Today is our Baby Girl’s thirtieth birthday. Happy Birthday, Precious Girl! It is hard to believe. In some respects it seems like yesterday. It was an early Monday morning. In what seemed like a moment, we witnessed the birth of a new life. (Remember, i’m the dad; i am certain it seemed much longer than a moment for LaVonne!) i remember her little cry as she took that first breath into her lungs. i remember that somehow the birthing room suddenly seemed brighter. i remember that my wife’s pain and travail in labor were now passed and had now been replaced simultaneously by relief, peace, joy and calm. Immediately our hearts were filled with love for this precious addition to our family. That love was not something that needed to develop over time – it was immediate, just as it had been at the birth of her older brother before her. And our love for one another did not diminish because it now included another; rather, our capacity to love was increased. The birth of a new life is a precious gift from our Creator… an amazing gift… and a gift for a lifetime… and beyond.
But our God is not only the Giver of physical life, He is the Giver of eternal life….
As i write this i am in South Florida. Yesterday we experienced a brief tropical front of rushing wind and pouring rain. As i listened to the sound of the wind, i was reminded of that day recorded in Scripture when “suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind” (Acts 2:1 ESV). That led me in my thoughts to the message that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. It is the prophecy of the last days as recorded by the prophet Joel. Joel was writing that the day of the Lord’s return would be heralded by the pouring out of the Spirit of God. This should not seem strange or contrary. Those gathered on the Day of Pentecost listening to Peter were witnessing the fulfillment of the beginnings of that prophecy. The day was coming when all of the prophecy would be fulfilled, but on that day they were seeing a glimpse of it. As the people looked and stared at a group of Galileans they would have been incredulous. The announcement that the Holy Spirit was being poured out upon a group of Galileans would have seemed incredible to the Jews, because they thought God’s Spirit was only given to a few select people (Numbers 11:28-29). But here were one hundred twenty of the followers of Jesus – men and women – enjoying the blessing of the same Holy Spirit that had empowered Moses, David and the prophets. The last days had dawned with the arrival of Jesus – and they would come to a climax with His return. The arrival of the Holy Spirit affirmed that they had entered into the first of those last days as foretold by the prophets.
Joel wrote that one feature of the last days will be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on people of every kind – men and women, young and old, high and low. God's people will be clothed with power; they will receive power. And the main effect of this power seems to be bold, prophetic speech. Believers of all kinds are going to be so gripped by the Spirit of God that they see the greatness of Jesus and the purpose of Jesus with extraordinary clarity and speak it with extraordinary boldness. The people were seeing that take place before their eyes – from Galileans no less.
But though Joel’s prophecy pointed to a period of time that began on that day of Pentecost, it is a prophecy that points to the return of Christ. That means that we are in the midst of those days – until He returns….
Recently i was reintroduced to the children’s book entitled “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. The story is about little wooden people who are called “Wemmicks”. Wemmicks spend their days scurrying about sticking gold stars on those who are pretty and talented, or gray dots on those who make mistakes. But on this particular day in the story, the stickering is all the more important because the Festival is at hand. The envied “Most Stars Award” and the dreaded “Most Dots Award” are about to be given out. Poor Punchinello is sure to be a shoo-in for the Most Dots. But thanks to a new friend, he is about to learn a very important lesson that no matter how others may judge our worth, God cherishes each of us just as we are.
That is a lesson we would all do well to remember. We live in a world that is obsessed with awarding stars and conferring dots, and we distribute them abundantly, utilizing all the means at our disposal. Social media has become our most preferred mode of rendering our judgement of stars or dots to the extent that we judge worth based upon the number of “likes” or “follows”….
Through the Lessons Learned In The Wilderness books, God has enabled me to come in contact with many who have found themselves “camped” in the wilderness. Each day i am receiving emails or social media messages from people who are awaiting the fulfillment of a promise that God has given them. Often the comments are shared as a prayer request reflecting a desperation to see God’s answer regarding the healing of a loved one, a needed new job, the pain of a broken relationship, a heart cry to have a child, and much more. In many of those instances the waiting has been going on for months or years, and, in some cases, decades. My prayer list is growing daily with the requests.
Here are just two of those requests: A young woman is currently awaiting visa approval to come join her husband in the U.S. The process continues to lengthen as one hurdle after another has been added. In the meantime, this young couple waits on different continents for the Lord to bring about a swift resolution to their immigration conundrum.
A family has responded to God’s call to serve Him in another part of the world as tentmakers. “Tentmakers” means that they need to have employment in that new country. For two years they have taken each step that the Lord has placed before them. They got rid of most of their earthly possessions and moved across continents on nothing more than a word from God. Today they shared a praise that they have received a job offer. There are still steps to be taken for everything to be finalized, but this offer is a huge step in that direction. It would appear that after two years their wait may be over. But, in other respects, their journey may have just begun.
Scripture is full of people who were waiting on God.
We continue to pray for those who, this past Easter Sunday morning in Sri Lanka, lost friends or family members, or sustained injury themselves due to the senseless acts of violence perpetrated by a group of anti-Christian terrorists. We join together in praying for comfort for those who have lost family members and friends, and recovery for those who sustained injury. And we pray that those who perpetrated such heinous acts will be swiftly brought to justice. i echo the statement issued by Dr. Russell Moore (president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), “The governing authorities must bring this anti-Christian terrorist cell, and any who empowered them, to justice. The shedding of innocent human blood is always an atrocity; an attack on Easter is further shocking in its cruelty." On a day when Christians all over the world were remembering and celebrating the life that can be ours through the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus, such a vicious act was a sobering reminder of the death that sin brings and the death grip that sin continues to have on our world. Ironically the very message of the day – the message of Christ’s resurrection – is the reality that sin and death have been defeated, and that the free gift of life is extended without limitation by His grace to all who will receive it.
The incident has caused me to be reminded of a story that i first heard from my friend and former pastor, Dr. Keith Thomas….