Friday, January 17, 2014

Shaken and Stirred (Acts 4:31)

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31, NASB95)

Today I am venturing away from Romans to reflect. Twenty years ago today our world was dramatically shaken. At 4:31 in the morning on January 17th, as Los Angeles recognized Martin Luther King Day for the first time, our quiet Northridge, California home was lifted up, shaken, and put back down with things thrown everywhere. It was not just our world, but the world of hundreds of thousands of others who lived in the San Fernando Valley. While the loss of lives was limited, the damage was widespread. On our block we had tall block wall fences in our back yards where people could live in their own private world. On that day most of the fences went down, and so did the walls in many people’s hearts.

Prior to the earthquake we had been planning for a massive valley wide evangelism crusade with numerous churches coming together in times of prayer and equipping for the event scheduled during June of 1994. Our prayer was that as the crusade featuring Luis Palau approached that God would tear down walls. And on the morning in January we literally saw this happen, and in the weeks and months that followed we saw it happen in the hearts of many people. The outreach teams that were formed within the various participating churches became community help teams as they went door to door in neighborhoods to see how people were doing.

In our own lives we were faced with the loss of my business and the searching out of what God would have us do in response. This was a very difficult season which ultimately led to our moving to Oregon in order to start anew. But during the time of searching and learning more and more about trusting God we had countless opportunities to experience His abundant love for us shown in many different ways. As our oldest son was approaching his tenth birthday and we did not have funds for a party, Robin and he committed together to pray about this. And sure enough, as one example of our God’s love, a check showed up specifically for him to have his party. This and so many other things were marked on our refrigerator.

As a family since that time we have continued to celebrate God’s faithfulness on Martin Luther King Day, not wanting to minimize the work and memory of Dr. King, but also wanting to mark a time in our lives that we can celebrate together what God has done for us. Over the years we have continued to eat fractured tacos and broken glass cake with an occasional venture into milk shakes. We will do this again next Monday. But tonight we did have tacos and in our prayer we again thanked God for His love and faithfulness and how He holds everything firmly in His hands including our plans and our futures.

This is a particularly memorable to us today, not so much because of the twentieth anniversary, but because even today we find ourselves again waiting on God for His direction of our steps into ventures which we still do not know. And just as He was faithful then, we know without a doubt that He remains faithful today.

I cited Acts 4:31 in part because it was a verse we had been looking at in preparation for the crusade, knowing that any work we did would not be effective except God do it through us. We came to Him praying that His Spirit might indeed move and bring about eternal changes in people’s lives both as they come to know Him for salvation and as Christians and their churches are shown the oneness which God intended for His church. I find it amazing that our God who holds the world in His hands would permit our earth to shake at that particular time. At the same time, I also know that our God does not limit Himself to any particular time, but works in His own timing to bring about His desired effects.

The verses that follow Acts 4:31 speak of how the people were moved to come together to meet one another’s needs as they cared for each other. In the days and weeks that followed the earthquake we saw this happen in our churches, our neighborhoods, and our valley, and even in the crusade when it finally came. And as Robin and I have waited on God these past months and as we have watched others go through difficult times, we attest still that God’s people moved by His Spirit are having powerful impacts in the lives of others.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, NASB95)

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