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May 29, 2020

Better Than Normal

“When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks. …” Acts 2:1-3 (MSG)

Coronavirus has changed our world. Social distancing, an economic shutdown and sheltering at home for the past three months has taken its toll on all of us! It’s been called the New Normal. Some refer to it as the New Abnormal. But what if our greatest obstacle could be God’s opportunity to do something Better than Normal?

There are defining moments in all our lives where our world changes and we are never the same. Some of those moments are anticipated and they are welcome transitions in life. Some are painful and unexpected. Often those are the ones we struggle with seeing how God could bring any good from them. Yet, as we trust in God’s goodness and love, He has a way of working all things for our good, even those the enemy intended for evil.

This must have been how the disciples felt through the whirlwind of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven forty days later. Even after His resurrection, they thought surely, now was the time that Jesus would establish His Kingdom and restore Israel’s glory days, freeing them from Roman oppression. Little did they understand at the time, the significance of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish in their hearts and ours today.

At His ascension from the Mount of Olives, the disciples were left staring into heaven, straining to see Jesus as He left them to return to His Father. It must have caught them by surprise when two angels showed up suddenly out of nowhere and said, “Men of Galilee, … why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go!” Acts 1:11 (NLT)

They must have looked dumbfounded at one another, not knowing what to do. But Luke tells us in verses 12 and 13, “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying.” This is exactly what Jesus instructed them to do. They were to wait in Jerusalem and pray for the gift He had promised them – the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, something happened that would change everything! Their lives would never be the same! It was a defining moment in all of history!  I love the way The Message paraphrases it in Acts 2:1-3, “When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their rank. …”

This was not just a new normal. This was better than normal!  Now, Jesus would never be limited by spatial distance. He could abide in their hearts by the Holy Spirit 24/7!  His disciples would be empowered now to accomplish God’s will! They would be transformed from the inside out! They were given power to communicate the gospel in a supernatural way. 

Luke says there were Jews from every nation that had come for the festival of Pentecost who heard Peter preach the gospel in their own language and dialect.  They witnessed supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence that fulfilled exactly what Jesus told them He would do.  Deep conviction filled the hearts of those who heard Peter’s message about Jesus.  Acts 2:37 says, “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’” 

The Holy Spirit’s conviction led them to repentance and 3,000 Jews put their faith in Jesus as their Savior and were baptized that day.  The church was born!  It grew from 120 to 3,120 in one day!  Talk about exponential growth – and this was just the beginning!  That’s the difference the Holy Spirit makes!  When He comes, lives are changed!  Have you experienced the transformation in your life that only the Holy Spirit can bring?  His presence brings life, the power to change and become all that God wants you and me to be. What they may have perceived as an obstacle with Jesus leaving became God’s opportunity to bring a better normal in their lives! 

Looking back over these past three months, I have been amazed at what God has done through what seemed like our biggest obstacle, the inability to meet together at church for worship. Yet, God in His goodness turned what seemed so abnormal into a better normal! Our pastor over our online ministry has reported that we have logged more than 595,800 views to our live stream services and 4,598 people have clicked on a link expressing their desire to commit their lives to Christ!  That is immeasurably more than we would have ever imagined or been able to fit in our auditorium!  In addition, our local mission’s pastor has shared the church’s response to the practical needs of this pandemic through feeding 7,875 meals to health care workers and emergency first responders as well as providing 4,576 food packages to families in need along with 2,471 hygiene kits.  Way to go church! 

As we return this weekend for Homecoming, our first on campus services in months, I’m reminded that this is Pentecost weekend on the Jewish calendar. It’s going to be exciting to see what God is going to do! Even though it will be different, I believe it will be better than normal! I want to encourage you to reserve your spot online at wc.org. We are working hard to provide a safe and sanitized environment for everyone. If you feel more comfortable worshiping from home, please log on to our live worship services at the regular times at live.wc.org.  We are praying daily for you and the global glory of God to bring a better than normal in your life!