Not like you

Acts 11:17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?

styleThe early church was comprised of Jews who believed in Jesus, were baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit.  God took their religion and pumped in some high octane fuel!  This all came at a time in which the church was running on status quo.  There had been no prophet for hundreds of years and no great move of God.  But them came Jesus, who ministered with such power and authority that it made people’s heads spin.  Some wanted to kill him, others gave their whole lives to him.  And among the latter, His church was birthed.   His church: Jesus believing, Spirit filled, Jews.

Then something strange happened.  God’s “not chosen” people began to  believe.  Not only did they believe, but He filled them with His Spirit.  They too began to speak in tongues and prophesy.  Like the Jesus following Jews, they too became God’s chosen.  And all this messed with the original members of the church.  How can we possibly let these people who are different than us in?  Why would we associate with God’s unchosen?  For starters, they look different than us.   They couldn’t possibly strive to look like Jesus; they don’t even resemble Him.  Not only that, but they have no knowledge of the scriptures.  They don’t know our history or our pain.  How can this be?  Yet God gave them the same gift that He gave us.  How can I oppose that?

Today we can so easily get stuck in the same mindset.  We gravitate toward people who look like us and have the same life experiences.  We have this idea of what a Christian should look like.  So when someone walks through the doors of the church, we wonder what they are doing here.  I’ll tell you what they are doing: they are coming to receive life.  They are coming to get the same gift you have.  They haven’t been through all the Bible classes you have, yet they are hearing the same teaching.  Jesus died for all, friends.  For all.  He died for those who don’t share your values.  He died for those who don’t live your same lifestyle.  He died for democrats and for republicans.  He died for those who root for a different sports team or drive a different brand of car.  He died for you, but He also died for someone not like you.  He died for humanity.  For humanity is who He longed to save.

If this frustrates you, if you wonder why God would use that guy, think on the words of Peter today.  “Who was I to think that I could oppose God?”  This was God’s plan: to love the world so much that He sent His Son to reconcile that world to Himself.  So embrace it.  Welcome the stranger who is different from you.  Embrace  those who you would prefer not to tolerate.  For if they just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they will become your brothers and your sisters.  Then what are you going to do?

The right response to a country’s mess

Joel 1:14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

Israel was in trouble, God wasn’t happy, and locusts were everywhere.  The land was being destroyed and things weren’t getting better.  I bet the economy was a mess, leadership was corrupt, and people were frustrated.  Can you relate to a world like that?  Does it seem that things are falling apart and not getting better?  Are you frustrated with leadership and the direction of your country?  Then form a committee, talk about it on facebook, and complain like crazy!  Wait a minute – I don’t see those instructions in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord came to the people of Israel through the prophet Joel.  He said to cry out to the Lord.  This was the response to bad leadership: Pray.  This is how God told them to respond to locusts that were annihilating their economic growth: Pray.  This is THE solution… pray.  Call God’s people together and cry out to Him.  That’s the answer.  Isn’t that really how God would want us to respond today?  In many ways, America is in the same boat as Israel was in the Old Testament.  We are plagued with broken leadership, economic collapse, and spiritual bankruptcy.  Yet God didn’t tell us to solve those problems by complaining.  He told us to gather together and pray.  Why is that?

I think there are two reasons.  First, He wants us to gather together because He wants to see the church rise up in power.  He has anointed His Body to be the change in this world.  And it can’t happen just by flapping our jaws, it has to happen with our hands and feet.  So we must gather and encourage one another.  We must gather and gain strength.  We must gather and be equipped for the unique calling that God has placed on our lives.  Second, He wants us to cry out to Him because He wants us to see Him as the only answer.  He wants us to acknowledge Him as our only Savior.  And even though many of us are waiting around for our nation’s leaders to depend on Him as their Savior, He wants His people to lead the charge by making Him theirs.  How will you respond to your country’s mess?  I suggest you take Joel’s advice: be the church and pray.  I believe that it is then and only then that we will see change begin to happen.