Thursday, April 4, 2024

Faith First


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.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.

Acts 3:6-7

This week’s message is looking at Acts 3, and we’re picking up after a crippled beggar is healed.  But to get the context, we’ll be talking about how the crippled beggar is healed.  Peter and John are walking into the temple, the beggar is sitting just inside, and as Peter and John walk by, he asks them for money. 

This passage I read may very well be the second best known quote from Peter behind Jesus asking who they thought Jesus was, and Peter boldly responds with his “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 

Here, the quote is, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  A lot of us are probably familiar with that passage.  But what struck me as I was preparing the message this week is that the crippled beggar wasn’t healed when Peter said this.  It took an act of faith to bring about God’s healing.  In this case, it was Peter reaching out to the man, taking him by the right hand, and helping up.  Then, we see that instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  And not until then. 

Peter had to show faith by reaching out to the man.  And maybe the man had to show faith by grabbing his hand and trying to get up.  But the important thing that struck me was that the faith had to be shown, before the healing was given.

There are quite a few other examples of this.  Someone being healed, but not until they act in faith.  I’ll just give two examples, the first we’ll look to the old Testament, in 2 Kings 5 and the story of Naaman.  Naaman, a powerful soldier, contracts leprosy.  Naaman’s wife’s servant was a believer, and encouraged Naaman to see the prophet Elisha.  Naaman apparently thinks nothing else has helped, there’s no cure, so I’ll try.  He gets a letter of introduction and safe passage form the king, and he goes. 

Elisha hears that he has come, but he doesn’t go to see him personally, he just sent a messenger telling him to go and wash in the Jordan River 7 times, and he would be healed.  That’s not what Naaman was expecting, and he actually got mad.  Verse 11 says “I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot, and cure me of my leprosy.”  He was looking for something quick and easy.  God wanted to see an act of faith.  So he Elisha to have him wash in the Jordan River 7 times. 

Naaman fought and objected.  The Jordan wasn’t the cleanest of rivers, he even offered to go wash in some cleaner rivers closer to home, but finally conceded, went to the Jordan, and did what he was told.  And when he did, he was healed.  It took that act of faith before the healing came. 

Another example, and we’ll use leprosy again, this one in Luke 17.  Jesus is traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  And as he was walking, ten men with leprosy met him.  They asked for healing, and Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests so they would be declared clean.  The thing is, they weren’t clean.  Jesus didn’t heal them on the spot.  He told them to go and present themselves to the priests.  It wasn’t until they started on their way to see the priests, still sick, still covered in spots, still with leprosy, that they were healed. 

It took a step of faith for them to start on their way to the priests to show that they were clean, when they weren’t clean.  But when they made that step of faith, and started heading to the priests, then were healed, then they were clean.

We can come to Jesus for healing for a variety of things.  Can be health related, financial, relationship issues; anything that concerns us, we’re encouraged to pray over.  And sometimes Jesus just miraculously takes care of it.  But just remember, sometimes he wants to see that act of faith, first.  We need to step out, knowing God’s got this, knowing the healing is coming, even if it’s not here yet.  We need to step out, secure in the knowledge, in the faith, that God is healing even now.

And when God sees that faith, He can heal.

So don’t lose faith.  Just trust that God’s got this, whatever it is.  Just know that He’s already working, and you can trust Him to do what He’s promised.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

What is the Church?

The Apostle Paul would whole-heartedly answer that question as the Body of Christ.  And I think that all of us
would agree with him

But what is the purpose of the Church?  That one is a little more difficult, isn’t it.  Because everyone has a different opinion about that one, and the Bible isn’t real clear.  How well is the Church doing?  That’s even more difficult.  Because that one involves measurable metrics—we identify things that we think a church should be doing, and we assign different weights to each of these things, again, they are personal opinions.

Rick Warren wrote Purpose Driven Church in an attempt to answer that question.  In that book, he identifies five things a church should be about:  Fellowship - Discipleship - Worship - Ministry - and Evangelism. 

So according to Warren, a church should be doing these five things.  And I would suggest, it’s not enough for the church to just offer these, each believer in the church should be involved in each of these five areas or the church to succeed. 

Fellowship involves being together, talking about life, and life’s struggles.  It involves being together for all the events the Church puts on.  Coming to every dinner, every service, every time the Church gathers.  Yes there are times you can’t make it, but if you emphasize the value of fellowship, you make a sincere effort.  Discipleship involves Sunday School, Small Groups, Bible Studies, Men’s Breakfasts, and the like.   

Worship includes the Sunday service, but also special services, prayer events, and other times the Word of God is shared and discussed.  Ministry means service.  Every believer , and by extension, every member of the Church, should be involved in some ministry.  Using your gifts and abilities to grow the church and bring glory ot God.  And finally, Evangelism is simply sharing the reason for the hope you have.  We are not without hope when we know God is with us and that He loves us.  Let others know where your hope comes from. 

It's only when the Church does all these things that it can be said that it is a good church.  And it's only when the members of the Church join in together when these are done that makes a church great.


Monday, August 21, 2023

Great is Your Faith

This week we look at the Caaninite woman with the demon possessed daughter. Jesus refuses to heal her. Why? Was it something that she did? Was there something about her? Or was there something Jesus wanted to see, first. He did eventually heal her daughter. But why the delay? Let's look at this passage today. Grab your Bibles, we're in Matthew 15.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Always Look on the Inside

 I remember reading a story once about a man who was exploring some caves by the seashore. In one of the caves he
found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone had rolled up some clay and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn't look like much, but they intrigued the man so he took the bag out of the cave with him.

 As he strolled along the beach, to pass the time, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could throw.

 He thought little about it until he dropped one of the balls and it cracked open on a rock. Inside was a beautiful, precious stone. Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each contained a similar treasure. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left, then it struck him.

 He had been on the beach a long time. He had thrown maybe 50 or 60 of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have had tens of thousands, but he just threw it all away.

 You know sometimes, it's like that with people. We look at someone, maybe even ourselves, and we see the external clay vessel. It doesn't look like much from the outside. It isn't always beautiful or sparkling, so we discount it; we see that person as less important than someone more beautiful or stylish or well known or wealthy.

 But we have not taken the time to find the treasure hidden inside that person. There is a treasure hidden in every one of us. We are wonderfully made. Not just our physical bodies, our spiritual selves, which are sometimes hidden from others by the *earthen vessel*

 But if you take the time to get to know that person, and if you ask the Spirit to show you that person the way He sees them, then the clay begins to peel away and the brilliant gem begins to shine forth.

 The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.


-- Author Unknown

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Always Believe in Miracles

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin. The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl. "Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend?  Your sister?"

"Yes, Santa," he replied. "My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly.

Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue.  "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed. "She misses you," he added softly.

Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas. When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted. "What is it?" Santa asked warmly.

“Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but..." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.  “The girl in the photograph ... my granddaughter .. well, you see ... she has leukemia and isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa ... any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do.

Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do. "What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "this is the least I can do." When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children's Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.

Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day. "C'mon .... I'll take you there," Rick said softly.

Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall.

Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl's brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!"

"Santa!" shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes in tact. Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug. A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder and excitement. Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to force himself to choke back tears. Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear the gasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room. As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering "thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes.

Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year. As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah's bed, holding hands. Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels.

"Oh, yes, Santa ... I do!" she exclaimed.

“Well, I'm going to ask that angels watch over you,” he said. Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing softly, "Silent Night, Holy Night .... all is calm, all is bright." The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all. When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own. "Now, Sarah," he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!" He knew it was risky proclaiming that, to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE.

"Yes, Santa!" Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright.

He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room. Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed. Sarah's mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa's side to thank him.

"My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly. "This is the least I could do." They nodded with understanding and hugged him.

One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap. "Hi, Santa!  Remember me?!"

"Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her.  After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment.

"You came to see me in the hospital last year!" Santa's jaw  dropped.  Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest. "Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before. He looked over and saw Sarah's mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.

That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed - and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about – this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Four Wives...

Once upon a time there was a rich King who had four wives. He loved the 4th wife the most
and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest 
of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best.

He also loved the 3rd wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms. However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another.

He also loved his 2nd wife. She was his confidant and was always kind, considerate and patient with him. Whenever the King faced a problem, he could confide in her, and she would help him get through the difficult times.

The King's 1st wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and kingdom. However, he did not love the first wife. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her!

One day, the King fell ill and he knew his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I'll be all alone."

Thus, he asked the 4th wife, "I loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No way!" replied the 4th wife, and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.

The sad King then asked the 3rd wife, "I loved you all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No!" replied the 3rd wife. "Life is too good! When you die, I'm going to remarry!" His heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the 2nd wife, "I have always turned to you for help and you've always been there for me. When I die, wil! l you follow me and keep me company?"

"I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!" replied the 2nd wife. "At the very most, I can only walk with you to your grave." Her answer struck him like a bolt of lightning, and the King was devastated.

Then a voice called out: "I'll go with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go." The King looked up, and there was his first wife. She was very skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect. Greatly grieved, the King said, "I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!"

In truth, we all have the 4 wives in our lives:

Our 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die.

Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, it will all go to others.

Our 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.

And our 1st wife is our Soul. Often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the world. However, our Soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go.

Cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now, for it is the only part of us that will follow us to the throne of God and continue with us throughout Eternity.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Judge Not

     There was an old man in a village, very poor, but even the kings were jealous of him because he had
a beautiful white horse.
  Kings offered fabulous prices for the horse, but the man would say, “This horse is not a horse to me, he is a person.  And how can you sell a person, a friend?”  The man was very poor, but he never sold the horse.  One morning, he found that the horse was not in the stable.  The whole village gathered and said, “You foolish old man!  We knew that someday the horse would be stolen.  It would have been better to sell it.  What a misfortune!”

The old man said, “Don’t go so far as to say that.  Simply say that the horse is not in the stable.  This is the fact; everything else is a judgment.  Whether it is a misfortune or a blessing I do not know, because this is just a fragment.  Who knows what is going to follow it?” 

People laughed at the old man.  They had always known that he was a little crazy.  But after fifteen days, suddenly one night the horse returned.  He had not been stolen, he had escaped into the wild.  And not only that, he brought a dozen wild horses back with him.  Again the people gathered and they said, “Old man, you were right.  This was not a misfortune, it has indeed proved to be a blessing.”  The old man said, “Again you are going to far.  Just say the horse is back, who knows whether it is a blessing or not?  It is only a fragment.  You read a single word in a sentence – how can you judge the whole book?”

This time the people did not say much, but inside they knew that he was wrong.  Twelve beautiful horses had come…  Of course it was a blessing!

The old man had an only son who started to train the wild horses.  Just a week later he fell from a horse and both his legs were broken.  The people gathered again and again they judged.  They said, “Again, you proved right!  It was a misfortune.  You only son has lost the use of his legs, and in your old age he was your only support.  Now you are poorer than ever.” 

The old man said, “You are obsessed with judgment.  Don’t go that far.  Say only that my son has broken his legs.  Nobody knows whether this is a misfortune or a blessing.  Life comes in fragments and more is never given to you.”

It happened that after a few weeks the country went to war, and all the young men of the town were forcibly taken for the military.  Only the old man’s son was left, because he was crippled.  The whole town was crying and weeping, because it was a losing fight, and they knew most of the young people would never come back.  They came to the old man and they said, “You were right, old man, this has proved to be a blessing.  Maybe your son is crippled, but he is still with you.  Our sons are gone forever.”

The man said again, “You go on and on judging.  Nobody knows!  Only say this, that your sons have been forced to enter into the army, and my son has not been forced.  But only God knows whether it is a blessing or a misfortune.”

“Judge ye not” – otherwise you will never become one with God.  With fragments you will be obsessed, with small things you jump to conclusions.  Once you judge you have stopped growing. 

      Judgment means a stale state of mind.  And mind always wants judgment, because to be in process is always hazardous and uncomfortable.  In fact, the journey never ends.  One path ends, another begins.  One door closes, another opens.  You reach a peak, a higher peak is always there.  God is an endless journey.  Only those who are so courageous that they don’t bother about the goal but are content with the journey, content just to live the moment and grow into it, only those are able to walk with God.

Faith First

  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.”  Taking him...