Acts 4: Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message.
The “silver and gold have I none” healing of the lame man gets the attention of everyone, including the religious leaders. Peter and John are arrested for starting a riot, but the city has caught “miracle fever” and the leaders are in danger of having a real riot on their hands if they don’t let the “miracle workers” go. The disciples are seriously warned to stop talking about Jesus and then let go. Victoriously, they return to the gathering of believers, telling all that has happened. Knowing that these leaders don’t make idle threats, the Church goes to prayer. On one hand, they ask the Lord to deal with their threats. On the other hand, they ask him to fill them with “fearless confidence in preaching.” If the Lord will, then, they seek an easy path in proclaiming Jesus. However, easy or not, they ask for boldness in telling about him. Luke reports that as they pray there’s a “mini-Pentecost” as the ground trembles and the Holy Spirit re-fills them. Out the doors they go in Pentecostal power to tell the story of Jesus. It may be that we go about this “telling” business all wrong. We tend to focus on the “make it easy for me” part rather than the “make me bold” part. There’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to open the way, after all, that’s what happens in this passage. However, we might just see a more powerful display of the Holy Spirit in our lives if we backed it up by praying the “easy or not, make me more bold” part of the prayer.
Take Away: Maybe we lack boldness because we don’t ask for it.
Giving credit where credit is due
Acts 3: Faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.
Peter and John are on their way to a prayer meeting when they encounter a pitiful lame man at the Temple gate. Peter has no money but he does have faith in Jesus’ power to heal. By that faith the man is wonderfully healed. This healing causes quite a commotion and a crowd gathers. It’s now that Peter brings a quick sermon giving Jesus all the glory for the healing and calling on his listeners to put their faith in this Jesus who makes a real difference in people’s lives. As I watch all this unfold I can’t help but wonder how good a job I do of giving Jesus the credit. Here’s what I think: Christians do a wonderful job of giving the Lord credit for organized, intentional ministries. We make sure that people helped through official channels know that we’re ministering to them in Jesus’ name. On the other hand, I don’t think we do a very good job when we minister in unofficial ways. I fear that often people just think we’re nice folks because we take it for granted that they know we’re acting as representatives of Jesus. We need to develop a better strategy along these lines. I need to come up with a line to say when, for instance, I stop to help my neighbor carry some bit of heavy trash to the curb for pickup. When he says “thanks” I need to be ready to say something about my being a follower of Jesus and I just try to do stuff I think he’d do. It may not always be appropriate and it’s probably not a time for me to preach a sermon like Peter does in this passage, but then again, helping carry a worn out clothes dryer to the curb isn’t as big a deal as healing someone like he did.
Take Away: Christians need a strategy for giving Jesus the credit for simple acts of kindness they do it his name.
He measures up
John 10: Everything he said about this man has come true.
The situation with the religious leaders in Jerusalem is about to come to a full boil so Jesus withdraws, out of their reach before making one last trip to that city. He returns to where his ministry began, out in the wilderness along River Jordan. It was here that John the Baptizer introduced Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. In ways similar to what happened in his earlier ministry in Galilee, people are drawn to Jesus and now they come in droves. In this setting the crowds can’t help but remember John’s glowing predictions concerning Jesus, made right here just a few years earlier. They conclude that John nailed it. Jesus is everything John said he would be. There’s something powerful about telling people about Jesus. Even as we make our pitifully inadequate effort to tell the story it’s Spirit-powered. Then, the moment our hearer looks toward Jesus something begins to happen in their lives. As it was with John, our role instantly begins to shrink and the role of Jesus begins to expand in their lives. Still, it’s deeply gratifying, yet humbling at the same time, when someone takes a moment to glance back our way and comment, “That’s the person who first told me about Jesus.” I want to do a better job of pointing the way to all who will listen.
Take away: There’s something powerful about telling people about Jesus.
Journey to sight
John 9: “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.
His journey to physical sight contained multiple steps. He began the day blind, listening to a conversation between Jesus and his disciples about himself and his pitiful condition. Then, Jesus turns his full attention to himself. The Lord takes common dirt, spits in it to make a sort of mud plaster, and sends him to “Sent Pool” to wash. He obeys and he sees! Now, he finds himself at the heart of an inquiry being conducted by the religious leaders. In amazing callousness they’re more interested in the fact that the healing took place on the Sabbath than they are in the healing itself. When the once blind man is asked about his healer, he says he is a man named Jesus. Later on, he’s had time to think about what has happened, and when he’s asked a second time about his healer, he upgrades him from merely being a man who made mud to proclaiming him to be a prophet of God. Then, when he’s pressed on the issue yet again, he decides his healer ought to have disciples, that he’s a man from God. Finally, when he literally sees Jesus for the first time at their second meeting, he worships him. His journey to spiritual sight has taken multiple steps and he’s now ready to worship. Obviously, this spiritual journey is extraordinary. Still, in this story we’re reminded that people come to the Lord step by step. Who knows? My part in someone’s journey might simply be to direct them down the block to “Sent Pool.” Someone else will help them at other key points of their spiritual journey.
Take Away: Clearly, there is a crisis point in which people declare Jesus as “Master” in their life, but there are also plenty of other less dramatic points in that journey too.
Putting Jesus on display
1Peter 2: Treat everyone with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
Being a Christian in a non-Christian society has its challenges. Sometimes Christians are viewed with suspicion and other times with contempt. Peter says it’s up to us to correct the mistaken views of our faith. We do that, not by standing up for our rights or debating to prove our point or by withdrawing from society. Instead, we take our spiritual lives out to the streets and let our faith be seen by anyone who cares to look. We treat people well, granting them dignity no matter what their station in life. We treat one another well, refusing to sink to petty infighting over minor differences of opinion. We live as people who reverence God, unashamedly putting our high regard for the Lord on display. Finally, we conduct ourselves as good citizens, not using our citizenship of heaven as an excuse for neglecting our duties as citizens of the country in which we live. The result is that people who don’t know much about our religion will come to respect us. That, in turn, will open the door for us to have a real influence for Jesus. We don’t try to win people by beating them over their heads with our Bibles. Rather, we win them by putting the Jesus we serve on display in our lives every day and in every situation.
Take Away: People are drawn to lives that reflect the real Jesus.