1. a chance occurrence of events remarkable either for being simultaneous or for apparently being connected
2. the fact, condition, or state of coinciding
3. of or relating to a circuit that produces an output pulse only when both its input terminals receive pulses within a specified interval
Hhhhmmmm….keep in mind #3. I did not know this was a definition for “coincidence” until just now! Fascinating.
1. a. The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause.
b. A force assumed to cause events that cannot be foreseen or controlled; luck
2. The likelihood of something happening; possibility or probability.
3. An accidental or unpredictable event.
4. A favorable set of circumstances; an opportunity:
5. A risk or hazard; a gamble
Yesterday was one of those times when I just had to stop a minute and smile and say, “Whhooooaaaa!” I have had quite a lot of those types of moments in the past few years. And that is a good thing. A very good thing.
It might be a coincidence that your best friend wears the same shirt and pants and shoes to school on the same day as you without planning it. Or it might be a coincidence that your mom calls you at the exact time that you pick up the phone to call her. Or it might be a coincidence that you go to the store and buy your favorite movie for “date night” with your someone special…and they have been to the library and checked out the exact same movie and the two of you have never even talked about the movie before! It might be a coincidence that your friend 300 miles away sends you a card that makes you laugh until you cry when until you received the card you had been crying in earnest because you felt alone and unloved. It might be the $20 dollars you find in your coat pocket that hasn’t been worn in a year…just as you come to a stoplight where a dirty, thin and ragged man holds up a sign that says, “I’m hungry”. It might be the a million things that make you say, “Wow! What a coincidence.”
The Reading: The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 1This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
“Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Why does this matter?
There are not coincidences when it comes to messages and lessons that God is telling us.
Last night I sat down to read a few pages of my new book, The Circle Maker… I am reading the book slowly for two reasons. One I want to savor it and reflect on what I am reading. And two, I don’t have time to read for more than a few minutes at a time. I picked up the book and started reading where I had left off on page 52. And when I got to page 67, guess what…”There was a Roman captain named Cornelius who gave generously to the poor and ‘ prayed to God regularly.’ That prayer habit kept him dialed into God’s frequency and set the stage for this vision. At this point, Christianity was a sect of Judaism, but this vision changes the course of Christianity because the gospel is opened up to the Gentiles. Christianity crosses the Rubicon, and whosoever will may come!”
On page 68 Mark Batterson goes on to say, “Cornelius had a vision one day at three in the afternoon. The next afternoon, Peter had a perplexing vision while praying on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s house. He saw a large sheet filled with animals, reptiles, birds, and the Lord said to Peter, ‘Kill and eat.’ You’ve got to love Peter’s response: ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter rebukes Jesus. But before you criticize Peter, realize that we often do the same thing when God gives us a dream that is beyond our ability to comprehend…Scripture says he was ‘Very perplexed.’ Why? Because the vision was in direct violation of everything he had ever known. Jewish dietary laws forbade eating unclean animals…It’s at this place where God wants to do something unprecedented that many of us get stuck spiritually. Instead of operating by faith, we switch back to our default setting of logic. Instead of embracing the new move of God, we fall back into the rut of our old routines.”
Peter did not let logic over-power the vision that God had given him. He stepped out in faith. He took a chance. Look again at the definition of “chance” above. Peter “risked his reputation by breaking every law in the Jewish books and stepping foot into Cornelius’s house. It was unprecedented because it was considered unclean…the nanosecond that Peter crossed the threshold, all Gentiles were given complete access to the gospel. If you are not Jewish, your spiritual genealogy traces back to this moment…every Gentile who comes to faith in Jesus Christ is an answer to the prayer circle that Peter drew one afternoon on the rooftop of Simon the tanners house…
“If you are not open to the unprecedented, you will repeat history. If you are open to the unprecedented, you will change history. The difference is prayer.”
Oh, and by the way…before Jesus changed Peter into a disciple, his name was also Simon which means “sinking sand”. Simon who became Peter became a new man in Christ. “Peter” means “rock”.
“Levi” the horrible and hated tax collector became “Matthew” meaning “gift of God”
…”Saul” the horrible and hated persecutor of Christians became “Paul”…”humble”
It isn’t a coincidence that these and others in the Bible received new names to reflect that they had become new men. It was a tangible sign…a reminder to them and to others of the change in their life. But we don’t change our name…so how can we show people there is a tangible change that has happened in our life? We can’t keep on doing the same old same old if we have really changed. If we want people to see that God is working in us, then we have to live like God is working in us. We have to show it and not keep it hidden because we are afraid of what others will think.
I admit, a few years ago I would cringe if someone said to me…”I am praying for you.” I had a knee jerk reaction…a judgmental reaction that made me think NEGATIVE thoughts about them…simply because they said they would pray for me! I assumed they were self-righteous, using words loosely that they did not truly intend, or evangelical…and for this girl raised by Liberal Academic types that was NOT a compliment. But I didn’t understand then what “Evangelical” really means:
1: of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels
I am not a Fundamentalist or a CRAZY…but I suppose I am a zealot and a crusader…and I understand something else now that I didn’t truly understand before… It matters. How we live…what we do…what we show others…
and…PRAYING IS REAL. “I am praying for you” does not have to mean empty words. In fact, it is one of the kindest things that we can do for another. If my prayer and the prayer of others is “input” into a Power source that will yield and “Output” in amazing ways. We can count on that. It is not coincidence. And while we are trusting God to hear our prayers…we can also show our love to the object of our prayers by being available with our time or talent or service also.
Why does this matter? Why does it matter to me that the church reading was the same as my book story? Because it isn’t enough to “preach to the choir”. It isn’t enough to have Christian conversations in church and among “safe” friends that we already know have a relationship with God. We have to go outside of our comfort zone…we have to act on visions and GO! We have to stop sitting in the fishing boat and enjoying the view or just being along for the ride. We have to cast our nets…and I am not talking about a tiny hand-held crabber.
John 21:1-6 “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’
‘No,’ they answered.
He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”
We are supposed to be FISHERS of MEN. We are supposed to cast our nets out…out of our house and our church. I have big dreams. Do you have big dreams? Do your dreams involve taking a chance for the Glory of God? That is why we are here.