It is uncomfortable getting stuck "in-between normals." The inability to see the future feels like a lingering low-grade fever that never goes away, reminding us of our predicament and needs. This often drives us to look inward. The only thing we can think of is "me."
But it doesn't need to be this way. Acts chapter 2 opens our eyes to a higher reality.
1. Look Upward and be Grateful.
Today, we read about Pentecost, the Greek name for the Jewish Shavuot. It's a celebration of the “first fruit” of the harvest.
After months of labour, farmers are ready to reap their harvest. It’s their reward. However, Shavuot reminds them of a higher reality - the gracious God and His providence.
While farmers could plough the fields and sow the seeds, it's God who sends them rain and causes the grains to grow. In a very real sense, the farmers are living by faith!
But focusing on their inability to control the rain is not a good strategy. Working faithfully plus trusting God is.
So, instead of heaping all the harvests into their barns, they offer the “first fruit” as an act of worship! They acknowledge that God is the true source of hope.
Don't you think that we should also do the same?
2. Look Outward and be Gracious.
Now, Pentecost is often associated with the mysterious “tongue.” Many wonder what the “tongues of fire” is and what “speaking in tongues” (2:3-4) means. These are important questions, but not as important as what are they here “for”?
Why did God enable the disciples to speak in other people's native languages?
Here is an obvious answer. The climax of Acts 2 is not the tongue, but the section after it. The gift is given not for the disciples to look good, but to enable other people to hear the gospel. True love points outward.
Paradoxically, joy and meaning come not so much from looking inward, but by looking upward and outward.
So, my friend, what would your "first fruit" worship to God look like? What can you do to express my gratitude to God?
Borrowing the Eyes of Others
After years of all-out commitment and outspokenness, John the Baptist hits a wall of doubt toward the end of his life. In spite of his massive credentials----his birth was foretold by an angel, crowds followed him, kings feared him, he baptised Jesus, he heard God’s audible voice from heaven---John finds himself doubting it all when he was rotting in Herod’s dungeon.
Perhaps under the surface, John was asking:
If Jesus is really the Messiah, why then am I in prison?
Why am I about to lose my life?
Why is an evil king getting away with injustice?
So John does something with his doubts. He sends his friends to ask Jesus directly, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)
Jesus wasn’t offended by the question, nor does he question the wavering faith of John. Instead, he sends others to John, instructing them, “Go and tell John what you have seen…” (Matthew 11:4) Unable to see all that God was doing from prison, John would be encouraged to hear about God’s work through others.
Sometimes our circumstances darken our understanding of God and we become susceptible to doubt and fear. In such times we need our friends, our community, our church. We need to borrow the eyes of another. We need to rely on the vision of other people’s faith to restore our own.
When our faith is challenged, we may fight the temptation to run from God, or avoid people and places that remind us of God. But if you ever feel like you don’t want to go to church, it is then you need it more than ever. Among many blessings of gathering with God’s people, one is that we get to borrow the eyes of others. Our faith is made stronger by hearing and seeing the faith of others.
Have you ever said this: “I should have done it differently!”
Many of us live with regrets. Many of us “should ourselves to death!”
If you are looking at the future through coloured lenses of the past, you can never actually move forward. It’s as if you were driving to your destination but only looking in your rearview mirror as you speed down the highway. It doesn’t make sense. You will not go very far. You will either get disoriented, become stuck in one spot or worse, crash and hurt yourself and the people that are with you.
When we live in regret and pain, we start doing things that we believe are bringing us “life”! Denying the real root of the problems and numbing the pain with worthless and toxic things. We start following our hearts and believing that what we do is the right thing! ( Deuteronomy 12:8). We start following the world instead of the word.
Samson, failed God big time and did everything unimaginable. When he followed his own heart and desires; he ate unclean food, he became drunk when as a Nazirite, wine was not supposed to touch his lips, he married the enemy’s daughter, he sought prostitutes, he lied, stole and murdered men out of offence.
If anyone qualifies to “Should himself to death” and have endless regrets, Samson would top that list. No matter how Samson failed though when Samson truly repented, God redeemed & restored his life! What amazing Grace!
What about you friend? Are you undermining the Grace of God? Are you cheapening His Grace? Will you truly repent and stop living in regrets? Jesus has paid it all on the cross so that we may live in true freedom, abundance and in love!
I always thought I could relate to the OT character of David. No, not because he was described as handsome, but because he was described as being the smallest or youngest, the guy who King Saul’s armour didn’t fit. He was my biblical Rudy Ruettiger, because let’s be honest, you don’t get called “little man” growing up unless you’re being offered the kid’s menu far past what your age should dictate.
But here’s a part in David’s story I recently rediscovered that led me to believe that maybe I can’t really relate to him. Before his golden moment of defeating Goliath, while persuading Saul that he was capable to take on the giant despite his youth, he depicted what his practice had been for years.
David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it." (1 Sam 17:34-35)
Ok, that’s interesting. So the miraculous defeat of Goliath was incredible, but that moment wasn’t completely foreign to David. It appears David from an even younger age had been facing his fears and fighting mightily. It was most certainly those grit-defining, character-building experiences that allowed David to step into the moment of victory God-ordained. While he was the last member of his family, shouldering one of the least glamorous roles, he shepherded his responsibility well.
This is such a good reminder about the importance of the daily fight, the fight to do what is God-honouring even when no one is looking or it’s seemingly inconsequential. The grander victory in this story depending on the daily victories of David’s faithfulness to whatever God had entrusted Him with. And we know David had this in his mind, because he tells Saul, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam 17:38)
We all want to say, “The LORD delivered me from…,” so take a moment to consider what small victory your focus can be on today with God’s help. And who knows, it may be part of a larger victory down the road.
The iPhone has this new feature that tracks the amount of screen time one uses. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it is good to know how I am spending my time, but on the other hand, it is very disheartening… to know how much time I’ve wasted.
As I write this, my daily average is 3 hours 14 minutes per day, which is 27% down from my usage last week ~ good job Kevin! That is until you do the math. 27% down, means I was averaging around 4 hours of screen time per day last week, which translates to 28 hours per week and 1,512 hours per year. That’s a lot of time.
After some research, I can safely say that the time I’m spending on the phone is right around the average for a young adult. However, that’s nothing to be proud of! That’s just the phone too. On average we are also spending 2737.5 hours watching TV every year. Add those two mediums together and that’s 4,250 hours!
What else could we do with that amount of time?
If instead of watching an episode of Crash Landing before bed, you opted to read the Bible, you could read through the entire Bible. In six months.
If you spent 400 hours reading per year, reading at an average pace, you could read 200 books. That’s about 4 books per week. I’ve always wanted to finish Lord of the Rings.
The most common complaint I hear from people is that they don’t have enough time. Between work and raising a family, one is hard-pressed to even find time to go to church. But might we benefit from reconsidering how we currently spend our time? Can some of that time be repurposed towards our faith life?
Andrew Sullivan put it best, "the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but a distraction.”
We are becoming increasingly deaf to the voice of God. How are we to pray, or read the scriptures, or quietly journal, when we reach for our phones every chance we get to get that quick dopamine hit of seeing our friends like our IG post?
What would happen to our spiritual lives if we were able to reclaim some of that time lost to phone? I believe our faith lives would be enriched with greater zeal and intimacy than we could ever imagine.
Here's a challenge I invite you to embark on with me: silence your phone for 30 minutes every morning.
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