This Sunday, we wrapped up our series, The Story of God, by seeing how the Holy Spirit is empowering us to join the mission of Christ here in San Diego and around the world.
Throughout Scripture, the people of God are called to remember and celebrate the faithfulness of God. But it’s not about dwelling in the past or getting stuck in bygone “glory days” like Uncle Rico.
As we learned together through the For the Life of the World series, this kind of remembrance is called anamnesis — the lived memory of the people of God. These kinds of moments bring together remembrance of the past as we seek to live out God’s calling in the present moment, eagerly anticipating and pointing toward the future renewal of all things.
The church’s celebration of Pentecost every year, then, is an invitation to join the movement of the Holy Spirit and to participate in the Story of God.
Acts 2:2 describes the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a multisensory experience — “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” The recent viral phenomenon of the audio clip where people either heard “Yanny” or “Laurel” highlights how different people can listen to the same thing and hear different things (just as many people misunderstood or missed out on the movement of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost day). Some audiologists point to differences in equipment, recording quality, and expectations giving this audio clip a sort of “optical illusion for the ears” effect.
This quote, in particular, jumped out: ““What you hear depends on which frequencies your brain emphasizes.”
[If you’d like to read more about this viral hit, Wired magazine has this article, The True History of Yanny and Laurel.]
There are similarities to how we hear the voice of God in our lives. What frequencies are we emphasizing? If God spoke or the Holy Spirit moved in power, would we recognize Him? How are we training ourselves to listen for (and expect to hear) the voice of God in our everyday lives?
The Holy Spirit chose to empower God’s people to speak in languages that others around could understand. The real miracle, perhaps, was not the “tongues of fire” coming to rest over each disciple but that God’s love for people is so great that He wants to speak their language.
Words have incredible power — they can speak life or death, build up or destroy a person’s life. In our homes, can we create new ways of speaking (especially to our children) that will create room for the Holy Spirit to move in their lives? Although it might be awkward at first, how would praying this kind of blessing over your kids each night change the way they see their relationship with you and with God?
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit reminds us of the Tower of Babel, but with several important differences.
At Babel, people wanted to build a tower to climb their way to heaven.
At Pentecost, we see the God of heaven reaching down to God’s people .
At Babel, the people clustered together in one place.
At Pentecost, God sends out His people to the ends of the earth.
At Babel, the people wanted to make themselves great.
At Pentecost, God’s people revealed the wonders of God to all.
It’s important to remember that the curse of Babel was not the diversity of languages but their confusion about communicating with each other. In a moment of beautiful redemption at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit affirms the gift of language and culture and overcomes the curse of our confusion by empowering God’s people to speak to people gathered from all corners of the earth.
What do we learn about God? God’s heart is to reach people of all cultures, languages, and ethnicities (this will be our future, after all). God embraces our differences and, instead of expecting others to change for us, empowers the people of God to adapt and learn to speak in ways that touch others’ hearts. God speaks your language, no matter who you are!
Here is another question to consider this week: What words could someone you love say to you that would change your life? What words could you speak to someone you love that would change their lives? How is the Holy Spirit sending you into the world with words of life, grace, love, and hope?
Peter, who was such a coward that he had rained down curses upon himself denying that he even knew Jesus, had been transformed by his encounter with the risen Lord. When the Holy Spirit moved in power at Pentecost, Peter was able to stand and proclaim the truth of Scripture to all who were gathered. His understanding was opened.
As the prophet Joel had prophesied, the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all of God’s people — young and old, women and men — to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all people. While people may be more interested in building walls and limiting others, God loves diversity and calls all of His people to join His mission of redemption. Everyone is invited to participate in the Story of God.
Anchor City is blessed with many multicultural families and kids. As San Diego, our country, and our world become more and more diverse, theirs is the beautiful face of the future! And all of our kids (and each of us along with them) are learning to navigate multiple cultures in our rapidly-changing world. Our Third Culture identity is a gift of God to a broken world — we are given the privilege to be ambassadors of this life-changing Good News: God speaks your language!
In this week’s sermon from Acts 8:26-40, Pastor Jeya showed us how powerful crossing boundaries for the sake of Christ can be.
There were numerous boundaries Philip crossed in his conversation with this Ethiopian man:
- Spiritual — in hearing and responding to God’s prompting at each stage
- Geographic — in obedience to God’s call, Philip was willing to physically journey across various borders
- Relational — in being invited into relationship, asking good questions, and being willing to listen to both God and the people around him
- Cultural — in reaching out to someone who was different from him in cultural, ethnic, and racial heritage
- Each discussion group was able to share even more (please feel free to add your group’s findings as a comment to this post!)
PJ mentioned a show (viewable on Netflix) called The Kindness Diaries — a man who travels the world relying on the kindness of strangers and, in the journey, discovering the gifts that make a full life. May we have the courage and compassion to follow Jesus in crossing borders, both near and far, and discover joy, grace, and life in those places.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
– Hebrews 6:19
We are amazed at our journey together with God over these last two years. It is such an honor to follow Jesus together in this great adventure. We look forward to Anchor City’s future as we follow Jesus faithfully—for our city and for the world!
Here are a few glimpses of grace from our past year together. Thanks, Jin, for the wonderful photos and for telling our story so beautifully!
Lent is the forty days leading up to Easter, not including Sundays (during which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection!). For the Church, this season is a time of reflection and repentance. Many followers of Jesus find it helpful to fast during Lent.
Fasting has been misunderstood in many ways. Fasting is not:
- Proving our spiritual worth by how much we can “suffer”
- Giving up sins or bad habits (we should be giving up those things anyways)
- Trying out a new diet (going on a low-carb diet is not the same thing as fasting).
John Piper’s words about fasting can be helpful in reminding us of its purpose: “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God.” When we fast, we take a step back from a good gift of God (for example, food!) and seek the Giver of those gifts. When our stomachs growl from hunger, or we feel fidgety from a media fast, we are reminded that our greatest hunger should be Jesus Himself.
As Richard Foster writes:
Fasting must forever center on God. More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.
Again, Piper writes, “We have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
Simply put, we fast so that we can make more room in our hearts for Jesus.
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As we withdraw for a time from some good gifts of God during this season, we also encourage you to draw near to the Giver through intentionally adding disciplines.
What better way to make room in our hearts for Christ than through Scripture? The YouVersion Bible App has several reading plans here, including #LentChallenge2015 from Margaret Feinberg (reading through the four Gospels in 40 days).
For families, you might find this Lenten practices calendar helpful. These simple acts of faith & devotion can help Christians of all ages make room in their hearts for Jesus (click on the image for a full-sized PDF).
One quick note: We encourage you to break your fast on Sundays. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus each Lord’s Day, and breaking the fast weekly reminds us that it’s not primarily about our self-discipline, but celebrating the Risen King of grace and life.
At our retreat, we heard from our friend Mike Seawright about living out Kingdom stories in our everyday lives. One of the best ways to show what following Jesus looks like is through kindness and generosity.
We’d love to hear how you’re using your reverse offering to tell the story of what God is doing in and through Anchor City! We had some amazing brainstorming at the retreat. Here are a couple of ideas to help you put those reverse offerings into action:
- Invite a friend to coffee and share your story of what God is doing in our church family and in your life
- Make a small gift basket and drop it off at your local firehouse, with a personal card expressing your thanks
- Make lunches to give away to people who might be asking for money. Pro tip: Keep them in the back seat of your car for easy access!
- As a family, commit to sponsoring a World Vision child. Sit down with your kids and talk about how our giving can make an impact in the world for Jesus. Use the reverse offering to help pay for the first month of sponsorship!
- Purchase a Scripture print and give it to a friend who could use the encouragement. Double the impact: Support a local artist (for example, Handletter.co is based in SD and makes beautiful prints!) and point a friend toward Jesus!