Conversations with Peter: Catching fire and Taking off

Does God’s plan and timing happen when we expect it to or does it unfold in a manner and way that causes anxiety, impatience, curiosity, wonder, and finally amazement?   A lot of times we pray and set up a timetable for GOD to answer our prayer (because we all know GOD needs to have a our timetable), or we ask for “something” to show us HE’s working on our request.   GOD doesn’t work that way…..at least I don’t think HE does.   The evidence from the BIBLE doesn’t show that HE works that way.   GOD’s timing and plan is exactly that: HIS time and plan, and it’s always perfect.   A lot of times we jump the gun in our anxiety to make things happen and we settle for what I call “HIS Shrug”.  That’s the times when HE say’s: “Ok, go ahead, see how that works for you.”   It’s not necessarily HIS best, but it’s not a bad thing and it could even be a good ministry opportunity.   I’ve settled for that quite often.  I sometimes think (to be completely honest) that is probably what I’ve been doing the past two years.   Great ministry opportunities and people met, but maybe I settled.   The early church and Peter probably felt this anxiety after Christ’s resurrection.   CHRIST promised the HOLY SPIRIT and told them to wait for HIM.   I’m sure they all expected it to happen the next day, and In Acts 1 vs 10 it says they were all looking up intently up at the sky after HE arose, I’m sure expecting the Heavens to open and something great happen, but it didn’t.  Instead, two angels (well, my assumption, they were dressed in white and they appeared to them) basically walked up to them and asked what they were doing looking up and to go home.  Kind of anticlimactic.   That’s where Acts 2 picks up.   We’re not done with Conversations with Peter.   In fact, Peter takes up the narrative from this point on and becomes a driving force in the creation of the church.  Notice I say “A Driving force”, because he wasn’t the only one, the early church was made up of men and women that did amazing things and built a foundation for us, Peter, however was one of the more vocal leaders.  Let’s take a look at what happened when the HOLY SPIRIT finally did show up.

Acts 2:1-13

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontusand Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 1(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Let’s unpack this section real quick.  Verse 1 says “When the day of Pentecost Came….”, that’s an important moment.   Christianity has co-opted both the day and the event from the Jews.  The day of Pentecost is actually a Jewish Festival whose purpose is to show joy and thankfulness for the LORD’s blessing of harvest.   It is celebrated seven weeks or 50 days after Passover.  Now, step back and think about that for a moment.   Growing up, and even up until the point of last week, I thought Pentecost happened fairly soon after Christs resurrection.  I thought that CHRIST arose, they went to the upper room, had their business meeting, and BAM, the HOLY SPIRIT showed up.  Didn’t happen that way.   There was a seven week span of time from when CHRIST left them until the HOLY SPIRIT showed up.   Did they have any idea that it would happen on Pentecost?  Probably not.  Did they know what to expect when it was supposed to happen?  Definitely not?  Did they…..?   The questions are numerous, and they probably were all asking and wondering the same thing.   They just knew they had to wait for something/someone that GOD promised would change their lives.   Some things never change.  There are those moments when GOD tells us to wait, that HE’s got something life changing that’s coming our way and to be patient.   It’s difficult to be patient in the waiting, and to know what to do in the waiting. It’s also easy to get distracted.  It says they were all together, which means that as a body they were together praying and in fellowship/worship with each other.   That’s when Life changing moments happen.   Yeah, they can happen in solitude, but when the body gathers in worship and fellowship, life changing things have a tendency to happen.  It did in this instance.   THE HOLY SPIRIT came upon them in a mighty and visible way and they started speaking and worshiping in languages that they had never learned.   Now, notice that it gives a list of countries and languages spoken.   It states that people from other countries were gathered in Jerusalem and heard the disciples (who were simple fishermen, local people, probably had never left Israel before) speaking their language.  So, the gift of tongues was given as a gift of speaking in actual foreign languages.   I’ll just leave that statement right there.

Acts 2:14-41

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

I’m not going to post the whole section, look it up and read it because, well, you have to read the section for yourself.   Here’s the basics of what this section is about:  PETER stood up.   Yep, that’s right PETER preached.  The initial message he gave starting with “Fellow” and ending with “Messiah” took me about 2 minutes and 33 seconds to speak it.  Peter gave the gospel in 2 minutes, 33 seconds and the result was this:  ” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?””.   Conviction happened.   The result of this conviction:  

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

So, three thousand people had their lives changed because Peter, the Apostles, and disciples were patient and waited for the timing of GOD.  When it happened, they followed through and spoke the words that GOD laid on their hearts.   In a moment they had gone from anxious, timid, maybe even fearful to bold, outspoken world changers.   I could close this now and it would be a great ending, but the chapter isn’t finished, there’s still more to this particular story.   A postscript, maybe an epilogue, but I personally don’t like leaving sections out of Biblical moments, it’s too easy to take it out of context then.   You see, the disciples and apostles didn’t just leave those new converts out on their own hanging in the wind to discover what their faith was about.  That has always been a major heartburn for me with big conference/camp/rally type promotions/events that Christian organizations do.   We do this big push to win people to CHRIST, but then drop the ball on fellowship and discipleship.  That’s not how the early church did it.  What is the appropriate model?  It’s found at the end of Acts 2:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

They gathered and learned.   They “Fellowshipped”.  They met in each others homes and they did life together.   Church isn’t about gathering in a building for a couple of hours a day on a Sunday, The Church is the body of believers that gather together and know each other and help each other and walk through life together in the heartaches and disappointments as well as the joys and triumphs.  And they didn’t just hang out with just each other.  Verse 47 says “…enjoying the favor of all the people”, to me that means they didn’t exclude or disassociate themselves from others in the community, and in fact, the community looked favorably upon them.  By doing that, their numbers were grew.    That’s what a church is supposed to do.  Be such a positive force on the community that people want to be a part of it, not be a building where people come and expect strangers they tolerate to hopefully show up and maybe hear about a positive message or a message that will make them feel guilty.

Whew, there was a lot to this chapter.   Not only was it a new chapter to write on, it was literally a new chapter in Peter’s life.  From this point on we’ll jump around in Acts to the chapters that focus on Peter until it stops talking about Peter.  So what’s the take-away from this chapter in Peter’s conversation?    Personally, I have two, you can probably find more, but there are two take-away’s for me:

1.  God’s plan and timing are HIS, don’t rush it.  Even if you get impatient, anxious fearful, feel like GOD’s forgotten you or left you alone on the shelf, HE hasn’t.  GOD has you right where HE wants you so be patient.  Learn the things you have to, change the things HE shows you, and most of all, be aware of the opportunities that’s available.

2.   Don’t ignore the body.   It’s easy to let life distract and pull you away from others.   It’s easy to allow hurt and disappointment to drive a wedge between yourself and others, but don’t.   If one body isn’t for you, find another does welcome and love you.   When I say “body”, I mean church.  Remember, a church is made up of flawed human beings that make mistakes and we do stupid things, and sometimes we have to go separate ways, but don’t allow that to color your view of the larger body that CHRIST has made available to us.   The only way we grow and learn and become stronger is by sitting in fellowship with each other teaching and learning from each other.  We never get to a point where we know everything.   I am constantly learning new things from the believers around me.   That’s the beauty of the the CHURCH.

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