ACTS – The Acts of God
Has there ever been a time in your life when you made a decision that you knew might get you in trouble later? You are probably thinking of those times right now and shuddering. But what if you knew God was in it? God’s Holy Spirit, if we allow Him, must trump what we are doing alone or what is “safe”. We might be questioned, but if God is in it, He will defend and protect us. If the defense isn’t good enough for man, than that’s okay, too. Our journey isn’t over yet.
I remember, with a light shudder, one of the instances when I allowed the Holy Spirit to lead in a youth service when I knew that might mean staying a few minutes later. I was new as one of the leaders at this growing church plant. I was the speaker for the evening for middle school and high school youth. Because they had been without a youth director for awhile, I was led to speak encouragement over them, explaining how God could use this time in their lives to start fresh. I felt led to close with intentional prayer, asking God to renew and refresh us and lead us to a greater ministry. I explained to the youth in the room around tables that each person would have a part and to let God lead them in what He might invite them to do. THEN, it happened. The Holy Spirit led these young followers of Christ to get out of their chairs and fall on their knees in prayer for their youth ministry! How beautiful it was to see young lives call out to God! Wow. I rejoice to think of it even now.
However, this burst of praying together to God for His leading caused our worship service to go 10 minutes later than it should. Like Peter, I was “called on the carpet” by the senior pastor, right there in view of parents and other volunteer youth leaders. I would like to say that all was well when I told the pastor and other leaders why we went overtime, but it wasn’t. I was reprimanded and told, “Never let parents wait in the halls for their kids again.” End of discussion. I didn’t. I also didn’t spend more than a year at that job! God led me out quickly.
I praise God for that learning and growing experience today. It has made me even more aware and sensitive to how the Holy Spirit must be in the lead no matter what. I know there are time constraints in multiple services in large churches. I get that. But I also know that if “business” is to be done in the lives of those the Holy Spirit is working with, then we must allow an environment where lives can be saved and where God’s work of transformation can begin. Perhaps we need to bring back “prayer rooms” staffed by caring, mature in faith adults who will just listen and pray with those whom the Holy Spirit is challenging. We should not call for repentance and life change and then not provide a way and means for it to happen. That seems kind of cruel to me…like saying here’s cake but we don’t have forks.
Okay, I must depart from this discussion, for I am not a “player” in today’s methods…only a pray-er. If God is in it….do it. That is the bottom line.
Acts 11, The Message
God Has Broken Through
11 1-3 The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it—heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in.” When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?”
4-6 So Peter, starting from the beginning, laid it out for them step-by-step: “Recently I was in the town of Joppa praying. I fell into a trance and saw a vision: Something like a huge blanket, lowered by ropes at its four corners, came down out of heaven and settled on the ground in front of me. Milling around on the blanket were farm animals, wild animals, reptiles, birds—you name it, it was there. Fascinated, I took it all in.
7-10 “Then I heard a voice: ‘Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.’ I said, ‘Oh, no, Master. I’ve never so much as tasted food that wasn’t kosher.’ The voice spoke again: ‘If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.’ This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the sky.
11-14 “Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbor, saying, ‘Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’ll tell you something that will save your life—in fact, you and everyone you care for.’
15-17 “So I started in, talking. Before I’d spoken half a dozen sentences, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us the first time. I remembered Jesus’ words: ‘John baptized with water; you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So I ask you: If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?”
18 Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”
19-21 Those who had been scattered by the persecution triggered by Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but they were still only speaking and dealing with their fellow Jews. Then some of the men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch started talking to Greeks, giving them the Message of the Master Jesus. God was pleased with what they were doing and put his stamp of approval on it—quite a number of the Greeks believed and turned to the Master.
22-24 When the church in Jerusalem got wind of this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on things. As soon as he arrived, he saw that God was behind and in it all. He threw himself in with them, got behind them, urging them to stay with it the rest of their lives. He was a good man that way, enthusiastic and confident in the Holy Spirit’s ways. The community grew large and strong in the Master.
25-26 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. He found him and brought him back to Antioch. They were there a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching a lot of people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
27-30 It was about this same time that some prophets came to Antioch from Jerusalem. One of them named Agabus stood up one day and, prompted by the Spirit, warned that a severe famine was about to devastate the country. (The famine eventually came during the rule of Claudius.) So the disciples decided that each of them would send whatever they could to their fellow Christians in Judea to help out. They sent Barnabas and Saul to deliver the collection to the leaders in Jerusalem.
What do we learn?
–There are many thoughts that come to mind with this passage of problem solving in the church.
–Who is out and who is in perturbed the Jewish leaders UNTIL they heard Peter explain the Truth of what really happened. How many times do we get angry, miffed and sarcastic in the church when we don’t have all the facts? Assuming, rumors, opinions and gossip hinders and grieves the Holy Spirit. Will the work stop? No. But it is harder for people to see Truth when rumors run wild.
–Look what happens when two people, Cornelius and Peter, obey the Holy Spirit without hesitation? Wow. “The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went…” (Peter)
“He’ll tell you something that will save your life–in fact, you and everyone you care for.” (Angel to Cornelius)
–Has TRUTH sank in, the leaders praised God! God has broken through to other nations!
–Barnabas, the Encourager, “confident in the Holy Spirit’s ways”, was sent to check on the international churches. “As soon as he arrived, he saw that God was behind and in it all.”
–Barnabas brings Saul to Antioch to teach. Now disciples are called “Christians”. They begin to help each other in all kinds of ways.
Dear Heavenly Father,
What have we made of Your church? How do we grieve Your Holy Spirit? How are we known as Christians? By our love? By our reverence for you? We must repent and take stock, evaluating our lives by the leading of Your Holy Spirit individually and corporately. Transform us as Your church. Transform me. Help us to love like you love. When YOU are in it, it is Truth. It is good. Lives changed forever. Help us, Lord.
In Jesus Name, Amen