Week of Feb. 2

Give them Whole-Wheat Bread!

Read: Exodus 14-16; Acts 2

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:1-3, ESV


Jesus’ final words to his disciples on the Mount of Olives were, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .” (Acts 1:8-12). The “Power” came! Sadly, the Mount of Olives would quickly change from a place of dispersion to a center of devotion by AD 330. Twenty-four churches had been built there, including Constantine’s Church of the Ascension at the summit. The mandate “Go and tell” had become “Come and see.” Oh. My. Goodness. We need to reconsider today Christ’s missional mandate and the method by which it was to be accomplished.

A Biblical Lens

The context for this early-church-ministry-altering event must set the stage for our understanding today or we will miss the point. Pentecost, a one-day celebration, was celebrated fifty days (seven weeks) after the Passover, and it was a reminder of God’s salvation from Egypt. It was the day set aside for the first fruits of the wheat harvest to be presented to God. Later Judaism also considered it the anniversary of giving the law at Sinai (Exodus 19:1). You say, “Thanks for the background study, so what do we do with it?” I am thrilled that you asked!

Feed the hungry. Worshipers would bring an offering; usually two loaves of bread and other offerings (Leviticus 23:16-20). They saw in the festival that God cares for the poor, and the early church would carry forward this concern. (Leviticus 23:22; Acts 6:1ff.). Their participation was worship in action because this was the last festival for four months. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” I like Jesus words better. He told his disciples, “You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). Friends, our worship is incomplete until the needy join our banquet! Pay close attention here. Pentecost was not only about social justice.

Proclaim the Good News. The Spirit arrives which signified the end-time harvest was upon them (cf. John 4:34-35). I know. This moment is the point in Bible studies and sermons where you get cold chills because this means you will be challenged to “Go ye therefore!” (I’m laughing). My goodness, such cajoling frightens me as well. I am not afraid, however, of the Divine Presence in the Spirit that purifies and sanctifies our lives (cf. Psalm 104:3). I am also unafraid of the selfsame Power that none can resist and the authority to utter God’s message of life (Acts 2:2-4). The Spirit’s outpouring at Pentecost (Joel 2:28), His sanctifying work in our lives (Deuteronomy 30:6), and His unifying presence are an absolute must today or our churches are dead! The Spirit is absolutely necessary because he signifies the end-time harvest. Look. They knew, and we now know, that the Day of Pentecost fell at the time of the Wheat Festival. So? Well, give the hungry world “whole-wheat bread,” meaning good food and Good News (Acts 6:1; 11:29).

A Moral Pathway

How may we prevent a false “come and see” spirit from spreading like leaven in our churches? Hmm. Please permit me to share a personal anecdote. Nearly twenty-three years ago I entered an overseas course of study in the U.K. It was there that the Lord began to call me to follow him along a different ministry path and to flesh out a vision that became the Baptist Center for Global Concerns in 2007.

This ethics and leadership organization is founded upon the Lordship of Christ, the Word of God, and the call to be like children of God through peacemaking (Matthew 5:9). The Center is anchored by four main “ought to do’s” or ethical obligations that emerge from within our callings and spiritual gifts. We educate (Matthew 28:18, “teaching them”), feed (Matthew 14:16, “you give them something to eat”), strengthen (Matthew 25:36, “when I was sick”), and share Christ (Acts 1:8, “shall be my witnesses”) with the underserved wherever the Lord may send us (Leviticus 19:18, "Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord"). We do not count these foci as expressions of social justice but as Christ’s love in action to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Please listen with your hearts today. Do not duplicate us; instead, imitate Christ! We all live in the age of Pentecost until Christ’s return. God’s Spirit fell upon all believers, His church, so love God (worship), then you also go and love your neighbors by giving them the “whole-wheat bread” of Christ. I am eager to hear the vision that God gives to you!

For Your Journaling

1. I live in a county where 25% of the families are food insecure. We minister overseas where nearly 50% of the population is hungry. Pentecost ministry is not rocket science. Friends, our organization did not emerge from the minds of calculating geniuses, but from God’s call given to his table servants (John 13:1-14 esp. v. 14, “you also ought to wash”). Ask God to empower you (see above) to follow him with “whole bread” in your heart and hands. Then, get involved.

2. I am not your Holy Spirit, but I believe that churches will do well to consider the difference between establishing a “brand identity” and “bearing the stigma” of the cross-life. In Ashlock speak, “The latter comes with the Spirit’s enabling and guiding to the end result of glorifying the Savior” (cf. John 21:19, “by what manner of death he was to glorify God”; Cf. Romans 12:1-2, “living sacrifice”). Enter into a period of prayer and soul searching, perhaps during this year’s Pentecost observance, with the purpose of emerging with hearts aflame.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock