DAILY DOSE OF HOPE – BLOG – NAIMA LETT
FIRE, DRINKS & BIRTHDAYS
Fire, drinks and birthdays!
Sounds like some kind of party, right?!
Would you believe the folks accused of being drunken fools are Christians?
I’m not making this up.
Roll with me.
This Sunday marks Pentecost and the Birthday of the Church.
She’s still looking spry, after almost 2,000 years.
Here in Bev Hills, we might wonder, “Has she had work done?” i.e. a little nip & tuck?
Or maybe it’s those fire treatments and purifications!
I hear those knock a few years off.
God has a thing with fire. Ever notice?
Yesterday, in So Good, we saw God pouring fire from heaven after Solomon’s prayer and dedication of the temple. It wasn’t the first time. God used a pillar of fire to guide His children in the wilderness. He originally revealed Himself to Moses within a burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. He consumed Mount Sinai with fire when He spoke to His people. Fire. Fire. Fire.
So, when God chooses fire as a means to start His church, we shouldn’t be surprised, right?!
And, the timing is NOOOOO coincidence.
Pentecost means 50th day. So 50 days after the resurrection of Christ, and 10 days after His ascension into heaven, God sends His Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and the church is born.
Traditionally, during the Old Testament, God’s people came from all over to celebrate Pentecost, a festival that originally marked the day God gave His people the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, which is – you guessed it – 50 days after their Exodus from Egypt. It was called the Festival of Weeks or Shavuot.
That’s why there are so many of God’s followers in Jerusalem that particular Pentecost that the church is born. They had come from all over the world to celebrate the Festival of Weeks.
God, in His sovereignty, aligned two of the most important days in the life of His people:
– the day He gave His law, and
– the day He sent His Spirit.
No coincidence, indeed.
NO ORDINARY EVENT
Nothing about that Pentecost birthday was ordinary.
ACTS 2 (The Message)
1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they (the disciples) were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. 5-11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” 12Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” 13Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.” 14-21That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning.
I love this. The Holy Spirit descends like fire and the disciples and women from the upper room start describing God’s mighty works in the native languages of all these pilgrims that have come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks. The scriptures say that the pilgrims are thunderstruck, in awe. The only explanation they can come up with is that the disciples are lushes! Drunk off cheap wine!
Peter and his crew must not have looked like the kind of folks that would have access to a $100,000 bottle of Chateau Yquem. It’s assumed they’re knocking back the equivalent of Boone’s Farm from 7-Eleven… not that I’m an expert or anything. :=) We’ve all had vices. Mine didn’t happen to be alcohol/drugs.
The point is nobody had an explanation for why roughneck, sailor-type Jewish Galileans would be able to speak in the mother tongues of Jews and non-Jews from Egypt, Libya, Asia, etc.
This would be like your family is from New Orleans. Your ethnic background is a concoction of French, African, Native American, Spanish, Italian and Greek descent. You trace your roots and find family members from all over the world and invite them to a family reunion which coincides with our nation’s biggest holiday, the 4th of July. People arrive by plane, train, car. You all go downtown to see fireworks.
When you arrive, you hear a sound like a whirlwind that looks like little flames from heaven that fill a building downtown. Then, Jewish men and women tumble out the building and start speaking French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, maybe Zulu, and a variation of Choctaw. Your family members from all over the world stand in awe. How in the world could these people know the language of the Choctaw tribe?
Or let’s bring it home.
Imagine you are one of the disciples. You’re caught up in the wind of the Spirit, something that feels like a tongue of fire rests on you and then you start speaking languages you have never spoken: Japanese, Russian, Swahili. You walk down the street and people who understand what you are saying start coming around you and dialoguing with you. Before today, you have never spoken Japanese. Now you are carrying on a full conversation and telling folks about the goodness of God.
That’s what happened in Jerusalem.
God knew how to get people’s attention.
He made something happen that they considered impossible.
3,000 SOULS IN 1 DAY
Then Peter preaches the first church sermon and gives an explanation of what has happened. He breaks down the prophesies from the Old Testament, which God’s people at the Festival would’ve been familiar with, and connects the dots.
The people respond and want to know what to do next.
Peter says, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our God invites.”
The scripture says that 3,000 souls believe Peter at his word and are baptized that day. Talk about a pool party! Talk about the birth of a movement. 3,000!
In today’s numbers, that would be an instant megachurch. I believe the number today is 2,000 in weekly worship to qualify as a megachurch.
An interesting study by Hartford Institute reports that there are about 1,200 Protestant megachurches in America, which represents 3/10 of 1% of all congregations. The study shows that “megachurches are in 45 out of 50 states. The states with the most megachurches are Texas with 174 (14%), California with 169 (13.7%), Florida with 83 (6.7%) and Georgia with 64 (5.2%). Houston and Dallas alone account for 56 megachurches or 4.5% of the total.”
Where my Texas fam?! Houston and the Big D are representing.
Anyway, the first day the church exists, 3,000 souls believe. That’s pretty phenomenal.
I think we can learn a lot from that beautiful birthday of the church and what happened thereafter.
First of all, the church is birthed out of a promise from the Lord. Jesus tells His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. He promises that God will send His Spirit and the disciples will be His witnesses throughout the earth. (Acts 1:1-8) So, they wait. We would do well to wait on the Lord and move forward based on His promises. His Word is paramount.
Secondly, the church is birthed out of the prayers of both men and women. Acts 1:13-14 recounts how the disciples and the women who follow Jesus, plus Mary, Jesus’ mother and His brothers all go to the upper room in Jerusalem and dedicate themselves continually to prayer. They pray until the promise of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled. Do we pray like this, Fam? Do we believe God’s Word and pray until it is fulfilled?
Finally, the church commits itself to God’s teaching, doing life together, eating together and praying together (Acts 2:41-47). The apostles perform signs and miracles. Believers live in wonderful harmony, with all things in common. People pool their resources to meet each person’s needs. They daily worship together followed by celebratory meals that are exuberant and joyful. They continually praise God. And each day, their numbers grow.
Why? Because people want to be a part of a community that looks like this: joyous, loving, exuberant, fellowship, needs are met.
Do our churches look like this?
Do we, as believers, look like this?
Are we doing life together? Or just showing up on Sunday morning?
When we’re invited to fellowship, do we accept the invitation or would we rather rough it alone?
Do we give as much as we take?
Do we pour into other’s lives or just expect to be poured into?
Do we use our spiritual gifts or bury them?
Do we meet needs?
Are we praying?
Are we living out God’s promises?
Are we asking the Holy Spirit to lead us?
Are we having a good time?
Look, people thought the disciples were drunk! Smashed on cheap wine!
Does that sound like they weren’t having a good time?!
What does our church look like, 21st century?
Does she need a little nip and tuck? Or a whole makeover?
Things to ponder on this 1979th birthday!
Let’s celebrate this weekend.
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