July 17

by Dayne Scanlon

Psalm 27:4 - ONE THING TO SEEK

Theme: Faith - being WITH GOD - the presence of God

Acts 3:1-10

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

There are a million ministry implications in this story. Let’s look at a few.

1. Ministry is always an interruption.

Peter and John were actually on their way to do something holy. Both men had walked with Jesus and were devout in their observance of holy things.
Going to the temple was a huge deal for Jewish men such as themselves- they would essentially go into the temple and encounter God through a series of rituals. They were granted entrance into the temple most likely because they were clean, upstanding citizens who had something to offer.
The temple was supposed to be a place where humanity was made holy and was cleansed of their sin, but the temple had become, over time, way for the religious elite to gain wealth and power. The temple had now become a place where nearness to God wasn’t granted through humble repentance, but through a good enough (and expensive enough) sacrifice. What this meant, ultimately, is that over time only the rich were granted access to the temple.
Those who entered into the temple paid no mind to those outside the temple because they were not seen as worthy enough to enter the temple.
This beggar was not part of the ritual Peter and John had arrived to take part in- he was an interruption to what they had come to do.
The poor (financially, spiritually, or emotionally) in our community will always seem like interruptions to our lives until we realize that the poor in our community are the whole focus of ministry.
Does going out to serve today feel like an inconvenience to you?
Real ministry always disrupts what is comfortable to us.

2. Ministry closes the distance between others and God.

Think about the beggar at the gate of the temple.
His position outside the temple implies what we already talked about- he was not allowed entrance inside the temple. There was a divide between him and God.
Every day, he watched as people walked (a constant reminder of what he was physically unable to do) into the presence of God.
Still, the place he chose to beg wasn’t in the town square, or near a busy market, or amphitheater- it was just outside the temple. This man desired nearness to God, so he got as close as he could.
The beautiful thing about Peter and John restoring his ability to walk is that the first place his new ability took him was straight into the temple, where God was.
Many times, in ministry, what we’re called to restore is not financial, or physical, but spiritual.
Our duty is the same as Peter and John- make a way for people to encounter God.
Maybe someone you know was hurt by the church, and your role in their life is to represent the heart of Jesus.
Maybe someone in your community feels completely unworthy to encounter God, so they- like the beggar- settle for something just outside of the presence of God. Your role is simple: present the good news that through Christ, there is no condemnation!

3. Ministry understands the gift that matters, and gives it freely.

In ancient times, there wasn’t really any such thing as a “free gift”. Every gift required something in return. If it was believed that someone would be unable to repay the gift, a gift simply wouldn’t be given to that person. It was actually seen as foolish to offer a gift to someone who couldn’t repay.
Additionally, it was believed that what the recipient of the gift did with the gift represented the person who gave it. It reflected poorly on the giver if the recipient didn’t live up to the gift.
This beggar was outside the temple, crushed under the reality that he would never be able to repay anyone who gave to him. In fact, he knew that it would be shameful for someone to give anything to him.
But this is not so with the way of Christ.
Peter and John stop, look him in the eye, and give him something he never even dreamed of receiving.
Peter and John knew that simply offering this man money would mean that this man owed them a debt, and therefore it was not a true gift.
However, the gift of Jesus Christ completely reverses everything we think about gifts. Jesus reverses the idea of the gift because he gave us something no-one could ever repay. As a result, followers of Jesus are indebted to him. The debt we owe is our lives. When we truly receive and understand the gift of Christ, we realize that the only the we have to offer is the only thing we have of value: life with Jesus.

Now, the chances of us passing by someone outside the church who can’t walk and is asking for money may or may not happen, but we should be thinking about the gift we’ve been given and how it applies to those in our communities.
What bridges do we need to build that will allow someone to encounter the presence of God?

Most people, like the beggar in this story, don’t know what to ask for because they either think they don’t have access to it, or they are so used to a certain way of living that they don’t believe anything could help.
We all know people who need hope that doesn’t fade.
We all know people who need to know that they are loved and valued.
We all know people who need to hear that they have a seat at the table.

Through Christ, we only have one thing to give- himself.
Give freely, friends.

John 6:35
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Matthew 7:11
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

Think about someone you know who has walked with Jesus for a long time.
I’m thinking of a professor in his mid-70’s who has pastored pastors for decades.
Do you notice how boldly people like that pray? There’s no excuses, no sense of doubt, just bold, big prayers.
Our faith in God only grows through making room in our lives to be in his presence.
This might look like spending time searching scripture, or it might look like going on a walk and waiting for him to speak, or it may look like praising God on your own.

We often think of faith as the absence of fear and doubt, but it’s actually a repurposing of our fear and doubt.
So many times we fail to pray big prayers and trust good with the significant things in our lives because we’re just unfamiliar with who he is.
We’re humans, so we’re naturally skeptical of people we don’t know who promise us big things.

So there are two challenges today:
  1. For the next twelve days, spend time in the presence of God, increasing by 5 minutes each day.
    Day one will be 5 minutes, day two will be 10 minutes, day three 15 minutes, and so on.
    See what happens when you protect this time and sacrifice other things to make room for this time.
  2. On the twelfth day, pray with boldness for something that seems impossible. After leaving room for time in his presence, your prayers have a tendency of drifting toward God’s will.
    I imagine this prayer will involve someone in your life. Someone who is far from God, or a broken home situation that seems beyond fixing.
    Get into the habit of committing this impossible thing to prayer, and then be ready for God to point you to action.
    God’s fulfillment of prayers we lift up to him will rarely not involve us.