While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” Acts 10:27-29
As we come into the cooler months of 2020, I notice the colors of change. The once green leaves full of life are now bright golden, brown, and orange, falling to the ground and blowing across the landscape that visible for miles since the farmers have harvested their crops. It is a signal that another year is ending. I am not a betting man, but if I was, it would be a safe wager that many are glad to see this year end. The change of 2020 has not been easy and its not over yet.
I am choosing to look at it from a different angle. Though 2020 has not been kind, it has been an opportunity of change for the good. Yes some change is painful and we certainly would not want to experience it again, but there is change that if looked at from a spirit filled perspective, it is change that if Jesus should tarry, generations following us will be thankful that we did not fold, we did not quit. Instead, in the midst of uncertainty, we gave our all. The result – a generation who will carry on the Kingdom assignment.
Our church family here at Pawnee Assembly turns 90 this year. While studying the history of PAG, thanks to the late Don Reynolds and his wife Joyce, I learned of a pastor with slicked back hair and his wife who apparently played a mean banjo from what I can see in the photos. God brought this duo to Pawnee in the fall of 1930. Just as the season was changing with the cooler temps and the harvest coming in from the fields, God was bringing a new season of spiritual revival in this prairie town on the Pawnee Square. Reverend Jack Gibbs and his wife Irene from the bandstand on the town square declared the gospel.
Grab a hold of this... there was not one Pentecostal church in Pawnee when they came to town. Pawnee didn’t know what a Pentecostal potluck was until the Gibbs rolled in. (Come to think of it, I miss those potlucks.) This was something new and strange. It was change! The Gibbs family took God’s Spirit filled message from the square that they outgrew to a tent off Route 104 and the winds of change blew. 165 people were saved in a town of 950 plus and from this harvest, a church was born. Today, I have the honor to stand on the shoulders of Jack and Irene Gibbs and continue the work they began. They and the others who would come together to plant Pawnee Assembly would take this season of change and give their all. The result... well you are reading a devotion from one of them. Just like those who have blazed the trail before us in seasons of change, I believe we can do the same.
From our text today, Peter was a Jewish man called to go minister in a gentile home. This like Peter says did not happen. This was like wearing a mask at the dinner table between bites at a restaurant. People just don’t do that. Peter despite the change of tradition, obeyed God and gave his all. The result... a household saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Gibbs were a Pentecostal couple sent to a non-Pentecostal community. They were not popular. In fact, those who attended their revival meetings endured hardship. Nevertheless, the Gibbs preached from a bandstand on the town square. Sick people were healed. They gave their all and as a result 165 people were saved. A church was planted and 90 years later it is still doing the work it was assigned to do. What can we learn from this?
2020 has brought much change to the landscape of the Church in America. It has not been easy. I remember the first weekend when the building closed, and we could not meet together. There was a lump in my throat as I preached a message of hope. But God was faithful. We embraced change and started recording week after week. We taught families how to make their living rooms into the sanctuary that it is. We learned how to lead our homes in worship, communion and how to tithe without ever receiving an offering with an offering plate. We loved our community, served those in need, generously gave and invested into what we needed to communicate the gospel. We engaged in the lives of our missionaries as they sent in videos and we did virtual mission trips facilitate with a little humor from my daughter. Children’s Church wrote their own curriculum and produced their own videos equipping parents to be priests in their homes. Life groups rooted themselves in deep love for God and one another. They have grown and serve as our discipleship and fellowship arm. People are engaging online in Bible Studies and even though we cannot serve coffee in the foyer when we do meet, people don’t care. They are coming to worship Jesus. (Don’t worry, coffee is coming back.) This past month, PAG went officially live online and the result has been incredible. Our reach has expanded, our teams have too. Change hit us in the face, but we did not fall. We embraced it. We saw it for the season it has become. We are better because of change and those who follow in our footsteps will greatly appreciate what we have done.
Don’t quit in the midst of change. Pray like Peter did. Listen to God’s voice and He will be faithful to make this change the best for you and those who are depending on you to make the best out of change.