Carried! His Mother had carried him nine months, and for the four decades since, he had been carried by most of his relatives at different times. He was gaunt, and lean, never having much interest in the festivities and meal times. He spent all day, every day, laying outside the temple, watching people. Food was the last thing on his mind when he got home. When the table was spread, even before his mother had the food finished, he talked, filling her ears with all the busy-ness of the city and the temple. Her eyes twinkled as she busied herself with the evening meal, listening to the animated voice of her firstborn, the family story teller. She loved him so, and would have carried him till the day he died if he needed her.
He enjoyed this attention, reveled in it. He loved to hear the sound of his voice, to see her eyes dart toward him intent on each word, to hear her catch her breath in surprise at some surprising bit of his stories. He always felt no one really listened to him at the temple gate. God-fearers! They seemed to be more afraid to meet the gaze of a scrawny crippled man, than of the God they professed to revere! No, they were careful to not look into his eyes and see his pain, for then they might have to hear his voice crying out for alms. They may even have to ante up on the challenge of their faith. That might be too much religion for them, he was sure.
Turning his head toward to gate, he noticed that a crowd was gathering, and the sun reminded him that it was almost the hour of prayer. Collecting his hat in his wispy, twisted fingers, he noted that he had been remiss in calling out for much of the past hour as he daydreamed. With an exasperated voice, he began a desperate call, intending to make up for lost time in the rush hour crowd. “Alms, alms! Help me please kind lady! Sir, throw a cent for a poor beggar like myself! Dear family, has God blessed you? Then share with the likes of me! Help me, please!” No one seemed to be paying him any attention at all, and they scurried past the faster. So, he called out even louder. “Alms, please, alms! Help me! I am but a poor beggar! Look at me… take pity! Lend me your hearts. Alms, please…please sir!”
With those last words, the beggar had felt the swish of a man’s cloak as he stopped in his tracks, and turned toward him. Finally! Someone was listening to him. Looking deep into the kind man’s eyes, the beggar smiled and held out his hat in his left hand, expecting to receive a gift. “Look at us! I have nothing made out of silver or gold, but I will give you what I have… in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!”
Then the man did the strangest thing, right there in front of his friend and the others who had paused to see the exchange. He reached out his right hand to the crippled beggar. As their fingers touched, the crippled man felt a surge of power course straight through his body to the soles of his feet. His hat fell to the ground, coins rolling across the pavement and landing at the feet of people who were by this point standing stark still, motionless with their mouths open! Suddenly, his feet and ankles felt strong…stronger than they had ever felt in his life.
Leaping up, as if on the end of a taught strand of cord, he stood straight upright, walked three steps forward as the giver stepped back, and bending at the knees he leaped… sling-shotted into the air. Landing on one foot, he broke into a mad dash before the other ever hit the ground. Running from one side of the courtyard to the other, he slapped several folks on the back, threw his arms around the necks of others, and spun them around before dancing off across the courtyard again… around and around he ran in circles. The crowd that had gathered now was laughing, as his joy contagiously coursed through them. Had they not seen him day after day? Was this not the lame man who sat at the gates begging for his keep?
A surge of shock was rippling through the crowd, as the news spread to those who were already inside the temple. “It’s the lame man…you know… the beggar by the gate… he’s walking!” The words reverberated through the temple courtyard, and penetrated deep into the temple, where some who heard could not believe their ears. It was the religious teachers and leaders of the temple. They debated among themselves what was to be done about the fact that the miracles were not over with; had not died with the Healer.
Meanwhile, the beggar had wrapped his arms around the givers, for they were two of the disciples of Jesus, Peter and John themselves. As he hugged them, and cried for joy, they led him towards the temple, laughing for joy. By the time they got as far as Solomon’s Porch, a crowd was thronging them, with everyone aghast at the miracle they had just witnessed. It was too much to believe. They had known this man for more than forty years… they knew his family. He was crippled!
The young preacher Peter realized that people were shocked at the sight of a man healed with such miraculous explosive power, and began to explain how he had not been the one at all to heal him…Jesus had healed the man. Jesus was no longer dead. He had arisen, and his power had been given to his followers to heal the sick. As he preached, to the crowds, several ladies were beginning to come back out of the court of the women to see what was happening. Among them were the four daughters of Phillip, and the ladies from “the Way.” Hours passed as the men preached, and many were converted to the faith. Then the religious teachers and leaders of the temple came out, and insisted that the crowd be broken up. Hearing with their own ears the name of Jesus, that terrorist rebel they themselves had crucified just weeks before, they seized the young preachers and hauled them off to spend the night in jail. But, the men of the young movement gathered together another 5,000 believers from the crowds that day.
One of those was the beggar, a changed man! He ran all the way home to tell his family the good news. And, who knows what great work he did for the kingdom of God, after experiencing the dynamite power of Jesus Christ in his hand, and feet, and heart, and health?! ******************* Related Scriptures used to build the telling. Joel 2:23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he has given you the former rain faithfully, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. (NKJV) Acts 3:25 You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (NKJV) Acts 21:8-9 The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. (NLT) Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (NKJV)
****This is the final in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." It is also the culmination of the last series on the Power of Pentecost. For the complete story, check out the Spiritual Fiction tab here on my website at “Healed and Whole.” Remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
(Below is my page as it appears in code. Neat!)
<head><title>Reason 2 Believe Him</title><head>
<h1>I have not been fishing with bait in years.</h1> In recent years I just look at the fish in the water, or take their picture. Under normal circumstances, fishing is only fun if you catch something.
<h2>Usually,</h2> I write my blog in normal text into the blog frame and it is converted to html by the program I use. I also copy and paste code in smatterings for my podcast page, which must be written entirely in code. This means I have to try to decode code from other pages to figure out which code does what features. I learned to recognize bits and pieces of code that way.<hr>
<h3>Tonight,</h3> I am learning to write html code myself. So, I am practicing by writing my page in code. If the text seems unusual that is because I am experimenting with different techniques.<hr>
<h1 align=center>Go fish!</h1><font size="+2">I read a blog the other night by a friend with this title. He writes a blog called “Get Up With God.” </h1>
<p>He mentioned the first and last words of Jesus to His disciples, and I had never really thought about it that way. Of course, they were clearly evangelical words and central to the idea of the Gospel.</p>
<p><b>Matthew 4:19</b><i> “And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”</i><br>
<p><b>Matthew 28:18-20</b><i> “ And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.</i><br>
<p><h2 align=left><a href=”http://getupwithgod.com/evangelism/go-fish/” target="_blank">Visit Get Up With God</a></h>
<h1 align=right><img src=" http://webattic.weebly.com/uploads/7/1/7/7/7177683/7523354_orig.jpg" width="600" height="200" alt="FISH"></h>
<p> <h4 align=left>This got me to thinking, Jesus and the disciples had to be really sold out types. They weren’t just fishing with poles and hooks, afterall. They were a lot like the guys at the gym who leave a trail and puddles of sweat all the way to the shower room when they climb off the bikes. They were professional fishermen. They used nets because they planned to haul in the fish. They were at it to win it!<p>
<p>Now, Jesus didn’t call pro fishermen to sit on the bank with a pole and a drink in their hands. He told Peter at one point to “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4
In Matthew 17:27 He instructed Peter to take a line and hook to catch one single fish and find a coin in its mouth to pay the taxes. Jesus cares as much for the one as he does the masses. But, He sent us out to the whole world. Being wise as serpents and harmless as doves, (Matthew 10:16) we need to choose the best tools for the job. Sometimes we will be reaching out to one person, to take care of their needs. Other times, we will find ourselves in need of a network of resources to reach the masses. In these last days, it’s time to <b>launch out into the deep with our nets. </b> And, I have launched out with my first full page of code J </h></p>
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD has appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have
loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn
God has a history and a way of bringing restoration and forgiveness to those he loves. Notice in the selections that follow that God is seen as the Father of His people.
Jeremiah 31:7 For thus says the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob,
and shout among the chief of the nations: proclaim, give praise, and say, O
LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.
Jeremiah 31:9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications
will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a
straight way, in which they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and
Ephraim is my firstborn.
Jeremiah 31:12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of
Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for grain, and for
wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their
soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at
Jeremiah 31:13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men
and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort
them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
God is always receptive to those who have fallen away. I have had people ask me before if God will forgive backsliders. I think the answer is clear from the beginning of Genesis.
Genesis 3:21 God is seen behaving as the father of the Prodigal Son. He clothed His fallen children. They are still His son and His daughter you see? This is not an angry Father, but a sad Father. He is cleaning up their mess. Yes, we all get into a mess now and then don't we? Even after salvation. But, the important thing is whether or not you turn to Dad for help when you fall.
Remember Judas? Remember Peter? Both betrayed Jesus. But, Judas hanged himself. Peter cried and clung to the risen Christ. Do you ever hear the word Peter used as a name for betrayel? No, but to be called a Judas is the same as being accused of betrayel. God is perfect and can forgive perfectly before Judgment Day. In the same way, a man on death row can beg clemency from the Governor, up until the moment he is executed. After that moment it is too late.
Does it crucify Jesus anew for Backsliders to come back to Him? Hebrews 6:4 There is much debate about this passage, but I see a difference between the apostate and most backsliders. Note that the passage is speaking of types of teaching fit for different levels of growth among Christians. Look in Hebrews 6:1 where Paul tells the believers they don't need teaching on repentance and faith, like the Galatians or Corinthians for example. They have been in the church for some time. They were Hebrew converts, and not Gentiles. They needed the teaching he names in Hebrews 6:2 specifically: the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. He explains that you can't teach backsliders to repent or have faith. They have been there, done that.
It takes something else altogether to bring a backslider back to Jesus. They have willingly turned away from Jesus after knowing Him. The question is, did they renounce Jesus or did they "fall away?" I don't believe anyone who spoke against Jesus would want to come back. But, many people just look around one day and realize they haven't been to church in awhile. Satan leads them out bit by bit; a missed service here, and a Sunday at the lake there. And, sometimes they only became hurt by individual people. They have "fallen away" as Paul says in Hebrews. It is like a woman who has seperated from her husband. She has already fallen into love with her husband and fallen out of love with him again. He can't make her see him for who he is all over again. She will never look at him again and say, "Wow! Who is that man?" She knows him. But, it is obvious she can take him back, and women often do. It takes a conscious decision to receive him back on her part. She has to undecide to leave, or redecide to love him. And, all the while, her act of loving him again will point to the question of why she left to start with.
In the situation of the backslider, for a backslider to come back to Jesus, His blood is again applied to the life of the re-newed Christian. This points to the crucifixion all over again. Though there are scars there, they can heal with time. But, the backslider always knows he betrayed Jesus... just like Peter. And Judas "went and hanged himself..." Matthew 27:5 But, not Peter. Remember Peter "went out, and wept bitterly." Luke 22:62 One will be in heaven. The other is already lost.
Men and women in the Bible were simply human...interacting with a God. We have many accounts of great exploits and heroic faith recorded, but most Bible believers had some major faults or problems recorded as well. I can't think of any who were perfect, except maybe Daniel. (And, surely his problems were merely unrecorded.) Even John the Baptist had poor social skills; eating grasshoppers, living in the desert, and calling people names. I don't imagine many bedouins have excellent table manners.
It seems the greater men, the ones held in higher regard, had more faults listed. Like Moses, we see that God was able to do a great work through him, despite his many weaknesses and flaws.
The twelve apostles were a ragged lot, not highly esteemed among their peers. Judas was greedy and disloyal. Peter was rash and often foolish. Doubting Thomas must have been slow-minded, if not mildly mentally handicapped, from some of the statements he made and the way he misunderstood simple figures of speech used in the common language that Jesus used.
Noah got drunk on unmixed "strong wine" not long after the flood and passed out naked. I'm sure he knew better. Lot got drunk twice after being delivered from the burning Sodom and Gomorrah, with incestous results. Genesis 19:33-36
Even the great Apostle Paul was frequently recorded as being stubborn, rash, and thick-headedly inflexible. To begin with, we see him supervising the stoning of Steven in the book of Acts, in the name of Heaven. He continued to violently harass the early church, stoned and arrested Christians, and vented his human rage on those whose doctrine differed with his. I wonder what made him such an angry man? I wonder what he encountered in his early years that made him express his passion for God so violently? Maybe his Father was abusive and violent. Or, perhaps there was an ex-wife in the picture. He mistakenly took this human rage to be the zeal of God. But, he quickly found himself up against Jesus Christ Himself.
He spoke harshly and brassly about having got in Peter's face about Peter's prejudices and inconsistencies against the gentiles. He argued with Barnabas about allowing John Mark to resume his junior missionary field work, after John Mark's desertion. This seems quite selfish and petty when you consider how kind Barnabas had been to Paul immediately after Paul's conversion; taking the murderous Saul/Paul under his wings, and urging the other disciples to accept him in the church. I like the kind Mr. Joseph Barnabas! His name means Son of Encouragement. Acts 4:36 He was often seen encouraging others.
We could argue that Paul's goal was not to "Win Friends and Influence People," but to spread the gospel message. Yet, when you compare Jesus' methods to Paul's, you see quite a bit more discord sown in Paul's path. As a side note, Ministers often have different preaching styles. Before you think that a man who is spitting and shouting has more anointing than the Preacher who speaks calmly and quietly, with his hands in his pockets, remember of which sort Jesus often was when preaching. Kerygma, the Greek noun for the Preaching (Kerusso is the act of Preaching/Verb form,) is worship, and like worship preaching comes in many forms, and is a unique expression of the individual giving the gift.
One event in Paul's ministry particularly stands out as totally irrational and bizarre. He was on his first missionary journey, covering Acts 13, 14. He and Barnabas had gone through Cyprus Island with some success, but had more trouble when they reached the mainland. The men of Antioch weren't all agreeable. (Incidentally, for those who like to point out the way women were even prone to arguing in the Bible like Euodias and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2, :) notice that men were prone to throwing big rocks at people.) By the time Paul got a few sermons in at Iconium, they were mad enough to plot together to stone him. Acts 14:5
Paul and Barnabas decided to skip town quickly, as they hadn't yet been beaten or stoned, and didn't seem to desire that outcome. Then they began preaching in Derbe and Lystria, where they healed a man born crippled, through the power of Jesus' name. The people were in awe of the disciples after witnessing that miracle, and decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Jupiter, and Paul was Mercury, since he was the main speaker of the preaching pair. Then the local priest of Jupiter brought in garlands and cows to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas.
This was just too much for Paul's and Barnabas's Jewish sentiments and their fierce devotion to the one true God. The Bible records that the two men tore their own clothes and ran among the people, putting a stop to the worship. Acts 14:15.
Tearing and shredding of clothes was not uncommon in those barbaric days, but was a way to show intense sorrow or anguish. The Jewish are often intensely outwardly emotional people, culturally. But, even then people could be shocked and put off at excesses of zeal. This fact can be illustrated by looking at the time the prophet Samuel chopped the hostage King Agag to bits with his sword, because God had commanded the Israelites to take no hostages in that particular battle. We know Samuel's passionate zeal was a shock to the people because we see that his own people shortly after that trembled at his presence when Samuel came to town to anoint David king. 1 Samuel 16:4
Back to the case of Paul shredding his clothes, we see intense expressions of anger. It can be inferred that Paul was not merely saddened, but deeply angered because of the use of the word "vanities." Paul was calling their deeds foolish. Coupled with the way they ran in among them, you quickly see that Paul found it easier to let his emotions show, than to control his temperament.
Now, Paul had already made the men in Iconium mad, and they followed him here and stirred up the people who Paul had just offended to stone Paul. The Bible doesn't say that Barnabas was stoned with him. Only Paul. This seems reasonable since we know that Paul did most of the talking. Also, as we see later when Paul and Barnabas argue over John Mark, Barnabas is a tender, sensitive man. He appeared to be gifted at making friends. Paul, conversely, appeared to be gifted at making enemies.
There is no way to explain away the fact that they participated in the act of shredding their own clothes in anger. This was not a reasonable response or reaction to the ignorance of those who don't know God. Even if you consider it as a cultural norm for that day and age, you know that Paul had to know better than shredding his own clothes in a fit of rage. Surely, he felt some shame and remorse for that afterwards, (or at least by the time they were finished stoning him.)
Here you had Paul, who considered worship of false gods a heathenistic practice, yet he was ripping his own clothes like the heathen. This behavior was inconsistent, to say the least.
But, we all have our inconsistencies, don't we? Many good Christian people struggle with feelings of anger and rage that can be uncontrollable. Many pastors like to use the term "goals" to describe the behavior we know we should be displaying as Christians. In other words, it is our goal as Christians to grow in the fruit of the Spirit and learn to control our anger, if that is what we struggle with. Sometimes you may fail in weak areas, but you have to allow God to pick you back up and you have to keep striving towards mastery of your weaknesses. If you haven't overcome any of your weaknesses, then you are still drowning or wallowing in sin. Otherwise, what has God saved you from?
God knows exactly what he is doing with your circumstances. When things are happening, that's a sure sign God is working in your life. Remember how Paul felt in prison? Yes, he had visitors, but he sent them out to preach the gospel, not being satisfied with his own quota of words spoken for Jesus' account. Apparantly, he couldn't say enough to satisfy the fire shut up in his bones. Jeremiah 20:9
The aged Paul was incarcerated, yet carried on a ministry from prison. 2 Timothy 4:10:17 He had Demas, Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus, all young ministers responsible to him, stationed at different communities nearby, spreading the gospel. He appeard to be very lonely, as anyone would be sitting in a nasty jail cell. And only Dr. Luke was in town with him at that point. He would have probably sent him out preaching if he hadn't needed a doctor for his frequent ailments. (And, Luke did often preach... an evangelist.)
But, more than Paul's lonliness comes out in this little passage. The Coppersmith, along with the other craftsmen, were the ones who stood in court against Paul, since he was bad for business. Much of their craft was in the production of idols, and Paul revealed the ignorance of worshipping idols in his sermons, thereby cutting demand. It seems that the would-be witnesses for the defense were in short supply as Paul stood trial and gave his answer. But, notice he listed the Lord as the only witness who stood up with him, giving him strength to reveal the Gospel on trial.
It was getting cold weather, and Paul was often cold at night, to have thought about the cloak he had left at Troas the previous Spring. You can almost hear the sweet fatherly pleading in Paul's voice for his "son-in-the-gospel" Timothy to bring him his cloak and his books. He missed having those books, and especially the nice parchments. How nice it would be to have something to read here in this dark cell all alone. The Bible parchments would be wonderful!
Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:9 that though he was locked up, the word of God was not locked up with him. Psalm 147:15 God's Words can run from a cold, lonely prison cell, and reach the corners of the earth. When you face trials and struggles, remember the purpose of God behind your suffering. Jeremiah reminds you that God has been thinking about you, and He's got a plan... Jeremiah 29:11
But, the biggest gem here in Paul's plea is that he asked for Mark to be brought into his service of the gospel; John Mark, who apparantly ran away naked the night Jesus was arrested. (The soldiers tried to arrest Mark too, but he ran so fast he slipped out of his robe the soldier had grabbed.) Mark 14:51-52 Mark had also gone with Paul and Barnabas on their first Missionary journey, but turned back when they reached the mainland, for what reason we can only imagine. (It may have had something to do with the stoning and beatings Paul so often received by people who heard him preach, or maybe the "wild beasts" they encountered.) We do know that Paul was angry about Mark deserting the field, and later when Barnabus wanted to take the repentant Mark on the second journey with them, Paul and Barnabas came to a head about the matter. Both men stubbornly refused to give in, so Barnabas took Mark and went one way, and Paul took Silas and went another, splitting the field in half, doubling the path of God's word. My how the Gospel runs! Imagine how God can take even our petty squabbles and multiply the Gospel through them.
But, here Paul the prisoner has reached the point of forgiveness and called for Mark to come to him. What changed his mind? Why did he decide Mark would now be profitable for the Gospel? Mark had worked in later years as an assistant for Peter, and had transcribed the book of Mark from not only his firsthand memories, but from what Peter told him, during their later work together. Since Paul and Peter's imprisonment was closely concurrent, Paul would have known about the work Mark did for first Barnabas, and later with Peter. And, I imagine he had a lot of time to think about Mark, all alone there in that cell. Paul suffered greatly, but performed a great ministry for the Lord. His work and words have multiplied throughout the world. We have two-thirds of the New Testament from his pen. We also have most of our procedures for church government, family relationships, and personal conduct from his writings. History records that when Paul was finally condemned to death, and was led across the field to the chopping block on the Ostesian Road, he broke into a run, laying his head down readily for the blade. It seems he had somewhere to go in a hurry.
Acts 3:1-13 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the
hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's
womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called
Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter
and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his
eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting
to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but
such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and
walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his
feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and
entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And
all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he
which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled
with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame
man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them
in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it,
he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why
look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made
this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our
fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in
the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
This is one of my favorite miracles in the Bible. I think a major part of what I love is the lame man's reactions. Notice the bolded and underlined wording in the passage above. I can picture him hugging Peter and John. I can just imagine him walking, and leaping, and praising God. Such a fun story! But, what captures my heart most in this story is Peter's words at the beginning..."Silver and gold have I none...but such as I have give I thee..." I love those words! Peter realized that he had something more valuable than silver and gold. Isn't good health more valuable than gold even in this economy? If you think you are broke now, try having your legs broken, or your eyes blinded, or some other disability. You will really feel broke then. And, often money can't buy a cure for health problems. If I had a million dollars, I would give it all away now to buy my health back. But, no can do. Money is not taken here...not plastic nor cash.
Peter must have felt some sorrow that he could not give the man money, to help him in his sad situation. But, then he seemed to realize he had something even more valuable. But, back up to the beginning. The lame man was not a pretty sight. Yet, there he lay at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. What a sight to see! A lame man laying outside the church everyday begging. This was before welfare, disability, or food stamps existed. Imagine looking him in the eye as you went to church. The lame man wasn't going to be able to solve his problem on his own. The best that he could do was allow himself to be dropped off at the temple each day for forty years to sit and wait for money to be given him to survive on. That must have been a hard living. There had to be days he got nothing.
I've gone too far. It's more than a story when you've heard it for 40 years, as many years as he lay there begging. I think I memorized the first part when I was 7 years old. I feel like this man is a relative and I am so happy to see him healed each time I read it, as if I am witnessing the miracle for the first time. So, I can't finish the words. But, it's not my fault. I ran into the lame man again at church tonight. And, who can speak after witnessing such a miracle?
He stood on the deck of a twenty seven foot craft. He, his brother James, his father Zebedee, and their friend Peter owned two ships between them, enough for their families' livelihood, but today he, James, Peter, Nathanael, Thomas, and a couple of the other disciples had only taken the one ship out, and the fishing had gone poorly. (Thomas was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and Nathanael never appeared to be much help. They should have brought their Dad along...the thundering old sailor with a lifetime of experience!) Not a fish from the nets. As the sun began to peek over the eastern bank, he and the six men with him saw a man standing alone on the shoreline, calling out to them. After an inside tip improves their economic situation, he realizes this man must be none other than Jesus .
Stand once again on the shores of Tiberius, (the Sea of Galilee) at Jesus' side. He sees Peter's fishing boat rolling into shore, with the sunrise. You hear Him exchange words with the men on board, His words bouncing across the water. You witness the miraculous catch of fish. You see Jesus watching every detail. Suddenly you see a man on board straighten from the nets and point in Jesus' direction as the name Jesus floats back over the water in your direction. Who was this man who recognized Jesus' identity on shore?
John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
The disciple Jesus loved? Didn't He love them all? Yes, but look who's doing the talking. And, here we see him at it again describing the cruxifixion...
John 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
And again the resurrection...
John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
And, at the Lord's supper...
John 21:20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
But, if you want to be sure who's doing the talking, read four verses later...
John 21:24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
But why? Why does John identify himself this way? He only sees Himself from the perspective of his relationship with Jesus. And, you know that didn't happen overnight. An attitude or perspective like that takes time to build, when we all are born with an egocentric view on the world. Imagine the events that brought the man to realize that his only identity was in Christ! How do you see yourself?
We read in Jesus' parables of the fact that Jesus gives us each talents, which holds true, even though it was an illustrated fictional story. But, one man in the Gospels stands out even though he wasn't remarked to have any special skills or talents. Andrew, the brother of Peter the fisherman. Jesus and Peter were best friends. Jesus gave peter the keys when He left earth. But, it was Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus.
John 1:40-41 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
As a matter of fact, that's all Andrew is know for, bringing people to Jesus. He was the one the little boy brought his lunch to on the mount. It was Andrew who took the boy's food to Jesus, who He must have believed would do some miracle with the food. Imagine the nerve of bringing such a small offering to Christ! And, what if he hadn't? When the Greeks first approached Phillip asking for an audience with Jesus, Phillip dared not take them to Jesus, but first enlisted Andrew as one crazy enough to take these foreigners to the King of the Jews. Of course, leave it to Andrew to jump in head first with his excitement and zeal over the best thing that had ever happened to him...Jesus the Messiah! Yes, he brought the Greeks to Jesus, and Jesus was glad to see them.
It takes no special gifts at all to tell someone about Jesus and His love. All we have to do is follow the example of the Fisher of Men...call them up. Our influence might make all the difference in this world and the next for one person.
Each country has its own money, or rather has had until the advent of the Euro in this century. I have in my collection some money from Amsterdam, from before the Euro, as well as some Kenyan bills and coins. My son collects all sorts, mostly of the American sort. All of it is actually quite worthless now, let alone if the economys the money is drawn on collapses. In your wallet, you have different denominations of bills, and some are labeled with higher values than others, but they are all just "fiat" money...worth something only because somebody says so. The paper that money is written on is actually worthless. It is the gold behind that money that backs the value.
Jesus' goal on Earth was to establish a people...a church of people called out for the Kingdom. That kingdom is already here, in the sense that we are the kingdom, and it is yet to come in the sense that it will be brought to completion on a day yet to come. We are of this heavenly kingdom, since we were born again into the kingdom. Jesus told peter, Matthew 16:18-19 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. So you can see the here and now, and the later to come of the thing. And, you can see that Jesus is establishing a church in heaven, to which Peter is to enlist from Earth's peoples. Very early on, even in the time of the 12 disciples, people began to split up and form different ideas about Christianity. There is even recorded instances of arguments between churches and ministries and ministers throughout the New Testament. Some issues were only resolved by spliting ways, as with Paul and Barnabas. But, we never read of one saying the other could not go to heaven. I can not picture Peter sticking his tongue out at Paul and shaking the keys in his face, insisting that the gospel is only for the Jews, though Paul did stand in Peter's face and call him a bigot or a hypocrit. Galatians 2:11-12 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
How sad the disciples were to see Jesus go when He ascended up into heaven. But, they soon learned that they were to be filled with the Holy Ghost...God's Spirit inside of them here on Earth. And, either way, we have "God with us." Not only does Emmanuel mean God with Us, but the compound name "Jehovah Shammah" used in the Old Testament in Exodus 48:35 means "the Lord is here." It may seem easy for us to see only one church when Jesus walked Earth. But, if you think about it, that's why the Jews had the Romans kill Jesus...the different denominational sects did not want Him to be the one church head. So, denominationalism goes all the way back into the Old Testament. But, that Heavenly kingdom is the "gold standard" all the denominations are built on here on earth. Just as denominations of money only refer to the gold behind them, church organizations are only representative of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The name Cephas, or Peter meant little rock, or pebble. As Jesus is building his church, he allows us to be a part of the bigger Rock. But, we are still just a piece of the rock...just a tiny pebble you see. It is rare for man to be able to look beyond the keys in his hands to see the majesty of the kingdom of heaven that he is entering with those keys. He sees power in the keys, but fails to recognize what lies beyond, and whose power He holds in his hands. We do not see the glory of God with us in our hands because of the denominational "dollar bills" in our churches. The buck stops here...on Earth...and so do the denominations. Jesus has the gold standard and the one true church of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let me invest myself into that Kingdom and see people won into that Kingdom.
You can't zip right through the Apostle Paul's account of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus. He was never one to mince words, was called wordy with reason, and it's easy to see how he angered many who heard him preach, in and out of religious circles. The words of his critics were often reflected in his writings. He had a bounty on his head posted by the Jewish leaders, and was stoned and beaten by Gentiles and Jews alike. Ultimately, he was executed by the Roman government...he lost his head. Most preachers lose their head at one time or another, and that never goes well. :)
1 Corinthians 15:8-10 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
In Paul's own words we hear him claiming to have both persecuted the church, and to have worked more than all of the other apostles. That last claim couldn't have landed well on Peter's ears, but none of the apostles deny this boast. In fact, Peter has great things to say about Paul's letters, calling him wise in God, learned, and sometimes hard for the average man to understand.
2 Peter 3:15-16 ... even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Paul concludes the summary of Jesus' appearances after the cross with the simple defense, "I am what I am, by the grace of God." It didn't matter how many he persecuted. It didn't matter how late he came into the ministry of Jesus. It didn't matter if his meeting with Jesus came before Calvary or after...he was what he was.
And so are you and I. Just another case of God's little "I AM" applying to His children.