Just this morning, as Sarah (my oldest daughter) was getting ready for school, she said, “Do you remember those vanilla ice cream bars they used to sell at Costco? I think my school is now selling them in the lunchroom and I’m going to get one today!”
We can save the conversation about a school selling ice cream for another time. What got me excited was how excited she was about vanilla ice cream. She didn’t want the one dipped in chocolate. No sprinkles. No nuts.
She was excited about vanilla.
But it’s so plain. So ordinary. So…well…vanilla.
Quick Side Note: Here’s a tiny – but amazing – thing that happened. I had already planned to base this post on the verse I’m about to share. I normally block out Monday mornings to write. Due to various circumstances, I didn’t get my writing time Monday morning. As I was pondering this post, I was really struggling with how to start it. The mini-conversation with Sarah about vanilla ice cream bars happened on Tuesday morning.
Before sharing the “one verse,” here’s a quick summary of Acts 3:1-4:12…
- Peter and John heal a crippled beggar.
- Peter and John tell the crowd Jesus actually did the healing.
- The religious people don’t like all this “Jesus talk” and throw Peter and John in jail for the night.
- In the morning they ask Peter and John, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”
- Peter says, “Hmmm…I think I’m going to go with…JESUS!”
Now for one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible – Acts 4:13 (NIV):
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
I love this verse! It is encouraging, challenging, empowering, and a perspective shift – all in two sentences. Whenever I read this verse, it completely resets my approach to reading and studying the Bible.
First…the perspective too many of us have.
Do you feel like you know the Bible well enough? Or…like so many…do you find yourself frequently telling yourself, “I should read the Bible more. I should know it better. I should be more consistent.”?
I meet very few people who don’t find all these “should” statements entering too frequently into their inner conversation. How about you?
Too often, we think that knowledge will lead to boldness. We believe that once we understand the Bible more, God will be able to use us. Once we have taken a Spiritual Gifts Course, or read a few more apologetics books, then we will have enough answers to speak up for Jesus boldly.
Second…the perspective we need to cultivate.
Do you see the words and phrases used to describe Peter and John?
“no special training in the Scriptures”
Don’t quote me on this, but I think the original Greek of the word “ordinary” might be “vanilla.” (wink)
You and I read the Bible and see Peter as a rock or pillar of the early church. We see John as “the one Jesus loved.” We see them as anything but vanilla. But that’s who they were.
Peter and John were regular, ordinary, vanilla guys.
No special training. No educational, financial, or positional clout.
And now the clincher…
Did you notice the last phrase in the verse?
…they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
And there it is. The focus of it all. Being with Jesus.
You are not going to the Word for “special training.” The purpose isn’t to become extraordinary. After all, Jesus is in the business of using our ordinariness to display His extraordinariness. (BTW – I looked those up and they are real words!)
You are going to the Word to be with Jesus. To hang out with Him. To get to know Him. To foster the relationship you said “yes” to 40 years ago – or 40 minutes ago.
You’ve heard me say it before (and you’ll hear me say it again many times): God’s desire is for you to study the Bible relationally…not just informationally.
Hmmm…that vanilla ice cream bar is starting to sound pretty good…