They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47
I have been brought back to Acts several times over the last few years as God has been bringing me, and our family, through this journey to go in to full time ministry in the mission field, and I don’t think that is by accident. I have read through these stories many times in the past, stories of the early church and about the missionaries that were used by God to grow His church. What started out as something much more distant from me, has become more revealed thanks to the life experiences God has been bringing us through, and because of how He has been allowing me to understand more about Him and His character. Not only that, but God has also opened my eyes more to who I am in Him.
I love it when I experience a time when I feel like God is specifically speaking to me, it makes me feel so loved. Although I don’t necessarily hear an audible voice or see any burning bushes or animals using a voice to communicate these messages to me, I do think that there are times I for sure hear from God clearly – especially when I put what I hear through the filter of scripture to test if it lines up. Well, recently at our church we have been studying through Acts and although we weren’t addressing this specific topic, in this specific way, it was interesting how God used it to speak a comforting word to me. You see, in the sermon a couple weeks ago, our pastor got to a point in the sermon he was preaching that was stating one way “how the Holy Spirit Converts – or Transforms”, and one of the fill-in-the-blanks was “The Gospel is the greatest unifying identity factor on the earth.” That specific idea has been something that God has reminded me of several times recently through some relationships I have that our only real bond is the fact that we both are followers of Christ. It really is amazing how I can meet someone from any walk of life, anywhere in the world, and if we have nothing but Christ in common – we can immediately bond. I thank God for that reality, the reality that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galations 3:28. As I read through the section from Acts above, I can see that these early believers gave up their other worldly identities and took hold of their identity in Christ.
Now, this wasn’t completely the message God spoke to me when I sat there listening to the Sunday message… no, I felt like in that moment in time God used what was said, for whatever reason, to take me deeper in to myself. I felt like He had taken me in that very moment behind the curtain, and allowed me to not just be in His presence, but to sit in His lap – as His son… and took His loving arms and wrapped them around me to say what I heard next…
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You see, my whole life I have struggled with something that can bring me down on many occasions, and that thing is that I have never felt that I was really great or excellent at anything specific. This was always difficult because I saw so many others that were much better than me in basketball, or in art, or in school. There was always someone else out there that knew more about electronics and gadgets than me, or had a greater tie to Disney than me, or was more successful in the work force than I have been… or… the list can go on. I have always felt that I was good at a lot of things in life, which I have been good at things, but never excellent… But as I sat there in that seat two Sunday’s ago, and was transported, as time seemed to stand still, into my loving Father’s arms, I heard Him tell me something that made me feel so very loved that I couldn’t believe it. Even as I type this and think of it, tears well up in my eyes of the joy I feel from my loving Father… What I heard that day was this: “Nate, your identity has been preserved for Me. I have preserved you and protected you from finding your identity in all of these things in this world that are good, so that you can better realize that your true identity comes from Me.” WOW! What an amazing mercy He has shown me, and it made me feel so very grateful for something that I thought was always a burden for me… but no, now I see the greater reason for what He did in my life.
Thank you God, thank you Father, thank you Abba, thank you Daddy!
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28