Does God Surprise You?

When was the last time you were really surprised?  Like, truly surprised?  Scream-like-a-little-girl surprised? Put-your-hands-over-your-mouth surprised?  “I-have-no-words” surprised?  I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me surprise?

This weekend we will (along with Christians around the world) be celebrating Pentecost.  And talk about a surprising day!

First, there was the sound of a loud rushing wind that filled the house the disciples had gathered in.  Then, there was the tongues of flame that flickered over the heads of Jesus’ followers.  If that wasn’t enough, those same people began to speak in all sorts of languages.  Whatever they said was understood by Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, and Cppadocians, Pontians, and Asians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabs all could understand.  Talk about a surprise!  These normal, everyday people suddenly had the ability to speak in all the world’s languages.  And that was because God wanted all the people in the world to hear His Good-News, Life-Giving, Eternity-Altering Word.

But, all of that (the loud rushing wind, the tongues of fire, the speaking in the languages of the world) was really just there to point the people to the most surprising reality of all:  the promise of salvation for ALL people who believe in Jesus.

On Pentecost, as God sent out and filled His people with the Holy Spirit, God was letting the world know who He came for:  all people.  Salvation wasn’t just for the good people, the worthy people, or even the Jewish people.  Salvation wasn’t just for the people who had earned it, who looked the part, or who fit the mold.  No, salvation was for young and old.  Male and female.  Slave and free.  It was for the people you’d least expect and the ones you never gave a chance to.

Pentecost is a reminder that Jesus came for all people.  His Spirit fills all believers.

But, let’s never forget that included in that ALL is YOU.  YOU are a Holy Spirit filled Christian and Jesus came to bring YOU salvation.  Maybe you don’t fit the mold.  Maybe you don’t think you are worthy.  Maybe you don’t think you’ve earned it.  Maybe you have a hard time believing it.  But, it’s true.  God came for YOU.

That’s the kind of surprise God has for you.  A surprising love that we don’t find anywhere else.  A surprising grace that covers the worst of what we bring Him.  A surprising kindness that welcomes in even people like me and you.

Surprise!

You are a saint

When you think of your Christian faith, what words come to mind?  How would you describe yourself as a Christian?

Maybe you think of words like “ordinary” or “normal”.  I think many of us feel that way.  Or, maybe you feel “excited”.  That’s a blessing.  Sometimes we might choose to use words like, “lacking” or “lagging” because we don’t feel up-to-par with our fellow Christians.

But, John 17:11-19 uses a different word to describe us.  Jesus says that we aresanctified.  That means that we have been made holy.  It means that we are worthy of being called saints.

You might not use those words to describe yourself and your faith:  Sanctified, Holy, or Saint.  But, that is who you are.  That is who God has made you.

To be holy or sanctified or to be a saint does NOT mean that you are better than anyone.  It certainly doesn’t mean you are perfect or without sin.  It doesn’t imply that bad stuff won’t happen to you or that you are through doing bad stuff either.

No, it simply means that you have been set apart by God.  Your life is different now.  Jesus has died for you. The Spirit lives in you.  Your life is not your own.  You have been set apart.

The foundation of your life isn’t yourself anymore – it’s God.  The source of joy and happiness isn’t found in stuff – it’s found in Jesus.  The direction of your life isn’t pointed inward, but outward, in acts of service and love for other people.  The guiding principals of your life aren’t found in self-help books or in the wisdom of spiritual gurus on TV.  No, we are guided by God’s Word.  We are strengthened by His food.  We are renewed by His promises.  Your life doesn’t belong to you anymore – it belongs to God.

You are sanctified.  You are holy.  You are a saint.  You have been set apart.

I know, I know.  Try telling that to your non-Christian friends.  Try telling them that you are holy or that you are a saint.  You will probably get some funny looks or hear some laughs.  But, it’s true.

So, I wonder what life would look like if we saw ourselves that way?  What if we looked in the mirror and saw a saint.  Someone who had been set apart for a special purpose.  Someone that Jesus has died for, that the Spirit lives in, and that is being formed into Christ’s image?

What if we saw each other that way?  What if we looked at our brothers and sisters around us as saints?  What if we believed that they were holy?

Well, they are.  You are.  You are holy.  You have been sanctified.  You are a saint.

 

Read more by Peter by checking out his book, “Growing Up:  In, With, and Under Jesus” on Amazon.com

What is friendship?

We all need friends.  We need people we can trust, people we can rely on, people we can laugh and cry with, and people we can go to when life is crumbling.  I heard this week that 25 years ago the average person in America had 3 close friends, which is about what we need to feel happy, content, and supported.  Today, that number is 1.5.  Even though we live in a very “connected” world, we are increasingly disconnected from our friends.

But, what is a friend?  Is it just someone you grab a drink with when you’re bored?  Is it the person you call when you don’t want to go to the movies alone?  Is it everyone included on your Facebook “friends” list?  Is it the shoulder you cry on?  Or, is it something more?

Some of us have more friends than others.  But, all of us have a friend named Jesus.  What exactly does that mean though?  What does it mean to have Jesus as a friend when we can’t exactly call Him up to go to the movies or grab dinner or stop by His apartment when we need someone to give us advice?  So, how is it that Jesus is our friend?

Well, the basis of our friendship with Jesus is love.  Not a mushy, romantic, or esoteric love – but a sacrificial, tangible, down-to-earth love.  Jesus has shown us love (and friendship) as He ate with prostitutes, called tax-collectors into His inner-circle, received blessings from humble women, and welcomed little children into His arms when others tried to keep them away.  Jesus showed us true love when He died for gossipers, liars, murderers, adulterers, addicts, and abusers:  for all of us.  That’s what friendship looks like.

And so, that’s how we are called to live.  We are called to live with the same kind of sacrificial love.  Parents sacrifice their time to sit up with crying babies.  Spouses sacrifice their egos as they stop demanding to get things their way.  Employees sacrifice their pride as they sacrifice their power and control and lift-up the newbie.  We are all called to sacrifice our money for the poor, our time as we sit with a grieving friend, or our energy as we volunteer and give back.

That’s what friendship looks like.  That’s what it means to be a friend of Jesus.  A friend of Jesus is simply someone who has been extravagantly and sacrificially loved.  It means that God chose us even though we didn’t choose Him (John 15:16).  It means that God doesn’t consider us servants – just slaves who mindlessly do God’s bidding – but beloved Sons and Daughters (John 15:15).  To be God’s friend is to be loved by Him.

And, to be God’s friend, is to love Him and others in the same way.  Friendship is so much more than the person you send funny text-messages to or the people you follow on Instagram.  Friendship is what you have with the God who loves you and the people He has placed around you to love.

So, how many friends do you have?  Whatever number you come up with, make sure to add one more.  His name, is Jesus.

 

To read more, check out my book “Growing Up:  In, With, and Under Jesus” on Amazon