written anything. I have been so busy that I haven't got the time to blog much.

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since my trip to Freeport, Bahamas. In fact, that picture at the top of the page is one I took on the beach at Port Lucaya, right behind the Shearton resort. We had some time to hang out and swim, shop and sightsee on that Saturday at Caribfest. But, it wasn't all fun and games.

I have had some time to process the experience. This wasn't just another getaway. We went there to do ministry to youth that really need it. But, as I have so found to be true with ministry in general, I walked away from that weekend feeling like the one who was ministered too. Not just by the people who put the program together, but by the folks we were there for. And ultimately, by the Lord Himself.

I'd like to say that I was on top of my game all weekend. I wasn't. The day before the boat set sail, we had to drive to Ft. Lauderdale, where the port is. That is at least a 3-hour drive. I still had to work that day, so I was up at my usual 5 AM. We got to the church we camped at Thursday night around 11:30, and went to see Spiderman 3 (great movie!). Didn't end till 2:30, and we had to leave at 5 AM Friday. So, I stayed up with several others and played "horse" basketball in the church's youth area. So, by the time the Friday opening service was winding down, it was nearly 11 PM. I had been awake for 42 hours! So, as the man of God was preaching his heart out, I was nodding. We sent an early bus with me on it back to our hotel and I finally got some sleep. So, Friday was pretty much shot for me.

Saturday night's service, I was still tired, but God moved, and we ministered to the youth in Freeport. Then we all hung out in the pool and hot tub, and sat around with an acoustic guitar singing worship songs into the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday morning service is where I believe God really touched me. The pastor of the church that we held the event at was speaking with the congregation when he called on a sister to sing impromptu. What followed was absolutely heavenly. I saw in the people there on that island such a pure worship that I almost felt unworthy to even sit in the same sanctuary. As she sang and worshiped, the beauty of that worship in that building rubbed off on me, and I began to worship with them. Tears began to flow, and I could not stop them. Part in love and reverence for a God who loved me enough to die for me, part in repentance for shallow worship bogged down with the cares of this life.

One thing I believe that God showed me that morning was that I really was bogged down and focused more on this life and my own issues than on a Savior who gave his all for me. Worries will hinder our worship. They can hold us back from serving God with our whole heart. Just look at what the Lord told us in Matthew 6:26-30:

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?...But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!"

Worry can kill our faith in God. That is where much of the church in America is. We worry about our children, our possessions, our money, and our health. We worry about countless other things. Yet, as Jesus himself said, our worry can't help us out any.

I have decided to not let my worship get hindered by my problems. God is much bigger than my troubles, anyway. He is able to take care of me.

This really was a life-changing trip for me.

God bless!