Gifted and Afraid

We’re in week # 2 of our study of the Book of Acts, which was written by Doctor Luke.  If we went back to read Luke’s Gospel (prequel to Acts), we’d see that he wrote about what Jesus began to do.  In the sequel, Acts Luke is writing about what Jesus continues to do through us; His Church on mission.

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We’re in week # 2 of our study of the Book of Acts, which was written by Doctor Luke.  If we went back to read Luke’s Gospel (prequel to Acts), we’d see that he wrote about what Jesus began to do.  In the sequel, Acts Luke is writing about what Jesus continues to do through us; His Church on mission.

That’s why we’re not studying Acts as scholars, just searching for information.  But we are studying as soldiers, for the purpose of mission.

Our mission can often be wrapped in FEAR.  God knew this.

That’s why we’re not alone.  We’ve been given each other, our church family, a band of brothers and sisters in the trenches together.  And as we talked about last week, we’ve been promised POWER through the Holy Spirit.    

FEAR is something we all deal with to varying degrees.

Some of us are more dare devils.  Risk takers.  We, at least, claim to be fearless.

Some of us our fatalist, and can’t help but always envision the worse case scenario.

Fear can serve a purpose.

I hope FEAR will keep men from wearing this new article of clothing.  (man-romper/ romp-him)

God has instilled fear as a survival response to keep us alive.  Fight vs Flight.

If you’re at our house next weekend and you run across an Alligator in our canal with razor-sharp teeth/claws, your fear response should kick in and tell you .. Don’t go pet the gator. In fact, if you see one, run, in a zig-zag pattern.

But beyond this survival instinct component of fear, when fear keeps us from the mission of God … fear is a not a good thing, nor God’s intention.

God didn’t create us to live lives in fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 // For God has not given us a spirit of FEAR and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

The disciples last week, saw Jesus ascend to Heaven, I tend to think, they’re still experiencing fear and trepidation.

Jesus, you’re leaving us, again.  Do you have issues with commitment or what?  You’re here, you’re gone.   You’re here, you’re leaving again? 

Remember they asked Him … Jesus, when are you going to free Israel and restore the Kingdom.  Because, it’s still a little scary around here.  We’re not in power.  We have no authority.  The Romans just killed you, uh, who do you think they’re coming after next? 

But Jesus says … that’s not something you should FEAR.  Trust the Father.  He’s good.  He’ll take care of all you.     

Acts 1:8

8 But … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

So the disciples, do as they are told by Jesus, and the return to Jerusalem to wait; to wait for this promised gift,

that somehow, supposed to be even better than Jesus walking and talking with them.

I want you to notice a theme as they wait …

Acts 1:14

They all met together and were constantly united in prayer. 

We’ll see this theme over and over in Acts.  The believers gathering together, in one place, at one time.  Sound familiar?  It should.  And as they come together, they worship and they pray.

At the end of chapter 1, they need to take care of some church business.  They need to pick a disciple to replace Judas.  Guess what they did?  They prayed.

We have a board of directors who meets to handle the business/financial aspects of the Church.  We met a few weeks back to discuss the big announcement we made earlier.

Guess what we all forgot to do in our Board meeting?  Pray.  Shame on us, because over and over in Acts, every decision that is made in the early church, is prefaced with constant prayer.  Let’s learn from this.

Tonight we pick up in Chapter 2 …

1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.

Here they are again.  Meeting.  Praying.  Singing. It’s a church very much like us.  About 120 believers gathering in one-place.

The timing is Pentecost, a Jewish holiday.   Remember, all the believers/disciples at this time are Jews.  Pentecost is a festival that followed 50-days (or pente) from the Passover celebration.

Pentecost is pilgrim festival that marked the beginning of the spring harvest. People would travel from everywhere to Jerusalem for this annual celebration.

The schools and shops are closed.  No work is being done.  The streets would be clogged and congested with people.  It’s party time.  Mardi Gras

2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames, or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.

Something I want to mention here, not only on this passage, but something you should keep in mind as you study the Bible in general; Notice how Luke is trying to explain the supernatural …

… there was a sound LIKE a roaring windstorm

… then what looked LIKE flames, or tongues of fire

Have you been in a situation where you saw or experienced something that was altogether new for you and you had to explain to to someone else … Well, it’s kind of like this, or its kind of like that, but it’s not like this. 

Imagine, if you took someone from a the 1800’s, and you transported them to 2017, and showed them an iPhone.  And then you transported them back to the 1800’s …

How would they explain what they saw?

Remember there is no electricity, no light bulbs, no internet, no cameras, not even a phonograph to place music.  How would you explain what an iPhone is to them?

I asked this question this week on FB, got some great responses …

Shawn // Two tin cans with a string in the middle that can communicate without the string.   

Britt // A brick that magically captures your voice, sends it through the air to another brick. The second brick captures the sound and then the sound comes out of it into the listener’s ear.

Justin // It’s a thin slab of ebony with pictures on it. Touching your finger to one of the pictures will change what the slab looks like.

Noah // A box which harnesses the same power as lightning to act as a window into other worlds through which we can look at grumpy cats and connect with other lightning box owners to instantaneously tell them their opinion is wrong.

Noah // A device with which to crush fake candies without wasting real candy.

Noah // Like an Android phone, but better.

It’d be extremely difficult.  And if they ever actually saw an iPhone, they’d say your explanation didn’t do it justice.

If explaining an iPhone is hard to someone 150 years ago, how hard must it be to explain the infinite and eternal power of God displayed in this moment.  Words can’t do justice …      

This is the moment they’ve been waiting for.  They had no idea what it was going to look like.  There is fear in the room …

And then all of a sudden, it all makes sense.

You know, those movies, where all of a sudden, everything seems to come together.  You see this sort of, flashback thing, where everything is playing in fast motion, in their mind.  Where the entire story is all connected together.

If you’ve ever seen the The 6th Sense or A Beautiful Mind? There’s a big twist.  And all of a sudden, you’re like … OHHHHH … I get it.

And you want to almost go back, and re-watch the entire movie, because now you have new knowledge that helps make sense of past events.

This is that moment in the disciples lives.  Now it all makes sense.  All the teachings they hadn’t quite gotten.  All the situations Jesus had put them in.  All of a sudden, it all makes sense.  All the synapses connect.

And the connector is the Holy Spirit.

And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.  

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

Imagine the chaos in this moment.  People running from everywhere.  What was that?  Did you see that?

The believers are all speaking a different language.  Some guys speaking Chinese.  Another Italian … mama mia.

They’re speaking in tongues.  That’s what we call it when people start speaking in a language, they’ve never learned or spoken before.  It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit that still amazes and perplexes us today.

It’s a topic that has split and divided many churches.

I asked last week about those of you who grew up in a Charismatic style church … Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Holiness, Apostolic …

My dad’s side family are nearly all Pentecostal. My grandpa moved the Culbertson family from Iowa to Indiana to start a church.  I remember visiting with my grandma and cousins as a kid.

The singing was always LOUD.  No one held back.

There was a lot of moving around.  It felt like you needed to do stretches before you walked into the little chapel.

Clapping, dancing, hand raising, sprints up and down the aisles.

My grandma was 4’10”, and through the week could barely move.  But at church, the Spirit got hold of her (as they’d say) and she’d be praising and singing, and dancing like she was a teenager.

During the preacher’s sermon, the congregation felt inclined to participate.  They’d shout.  They’d cheer.

Yes.  Amen. Glory to God. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.  Preach it pastor. 

Then before you knew it, they’d break into song again.  The services were very free flowing.  Things didn’t go in any particular order.  Planning wasn’t a top priority.

Occasionally the band would stop playing. And many would start speaking, very enthusiastically, in languages I had never heard.

And much like the crowds on the day of Pentecost, I too, at the Pentecostal Church was confused and perplexed.

If you’ve never experienced a Pentecostal church service, or better yet, a good old fashioned tent revival … I encourage you, drop by sometime.  If for nothing else, to challenge your thinking, and experience a very unique culture.

This is a controversial topic. People much smarter than me, have well formed opinions on both sides of the isle, and everywhere in between.  Some are Cessationist.  Others continuationist.   Both supported biblically.

So where does Refuge church stand on the gift of tongues?  Cessationist of Continuationist.

In our text tonight, we’ve got the disciples.  Galileans.  They’re country folk.  Fisherman and farmers.  Not highly educated.  All of a sudden, they’re able to speak in another language.  Clearly articulate the Gospel.

We call this the PUBLIC gift of speaking in tongues.  It’s edifying. Useful. It serves a purpose.

I’ve prayed for this gift before going to the Dominican Republic.  Lord, if I could be bi-lingual, and speak Spanish.  The Holy Spirit did not apparently think I needed that gifting.  Embarrassing every time I attempt Spanish.

Scripture also speaks of the PRIVATE gift of speaking in tongues.  I’ve spoken to some of you, who have communicated to God in this way in the privacy of your homes as you pray.

I consider my Pentecostal family, who speak in tongues, brothers and sisters in Christ.

I disagree with them, and can find tremendous support biblically, that those with this gift, have more of the Holy Spirit than I do.  Nor do I believe as some do, that we aren’t saved, unless you’ve spoken in tongues.

Let me allow God’s word to speak. Paul says…

1 Co 12:7–11

7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Refuge is a non-denominational church, and so we are open to all followers of Jesus.  Those who are Cessationist and those who are Continuationist.  Those who have no opinion.  I believe we can all worship together.

Speaking in tongues may still occur.  IF, it enhances your relationship with Jesus, and if it’s authentic, and not pure emotion or forced, then who am I to say if it’s real or not.

However, we will take a stand, that we do not believe that if you do not have this one, very specific, and I’d say, very rare gift, that you’re not saved.

You are saved, and you receive the Holy Spirit, when you put your hope and trust in Christ Jesus.

WHO, by the way, never spoke in tongues (at least that the Bible mentions), so you’re in good company if you do not have this gift.

We also concur with what Paul says …

1 Corinthians 14:27–28 (ESV)

27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

There are some things we do in private, that we don’t do in public.

On a recent flight, I look over, and the dude in the seat next to me has on his Bose Quiet Comfort headphones, and is jamming out on the air guitar.  Wrong place.  Wrong time.

I once had a couple in front of me at my former church, during the entire service doing excessive PDA.  I’m not just talking holding hands.  Hands on her butt during worship.  Wrong place.  Wrong time.

When the church gets together, it can’t be complete chaos.  If you have a gift of speaking, then you should have opportunities to give a message.  If you can carry a tune or play an instrument, maybe you should be on the worship team.  If you’re friendly, you should be a greeter.  Love kids, children ministry.  Your gifts would EDIFY (build-up) the church.

But if you can’t play the drums, but you jump up in the middle of a service, because you feel like the Spirit has now gifted you with drumming, and it’s horrible, and it drives people away.  Wrong place.  Wrong time.  It did nothing to edify the body, or witness to the gospel.

Are you tracking with me to what I’m saying?

But here’s what it all comes back to … Paul says famously in 1 Cor. 13 …

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Funny isn’t it, how the Bible always comes back to love, and yet how often we want to get caught up in all these extraneous conversations, and miss the greatest gift that the Spirit bestows upon us … LOVE.  If we don’t have that gift, then nothing else matters.

So the apostles and other believers who were gathered together, receive the Holy Spirit, and they begin speaking in these various languages …

12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

The believers are being ridiculed.  How easy do you think it would be for FEAR to creep in again, and they just shut down.  Stop talking.

Oh my gosh.  How embarrassing.  I just opened my mouth and started speaking Portuguese.  I’ve never done that before.  I must sound like an idiot.  What is my family going to think?  What are my friends going to think? 

Fear can take hold so easily.  One of the worst things fear does is it keeps us STUCK. It causes us to FREEZE.

But for the disciples something is different this time.

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd …

This is the same Peter, who denied Christ when fear set in. These are the guys who were fearful of the storm.

But all of a sudden… this ain’t no thing.    Peter is about to speak.  He’s going to give a sermon.  He doesn’t shy away, because he hasn’t had a week to prepare; Doesn’t have all his slides ready; Doesn’t have a few jokes to keep the audience entertained.  He just goes for it.  All in.  No fear.  

… “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that.

Maybe Peter did have a joke in his back pocket.  At least that’s how I read it.  It’s Pentecost, it’s a party time, drinking is expected.  If it where 9 in the evening, OK, maybe we’d be a little tipsy, but it’s only 9am

And from here, Peter gives the greatest recorded sermon ever. He witnesses to the Gospel.  He quotes scripture. The Spirit puts words into his mouth.  He witnesses to what he saw and experienced.  He shares his story; How the Holy Spirit was poured out upon him and his friends.

And in the end we’re told …

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There’s no hesitancy in this statement. He just says it how it is.  No fear.

  39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

He’s feeling it now.  There’s no stopping him.

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

What a historic day.  The start of the church.

The fear is gone.  Peter, who was once frightened and afraid, is now bold and courageous.  The spirit has killed the fear.

How many of you have a fear of public speaking?  I mean, you’d rather die, than to stand in front of a crowd to speak.

Public speaking is the # 1 fear in America.  More feared than death, which comes in at 2nd.  (Spiders 3rd)

Don’t raise your hands, I know you won’t anyway.  But how many of you fear rejection?  You care way too much about what other people think of you.

How many fear asking God what he wants for your life?  Because you know, it might require some drastic changes.  Moving beyond what is comfortable.

How many have a fear of the unknown, because, it’s unknown.

How many fear what you believe about God is wrong?  You have doubts.  You’re afraid to read the Bible because it may actually challenge your pre-existing beliefs.

We all have fears.

  • What if God doesn’t come through?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I pray for healing, and the healing doesn’t come?
  • What if I pray to overcome a temptation, and yet I continue to be trapped in this sin?

Last week, we talked about sharing our stories.  How many did that this week?  How many witnessed to the power of the Spirit in your life this week?  Why not?  Busy – Apathetic – Fear?

Maybe you’re afraid if you share, and say “look at what God did in my life, how he’s changed me” … and then you fall into old habits, and look like a fool.

I have a fear right now.  What if I continue to pray for the Spirit to work through this Church, as I have been all this week, to do the unexplainable, and it doesn’t happen.

We all have fears.

But the truth is, the Holy Spirit will almost always ask you to go somewhere you wouldn’t go, or do something you wouldn’t normally do.

Why?  Because, comfort is a very dangerous place … Because when we’re comfortable, there’s no need for a comforter.

It’s why I’m standing on this stage each week, fumbling around to explain things like speaking in tongues.  I’m not a great theologian, nor the most gifted speaker.  It should come as no shock; I’m not really qualified to do this.

Stepping out to start a new church; I feared what others would think of my family.  I feared I lose friends.  I feared it’d hurt my business.  I feared that this church would fail.

And if you asked me what got me over my fear, all I can tell you it wasn’t a WHAT … but a WHO.  A prompting of the Spirit that moved me outside my fears.

A handful of you know, some of my fears, came to fruition.  I’ve lost “friendships”, and strained others.  I’ve been unfollowed and unfriended by people on FB.  People disappeared from my life, because I followed the Spirit’s guidance to step out in faith.

Most of your stories are very similar.  We’re a church of nones and dones.  Many of us here were DONE with the church machine.  And others never felt compelled to be a part of it in the first place.

And yet here we are.  God is writing a new story.  And guess what, now we can share that story.  How we’ve found a home.  A new family.  A place of honesty and transparency.

For all the noise that fear makes, rarely does it do us any good.

Fear is what drove the last election cycle.  Fear is all you here when turning on the evening news.  We fear being sued.  We fear the mole on our back that came out of nowhere.  We fear what people might think if we told them our stories.

But fear is NOT a fruit of the Holy Spirit; His sweet fruit is the antidote to our fears …

Galatians 5:22

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  (and there is no fear)

The Holy Spirit empowers us to see the world in a new and better way …

  • So what, if you God calls you to do something outside your comfort zone and you fail miserably? He’s teaching.  Failure is just an event.  It’s not a person.  It’s not who you are.
  • So what, if you people think poorly of you? Talk badly about you?  Who you trying to impress? Man or God?
  • So what, if you share your story, of how God has given you this power of self-control with diet and exercise, how you’ve completely changed your life, and then you go out to BlueMoon and eat an entire pizza after the service. Just update your story …

Yeah, God’s power is still working in me, it’s a journey, a lifelong process, have I shared with you about His amazing grace …

Next weekend, we’re not meeting here on Saturday.  Instead, we’re taking church out of the box.  We’re going to have a good old fashioned pot luck and family social at our home in Alva.  Were some comfortable clothes.  Bring a favorite dish.

There might be some in this room tonight though, that need to move past the fear of Baptism.  Listen again to what Peter said …

Acts 2:37–38

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We’ve got a canal behind our house ……

There’s gators in it.  I already told you stay out.

But we also have a pool.  Plenty deep for a baptism.

Maybe you’ve been fearful.  What will my family think?  What will my friends think?  I’m and grown adult, people will know I’ve never been baptized.

Let the Spirit kill that fear.  Let His words cut to the heart.

You know what would make next weekend extra special … to see a baptism, or 2 or 3.  Don’t let fear stop you.

My 5-year old Emery.  She’s still scared to go to bed at night. It’s an unwarranted fear.  But it’s a normal fear for a child to have.  As her dad, I continue to re-assure her it will be OK.  There’s nothing to fear.  I’m here.  I’ll protect you.  Just trust me.

If you listen closely, the Holy Spirit, He whispers the same thing.  I’m here.  Trust me.  There’s nothing to fear.   

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

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