“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 24

“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

Acts 10:44-48

“While Peter was still saying these things…”  What “things”? They must have been some things! Impressive things! Whiz, bang, boom things! Right?

In one sense they were, and in another, they weren’t. Peter was talking about: What happened to Jesus; what Jesus did; who Jesus was; what Jesus commanded his disciples to do (Acts 10:34-43). That is powerful stuff – the most powerful “stuff” around.  And yet, it sounds like Peter is reading a list.  He may have been preaching powerfully – testifying! But Scripture doesn’t say that.  And I think the contrast between Peter’s ordinary effort and what comes next, is really, really important.

In the middle of Peter’s ordinary teaching, the Holy Spirit interrupts Peter and does something extraordinary: The Spirit fell and claimed people who were far from God.  People were transferred from darkness to light; from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of God – from death to life!

Do you think Peter ever spoke about the same things – who Jesus was; what Jesus did – and then nothing happened? No Spirit falling; no people born again and baptized? You bet he did. And that is because God – and God alone – is in control of when extraordinary things happen.  We, ordinary folks, must – of course – do all that we must to put ourselves in a position to be used by the Spirit. But this story from Acts reminds us that the Sovereign Spirit of God decides exactly how, when, and where He acts.

We can also fall into the habit of thinking that extraordinary measures are necessary to “get back to normal”, to “get back to the way things used to be”, and so on. But often, we just need to do the ordinary things of God, regularly – in fact, God may be asking us to do those ordinary things, as a way of asking us to come down off our high horse: “Let’s see how you do with the ordinary stuff, before I give you some of the extraordinary stuff…”

As we rebuild life together, I believe in the ordinary things that God calls us to do – “ordinary” things like Sunday worship; participating in a Life Group (small group for prayer, study and fellowship); serving our neighbors in need; Sunday School. I believe in the ordinary things, because that’s often how Jesus described the work of the Kingdom – it’s like planting a seed, watering, tending, and waiting for it to grow.

Let’s begin again, to do these “ordinary” things, and then let’s see how the Spirit interrupts us, and does something extraordinary! It will happen how, when, and where God wants, but when it does, we will say: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Psalm 118:23)

Prayer: Lord, sometimes I get so impatient – I want everything to get back to normal; to happen, now. And sometimes I want the big, amazing thing to happen, but I forget – or overlook – the ordinary, faithful things you want me to do, day by day, week by week. Please, give me strength to do the ordinary stuff – the stuff you promise to bless and increase. Amen.

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