Help The Poor (Audio)

Today Andy shares a brief audio message thinking about how Christians should be helping the poor, and indeed, one another as well.

Andy has been reflecting on the life of the early church from Acts 4, and also this proverb:

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Proverbs 14:21 (ESV)

We hope you have enjoyed this audio message. You can find other messages on the Audio page.

Graves Into Gardens

I was having a bad day last week, and not the first during this lockdown period either I’m afraid to say. Work was proving difficult, the children were not exactly enthusiastic about their education that day, and I really wasn’t being the best Christian witness. I came away feeling pretty low if I’m honest. Part of that was due to tiredness, so let me add that sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get an early night!

I decided to put on some worship music and a particular song began to play and it really moved me, where I was in that moment. It was called “Graves Into Gardens” and is by Elevation Worship. You can hear it on your music platform of choice or else watch it here on YouTube.

It is a song about our Transforming God – not that he transforms, as He never changes, but rather how He transforms us and the situations we face.

Graves Into Gardens

The title of the song, and the begining of the chorus states how our God changes graves into gardens. It is a picture of resurrection, and how God can bring life even into a graveyard full of death.

In my own mind, I picture this from Matthew’s Gospel.

Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.

51 Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many.

Matthew 27:50-53 (WEB)

As Jesus died, and the curtain in the temple was divided, many of the dead saints rose to new life. This is a point we sometimes miss when thinking about the death and resurrection of Christ. Imagine being in that graveyard that evening…!

Bones Into Armies

In a similar way, God also turns dry bones into armies of flesh! He takes the dead and dry, and breathes new life into them. He is a God or restoration!

Again he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and tell them, ‘You dry bones, hear Yahweh’s word. 5 The Lord Yahweh says to these bones: “Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you will live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you will live. Then you will know that I am Yahweh.”’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. As I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, there was an earthquake. Then the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I saw, and, behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.

Ezekiel 37:4-8 (WEB)

Seas into Highways

Our God can do the impossible. No matter the size or inertia of the obstacle before you, God can make a way!

As the Israelites approached the sea, with the entirety of Pharoah’s army behind them, it looked like there was no way out. We dare not limit our Limitless God!

Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today; for you will never again see the Egyptians whom you have seen today. 14 Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.”

15 Yahweh said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16 Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. Then the children of Israel shall go into the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 Behold, I myself will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will go in after them. I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.” 19 The angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them, and stood behind them. 20 It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. There was the cloud and the darkness, yet it gave light by night. One didn’t come near the other all night.

21 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and Yahweh caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 The children of Israel went into the middle of the sea on the dry ground; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Exodus 14:13-22 (WEB)

Nothing is Better Than You

The repetitive refrain of the song echoes that nothing is better than God. Our God is the greatest, the highest, the most wonderful Being in existence! We chase after all this world has to offer, and yet the maker of all things stands ready to be in relationship with us. The sin that separated us has been dealt with at the cross of Christ, and through faith in Him, we can rest in the very presence of the Father.

As I sang this song that day, it moved me as I realised all the cares and worries of this life are literally nothing next to the surpassing greatness of knowing God through Christ. In my weakness and failure, I can still enter into the presence of God by the blood of Jesus. All my failures are forgotten and forgiven, and I can worship Him without fear.

I do not deserve the wonders of the Father’s grace, but if I did, it would cease to be grace. At times, I glimpse the glory of God, the depth of my sin, and the lengths He went to to save me from it. There is only one response to this – worship!

Join me today in worshipping our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who transforms us, giving us beauty for ashes. Sing with me that there is nothing, not one single thing, bettter than Him! Hallelujah!

One Heart and Soul

We conclude Acts 4 today, thinking about verses 31-37.

When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. 32 The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all. 34 For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. 36 Joses, who by the apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, 37 having a field, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts :31-37 (WEB)

Answered Prayer

In yesterday’s post – Praying Under Persecution – we thought about the kind of prayer Peter prayed in response to the persecution they faced from the authorities. Peter did not ask for the trouble to be removed from them, but instead asked for boldness to speak the Gospel in the face of that resistance. Perhaps I should have included verse 31 in that post?

Verse 31 clearly tells us that God faithfully answered the prayer. The Father’s power is released and the place where they were was shaken. I must admit that such a thing has never happened to me! Wouldn’t it be amazing if every time we uttered the “Amen!” that we would see a physical sign like this – a kind of “read receipt” acknowledging our prayer had been heard.

Yet, on the other hand, we need no such sign to be assured that God has heard our prayers. We live by faith, and not by sight, and we trust that God has heard and naswwered our prayers irrespective of whether we feel or see anything in that moment. We know when the answer comes, even if it is not the answer we had in mind.

Without the shaking of the place, we would still know that the Father has responded. All who were gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit, and then began to speak with boldness. The very thing they had askked for was given immediately.

One Heart and Soul

The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

Acts 4:32 (WEB)

Sometimes, when we hear of church division and in-fighting, we can only dream of the unity described in these verses. It tells us they were of one heart and soul, the very epitome of teamwork and unison. They worked together for the Gospel, sharing and supporting one another.

It says that not one of them claimed ownership of the things they possessed, and instead shared everything. This is very hard for us to imagine. For us, who have so very much, it is hard to comprehend the idea of owning nothing and sharing everything.

This kind of selfless lifestyle goes far beyond mere giving. It describes a people who have truly crucified the flesh, letting go of their own desires and living for the benefit of the whole. The modern church in the West has moved so far from these values it is virtually impossible to see a way back.

We might be excused for thinking that perhaps these disciples had very little to share, so maybe it was easier for them to do so. If you have little, then sharing and benefitting from the whole makes sense. yet the passage corrects this view too. It says those who had lands sold them, and placed the money at the apostle’s feet.

Those who had more, shared with those who had less. There was no longer “me” and “mine”, just “ours.” Such a way of life requires all to obey the rules. Everyone must do the same, pooling their resources such that “no one lacked anything.” Imagine lacking nothing… we work hard for what we get, and we keep it all, yet few of us can claim we lack nothing. This family of believers gave up everything for each other, and yet had all they needed. That is God’s economy in action!

And look at the result highlighted in verse 33 – “With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all.” We want the power and the grace, we want the success in ministry and to see God at work in our lives, yet are we willing to live like these beleivers did?

Son of Encouragement

Joses, who by the apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, 37 having a field, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:36-37 (WEB)

The passage and the chapter ends with these words about Joses, also known as Barnabas. Bar means Son, and so they call him a Son of Encouragement. I imagine he must have been one who constantly built up those around him with affirming words. Encouragement is a spiritual gift, and yet is something we can all practice in our lives. A rightly placed word of encouragement can make a person’s day and costs us nothing.

Barnabas had a field and he sold it, giving the proceeds to the apostles for the work of the faith. He held nothing back. He may have had plans for that field, perhaps wanting to farm or some other activity. Instead, he gave it up for the good of the family of believers. He chose to have less so that others might have more. What a humbling lesson for us!

Note these actions of Barnabas, because they will be important as we understand the events of chapter 5. Will any successful group, there will always be those who want to get in on the action for their own gain. We see such an example next time.

I have been quite humbled as I’ve read this passage and written these words. My life seemingly falls far short of the life that these believers lived. How can I explain the extra TV I bought, or the bigger house I purchased, when I knew of believers in need around me? I am not telling you to sell all you have and give it away, let me be clear, but all of us ought to look at the Early Church’s example and assess our own faithfulness.

Does this passage challenge us to live differently? I’ll leave that one between you and God.

Praying Under Persecution

It had been my plan to complete Acts 4 today, but as I read through the remainder of the passage, I felt that what I wanted to say about the first part should stand alone. We will cover verses 23-30 today, and then complete Acts 4 tomorrow – God willing.

Being let go, they came to their own company and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, “O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them; 25 who by the mouth of your servant, David, said,

‘Why do the nations rage,
and the peoples plot a vain thing?
26 The kings of the earth take a stand,
and the rulers take council together,
against the Lord, and against his Christ.’ Psalm 2:1-2

27 “For truly, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen. 29 Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”

Acts 4:23-30 (WEB)

In case you have not read my posts on Acts 3 and the first part of chapter 4, let me catch you up. Peter and John went to the temple one morning, and encountered a man unable to walk and begging at the temple entrance. They healed this man before all the people, and it caused a stir! Peter shared the Good News about Christ, and was promptly arrested and detained overnight with John. The next day, the chief priests and religious leaders questioned them and strictly warned them to no longer speak in the Name of Christ.

The “Being let go…” in verse 23 above, refers to Peter and John being released, and we see them returning to the other disciples which was now quite a number. Peter and John tell them of what has taken place, and the group respond in unison. Note that phrase again in verse 24 “with one accord.”

In the face of this persecution from the religious leaders, the community of believers pray. The focus of my post today is that prayer. As we, too, face persecution in this world for our faith, how should we pray and what can we learn from the early disciples?

Recognition

They open their prayer, as all good prayers should, in recognition of Who God is. They acknowledge that God is He who made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them. We were no cosmic accident or roll of the dice, we were skillfully and wonderfulloy made! The One who shaped the stars in the sky is the same One who formed us from the dust of the ground. It is indeed right that we worship and praise Him!

In continuing that recognition, they quote Psalm 2 where King David asks why the nations plot in vain and the kings of the earth gather together against the Lord? It is an act of complete futility, and yet they persist in taking their own council and taking their stand against God and His Anointed One! utter foolishness!

Despite all good sense and evidence to the contrary, there will always be those who stand against God and His Kingdom. There will be those who persecute and kill the church as best they can, and while they may inflict much damage on us, they will never succeed.

Verse 28 says that they gathered “to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen” to the Messiah – Jesus Christ. They acted in vanity against God, hating Him and yet were acting in line with His will and purpose. They were His instruments to bring about God’s will, yet are not innocent of their crimes.

The Request

As they bore the brunt of this persecution, they conclude their prayer petitioning God. What do they ask for? If it were you or I, we might ask for that resistance to be removed from us. They do not.

Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”

Acts 4:29-30 (WEB)

They do not ask for the “threats” to be thwarted, but instead for the power to be bold and to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of that trouble. They ask God to stretch out His hand to heal, that as they preach the Good News, they are backed up by the power of signs and wonders authenticating their message.

It is not in their power that they do these things, but in the Name and power of God’s Servant – Jesus Christ.

In the West, we have been largely free of persecution for some time. We have had freedom to worship God without “threats.” Times are changing, as I mentioned yesterday.

This came as something of a shock to me when I started to share this blog on social media. In the large part, many were supportive and enjoyed the posts. As I shared it more widely, I encountered those who mocked the faith and made fun of the message I gave. Don’t misundestand me, I was in no fear of my life as many Christians are across the world, and I do not compare this mockery to the physical threats many face today.

In recent days, a fellow Christian blogger had his posts removed from Facebook without reason or explanation. I saw nothing offensive in his writing, nor have I read anything which covered controversial areas of the faith. So why would Facebook remove it without apparent cause? I can think of no other reason than it is Christian in nature.

This, too, is persecution. Post on social media about all manner of sinfulness or any other religion, and it is fine. But post about the Risen Lord…? It is becoming unacceptable, but let that not prevent us from spreading the Gospel!

If you want to support that fellow blogger, you can check out his blog here – Devotional Treasures.

Persecution

Persecution will come, and in many forms. There will always be those who mock or slander God and the faith of those who follow Him.

Like Peter and John, we must pray and ask God the Father to give us “all boldness” as we speak His word. Not to be deliberately offensive, but to not allow fear to prevent us from standing up for what we believe in. May He also ordain signs and wonders to follow our proclamation of Christ, that He may be glorified and as many as possible turn to Him.

Persecuted we may be at times, but we are also a praying people, and we will stand firm! This world offers its trouble and trials, but we follow the One who has overcome the world! Amen

Salvation In No One Else

Our passage for today is Acts 4:1-22, and you can read the full text at that link. I’ll refer to various verses throughout the post.

Acts 4 continues the events we discussed in chapter 3 so it is useful to familiarise yourself with those first. In summary, Peter and John went to the temple and while there, healed a man who it says was “lame from birth.” This caused something of a stir among the crowds gathered, and Peter seized the opportunity to speak. He did not preach on the topic of healing, as you might expect, but used it to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Not Everyone Is Happy To Hear Good News

As they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came to them, 2 being upset because they taught the people and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 4:1-2 (WEB)

The “they” in the first line is referring to Peter and John. We see that not all were happy to hear Peter’s message, and the priests and other “religious” leaders were upset by what they were teaching. The word “upset” here is the Greek word – diapomeomai – and I won’t try to pronounce it! It means to be troubled, displeased, or offended, and to the point of being worked up about it. One of the reasons for this would have been the claim that Jesus was the Resurrection, as the Sadducees did not believe in a bodily resurrection.

We believe the message about Jesus to be good news, but there are many who do not. Not everyone will be happy when we share our faith, and as we see in verse 3, they reacted very strongly indeed and arrested Peter and John, holding them in custody overnight.

Yet in the midst of such strong opposition, we see a great number turning to Christ. In fact, we observe more people joining the faith than did on the day of Pentecost!

But many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Acts 4:4 (WEB)

Silly Questions

The next day, you might hope that the religious leaders had had a chance to sleep on things and be a little more reasonable about it. But sadly not!

They gather together all manner of important people, including the high priest and apparently several members of his family (see verses 5-6). It must have been some kind of court hearing, as they bring out Peter and John, and place them in the midst of them all.

When they had stood Peter and John in the middle of them, they inquired, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”

Acts 4:7 (WEB)

It is time to begin the questioning… imagine one of your favourite TV legal dramas… The prosecution stands to their feet, gathers their papers, and addresses the witness… and what do they ask? A pretty daft question in my opinion!

They ask Peter and John by what power, or in what name, they have performed this miracle. it is a rather silly question because Peter made it abundantly clear the day before in what name and power he had performed the miracle!

By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which is through him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Acts 3:16 (WEB)

The “he” above is Jesus Christ. Had the religious leaders been listening to what Peter was saying in front of them all, they would already have known the answer to this question.

Despite this, and continuing our courtroom example, Peter launches into his own defence, which is really no defence of him at all, but of the Gospel of Christ.

Salvation In No One Else

Verses 8-12 tells us what Peter tells them. He very clearly spells out that they are being “tried” for doing a good deed, which is the healing of this lame man. Peter sets out that the miracle was done in the Name of Jesus, and in that Name this man now stands before them all – whole and healed.

Peter states the facts of the case, but also cites Old Testament Scripture, quoting from Psalm 118 that Jesus was indeed the stone that the builders rejected, and yet He became the Cornerstone.

The pinnacle of Peter’s words is found in verse 12:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that is given among men, by which we must be saved!”

Acts 4:12 (WEB)

Salvation is found in no one else, and there is indeed no other Name by which we can be saved. Jesus is the One and only way to Heaven, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

The religious leaders are astonished by Peter’s boldness, which is really inspired by the Holy Spirit (see verse 8). They recognise that these men are not educated in the religious Law, and yet can speak with confidence and effectively witness for Christ. The leaders cannot deny the miracle, which many have seen, yet they do not want this teaching about Christ spread about. They were the ones who killed Him after all!

Sending Peter and John out, they discuss what they can do. They realise they have few options and so, calling them back in, demand that they no longer speak in the Name of Christ.

Whether It Is Right

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves, 20 for we can’t help telling the things which we saw and heard.”

Acts 4:19-20 (WEB)

Peter and John now have a choice to make. Do they obey the religious leaders, or do they obey God? Peter responds by putting the ball firmly in their court. Is it right to listen to you or to God, he asks. They have no answer to this at all, only offer further threats. They have no legal recourse and they fear the people who witnessed the miracle.

Under normal circumstances, we are to follow the commands of our leaders and authorities. When those commands directly contradict the Word of God, then we have a choice to make.

In the UK, we are largely able to practice our faith without harassment but things are changing. Christian values are no longer popular, and our Government continues to make ungodly decisions. I praise God for the freedom we have in this nation, and pray it may last. If it does not however, let us boldly proclaim the truth that salvation is found in no one else, no matter the cost.

I Thank God For You

Each morning on my Facebook page – which you can find here Andy Brown on Facebook – I try to share a daily Scripture. These are just verses from the Bible which I feel are relevant for the day ahead, and go in no particular order.

Today’s verse was from Romans.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Romans 1:8 (KJV)

Paul is writing to the Roman church, obviously, and is telling them how thankful he is for each and every one of them. He prays in thanks giving to the Father, through Jesus Christ, that their faith is spoken of the world over.

It is proving to be one of those days today for me. I woke with something of a migraine and the computer i’m working on, which was absolutely fine yesterday evening, is now doing some very odd things. The screen looks as though it is stretched in one direction, and the entire left hand side is missing presumed lost! The screen issues are not exactly helping the aforementioned headache!

We had a very busy day yesterday, as it was my eldest daughter’s birthday. They had quite a late night in the end, so today the children haven’t exactly been totally co-operative…

It would have been all too easy to just give the blog a miss today, but as I’ve posted every day since 17th March, I didn’t want to break the posting streak!

Why am I telling you this? Firstly, I think it is important to be open and honest with people where you are. It can be all too easy to read a blog or listen to a Bible teacher and mistakenly believe that all is well in their lives. Our nature somehow convinces us that everyone else is better and isn’t facing the same issues we are.

Bible teachers, while absolutely should be setting a good example, are human too and have problems like everyone else.

So, when I sat down to write after lunch, I was not exactly in the right frame of mind to do so.

As I pondered at the keyboard for a few minutes, I got to thinking about the verse above from Romans, which I had shared that morning. I cannot say that God “spoke to me” but felt perhaps it was enough to say to – the reader – that, like Paul, I thank God for you too.

To each and every reader of this blog, and to every follower of the Facebook page and social media, I say a massive thank you. It means a great deal to me when people read this blog and make the effort to get in touch. I read every comment and message, and I do my best to respond where I can.

Not only do I thank you, but I thank God for each of you. Most people who read this blog are seeking a deeper journey in their faith and walk with God, and I am humbled that these words can play even a small part in that. I am honoured that you would take time to read, and I pray that this blog encourages you and helps you draw closer to Jesus.

If you like what you see here, do let me know and please do pass it on to anyone else you think may benefit. I notice when people share my posts, as I see a bump in the page views and it is really encouraging. I do not want fame or fortune of course, but it is uplifting to see readers and sharers alike.

Thank you again, and I will be praying for every reader. It is an immense privilege to pray for you, so if you have any requests, then please do pass them along to me as well.

God bless you, and I hope normal service will resume tomorrow – stretchy screen permitting!

Say What You Mean (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Say what you mean, and mean what you say

Some say talk is cheap, but actually it can be very costly. How many relationships were ruined after someone said something in anger that they really did not mean. Words can leave deep wounds, yet we seem to respect them so little in our society. A single misplaced tweet can be enough to cause outrage the world over.

Say what you mean. Be clear with your words and make sure everything you say is what you mean. Don’t be hasty and don’t let your temper get the better of you. Better to remain silent that unleash words which cannot be taken back.

Similarly, mean what you say. Don’t be a person without integrity. Do not say one thing and do another. If you make an appointment for 7pm, make sure you are there on time and be a person of your word. If you hit something unexpected that makes you late, call ahead.

Your children remember what you say, and they remember when you don’t keep your word. If you promise to take them out on Saturday, you had better make sure you do. Trust is more easily destroyed than built. One broken promise can devastate trust for a lifetime.

God is the perfect example of this to us. He says precisely what He means, and means every single word He says. There are no broken promises in God; if He has said it, you can consider it done whether you see it yet or not.

My words fall far short at times, but I strive to be a man of my word and to never say a thing I do not mean. I am challenged today, and hope you are too. Let us all come up higher and be people who keep our word.

Peter Preaches… Again

In yesterday’s post – Miracle at the Gates – we spent some time thinking about the miracle performed by Peter and John at the entrance to the temple. This miracle created a lot of attention, and Peter did not hesitate to speak to those gathered. Today we will have a look at what he had to say. Notice this is the second time Peter preaches, hence the title. You can read about the first time he spoke (at Pentecost) in my post – Peter Preaches.

You can find Peter’s words in Acts 3:12-26, and as it’s quite a lengthy passage, I won’t quote it all here. Hit the link above if you want to read the full text, and I’ll quote parts of it throughout the post.

Open With a Question

Peter begins his sermon by asking the crowd a few questions. It can be a good way to start a message, as it gets us thinking about the subject at hand.

When Peter saw it, he responded to the people, “You men of Israel, why do you marvel at this man? Why do you fasten your eyes on us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made him walk?

Acts 3:12 (WEB)

Peter gets straight to it, asking why they are so interested in what has happened. He is challenging their surprise, as if this man becoming well is a perfectly normal thing to have happened. And indeed, when in the presence and power of Christ, the supernatural becomes the natural.

Peter asks the group why they “fasten their eyes” on them, which is the same phrase used in verse 4 when peter looked on the man prior to the healing.

He is crystal clear with the people that this man was not healed by his or John’s power or godliness, and therefore the crowd’s interest should not be on them, but on the source of that power. And that is…?

The Answer

Verse 13 begins “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Servant Jesus,” and points very clearly to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter names the Jewish forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob leaving the people in no doubt about Who has performed this amazing feat of healing.

Peter pulls no punches as he tells them that they are responsible for killing the prince of Life. Pilate offered them a chance to release Christ, but they chose a murderer instead, denying and rejecting the Messiah.

By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which is through him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Acts 3:16 (WEB)

Verse 16 implies it is both faith in the Name of Jesus, and the very Name itself which has given this man “perfect soundness” of body. What miracles can be brought about by the Name of Christ! We must never underestimate that Name, nor use it in vain. Power is released as we utter the Name of Jesus, and is the reason we pray in that Name alone.

What Shall We Do?

Verses 17 and 18 tell us that Peter acknowledged their ignorance of what they had done. They knew not who Jesus really was, and neither did their leaders. Yet the prophets had foretold that the Christ would have to suffer and die, and so Christ fulfilled their words.

Peter goes on to tell the people what they now need to do.

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,

Acts 3:19 (WEB)

To repent, as Peter says, is to turn – to turn away from sin and wrongdoing, and to turn to God. We must all do this. Few churches seem to remind their congregants of the need to repent these days. Yet, each one of us, must turn from our sin and turn to Christ. In doing so, our sins will be blotted out – crossed out of the book if you prefer – never to be mentioned again.

Peter tells not just his audience, but us as well, of the terrible consequences of not turning to Christ in verse 23.

And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’

Acts 3:23 (ESV)

We must take this warning seriously. There will come a time when it is too late to turn back, and their is no better time than now to give your life to Christ. He is the only way to Heaven and their are no shortcuts. Surrender to Him right here and now, ask Him to forgive you and to be in charge of your life from here on out. It will be the best decision you ever make!

Closing Words

Peter closes his sermon by telling the people that Christ will remain in Heaven until the time comes to restore all things. When that day comes, He will return and put all things right! This was spoken of by the prophets of old, and Peter points out several Scriptures to them.

He reminds them of the covenant God made with Abraham, and that it would never be forgotten. God is not slow in keeping His promises, nor will He ever break a single one of them.

Peter finishes in verse 26 with the following words, and I think it is a great place to finish our post today also.

Praise God our Father who sent His Son to us to bless us, and to turn us from our wickedness!

God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Acts 3:26 (ESV)

Miracle at the Gates

Acts 3 can loosely be summarised into two parts. Firstly, Peter and John perform a miracle at the gates of the temple. Then, the second part of the chapter covers another sermon Peter preached in response to the events surrounding the above miracle. In today’s post, we will think about the miracle itself and then examine Peter’s words tomorrow.

A certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask gifts for the needy of those who entered into the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive gifts for the needy. 4 Peter, fastening his eyes on him, with John, said, “Look at us.” 5 He listened to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” 7 He took him by the right hand and raised him up. Immediately his feet and his ankle bones received strength. 8 Leaping up, he stood and began to walk. He entered with them into the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him, that it was he who used to sit begging for gifts for the needy at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 As the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.

Acts 3:2-11 (WEB)

Verse 1 (not quoted above) tells us that Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of prayer. They encounter a man who is entirely dependent on others. Each day they carry him there, and he asks for gifts to meet his needs. In those days, there was no welfare system you could call on in time of need. If you were disabled and not able to work, then you were essentially reduced to begging.

Imagine how difficult that must have been? I guess it would have felt like being trapped, with no way out and very little hope ahead. Speaking from experience, I have a severe sight problem and so have a glimpse (if you excuse the pun) of what it must have been like. Technological advances in the last few years have made such a difference to some with disabilities, and for me personally smart phones and IT kit means I can work and live independently. This man had no such help.

Verse 4 is particularly interesting to me. Peter gazes at this man intently, and asks him to look in return. The phrasing is unusual, and it is not immediately obvious to me what is going on here.

I wonder if Peter, as he was passing by, was moved by the Spirit and this focusing of his eyes on the man was him discerning the Spirit’s call. As he looked on the man, maybe that still small voice was telling him what he could do to help.

Peter tells him to “Look at us!” suggesting he was not, initially, looking at them. I wonder how many times people had walked by, hearing his request for alms and yet not daring to even look.

I used to work in London, and would often see homeless men and women sitting by the side of the road. They might ask for spare change, and yet so many (and I admit myself at times) would walk past without even acknowledging they were there. For this particular man, perhaps the invisibility was as worse as his physical disability.

The man looks up expecting to be given something from these two men. Peter quickly quoshes that idea and informs him he has neither silver nor gold.

Then Peter does something astonishing. He gives the man what he has, and that is the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that name, and in its power, he commands him to get up and walk. And with a helping hand from Peter, he does just that!

I want to point out that Peter does not pray. He does not first ask God to heal the man, and then wait on Him to move. Instead, he speaks out of his authority, using the power of Christ.

I was once taught that all believers have this authority, and any of us can call on the name of Jesus and invoke this power. I do not want to explore this thought here and now, as I think it is a whole series of blog posts. You certainly cannot take that view from this event alone. Peter may have been a special case, and this healing miracle was certainly “authentication” for the words he would shortly speak.

I am passionate about healing, and certainly believe it is clearly taught in the New Testament. Of course, not every person receives healing every time they ask, and there are many reasons for this. Suffice it to say that Jesus spent much of His ministry healing the sick, and I do not think He has changed today. There are gifts of healing promised in the New Testament, and James’ letter instructs us to pray for the sick, as does Mark’s version of the Great Commission. Unless someone can convince me biblically that healing is no longer for us today, I will continue to believe in it and ask for it.

Peter speaks these words over this man, and immediately his legs grew strong and he was able to walk. It is an amazing miracle, and one for which I praise God. Verse 8 tells us he joined them in entering the temple, and went in leaping and praising God! Thank God for the miracles He works in our lives, be it healing or otherwise!

Verses 9 and 10 tell us the reason for the healing. When all saw this healed man leaping and praising the Lord, they were amazed! It drew attention. It made people open to the Lord, and as we shall see next time, Peter was ready to speak of what Christ had done.

Something God has challenged me on in the last few days is how I approach Bible passages. My immediate reaction is to look for application, and to ask how I can apply it in my life. I heard someone say the other day that the Bible is not about me, it’s about God. I should not feel the pressure to extract application from every verse, as not every verse is about me. That applies here too. I would love to examine the miracle and look for the steps I need to take to receive my own miracle, or to bestow a miracle on others. There is room for that of course, but it is not primarily a teaching passage telling us what to do. Rather, it is telling us what happened.

As much as I would like my own healing, I praise the Lord for this man receiving his.

Had I only scoured this text for what I could get out of it, I would have missed something important. Today, as I wrote this post, I saw something I had never seen before.

A certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask gifts for the needy of those who entered into the temple.

Acts 3:2 (WEB)

They recognized him, that it was he who used to sit begging for gifts for the needy at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:10 (WEB)

Look at what this man was doing at the gate. I have always just assumed he sought fulfilment of his own needs, and most likely he was. But reading the verses above, you could also read it as he was collecting money for the poor other than himself.

Not wanting to overstretch the idea, perhaps this man shared what he received with others and that tells us something important about the kind of man he was. Maybe that played a part in what happened to him.

Don’t just read the Bible for what you can get out of it – it’s not about you!

Prayer Video – 4th June 2020

Today Andy shares a brief video praying over the latest requests he has received. Please join him in praying for those mentioned here.

Sorry that the preview is appearing upside down! It should play fine.

If you would like Andy to pray for you, please do get in touch via the Contact page or just leave a comment.

Thanks for watching!

The Early Church

We continue on with our study through the book of Acts, and today conclude chapter 2. There are only a few verses left in the chapter from where we left off, but there is a lot said.

They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer. 43 Fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together, and had all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. 46 Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the assembly day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47 (WEB)

This passage gives us a brief look into what the early church would have been like. Remember that this comes straight off of the back of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost where three thousand souls were added to the number of the followers of Christ. The “they” here is the new group of believers joining the disciples.

The Apostles’ Teaching

The first thing we learn is that this group of believers were dedicated to the teaching of the Apostles. We are not told specifically what was being taught, but based on Peter’s sermon and other teaching both in Acts and the rest of the New Testament, I think we can get a fairly good idea. The believers spent time learning what they needed to know. They were not satisfied with a short sermon on a Sunday morning, but rather were “steadfast” or continual in the teaching of the Word of God.

Do we “continue steadfastly” in the teaching of the Word, or do we dip in and out of it as we wish? What a challenge!

Fellowship and the Breaking of Bread

Fellowship means that this group of believers lived life together. They were united, and shared their days with each other. This is also seen in the breaking of bread, meaning they shared meals together also. We need other believers in our life. Life is difficult, and all the more so when you are a serious Christian in a hostile world. We need encouragement and support, and we get this from each other. A life lived alone is very difficult indeed. A life shared with other like-minded believers is not necessarily easier, but at least you can draw on the strength and help offered by the family of Christ.

While breaking bread of course means to eat meals together, in the culture of the Middle East it is more significant than that. To break bread with another means to be united with them. In the western culture, we might liken it to the shaking of hands. When we give someone our word, we tend to shake on it as a sign that we are serious. It implies a sort of contract between us. In the Middle East, the breaking of bread means something similar.

Prayer

Again we see here the believers united in prayer. As we read through Acts, we will see time and time again that the Early Church were constant in their prayers. These were nott prayers prayed alone and in private, but corporate prayer shared with others. Absolutely they would have spent much time in private prayer also, but they made it a priority to pray with other believers. We should do likewise.

All Who Believed

We see in verse 44 that all who believed were “together.” It says that they had “all things in common,” and this is a real challenge to us in the modern church. These verses paint a picture of almost complete unity among the believers. It is a unity we often only dream of in churches today.

Yet Jesus prayed for unity as recorded in John 17. He wanted and expected us to be in unity, to stand together and to hold one another up. I really feel, as i write this, that we are to take it seriously. How many churches have divided over silly issues; the colour of the curtains, the time of the services or other such trivial matters. Let each one of us do our part to protect and maintain the unity among us.

There are many references in these few short verses alone of their togetherness, unity, being of “one accord.” etc. Let each of us pray for that kind of oneness among our church family.

The passage tells us that they also sold their goods and possessions that they might share with each other. This kind of selflessness is unheard of these days. Many of us work very hard for what we have, and yet few of us are true givers. We might give some money to the church, but I’ve met very few who would sell what they have just so that they could share with the family of believers. Again, it is a real challenge for us. Tossing a few coins into the offering basket each week seems woefully inadequate next to the kind of selfless life lived by these believers.

The chapter ends with verse 47:

praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the assembly day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:47 (WEB)

As well as all the things we have mentioned above, this verse sums it all up with the words “praising God.” Everything they did revolved around their dedication to the worship of the Lord. He had saved them, in His great mercy, and they now lived their life in worship to Him.

It says that they had favour with all the people, which is a sign that they truly lived humbly and in loving-kindness. Only such a church family would attract such favour.

The chapter closes by telling us that everyday God was adding to their number. As churches, we may long for God to add to our number, and regularly pray that He would do so. It is a great responsibility however, to nurture new believers and we must make every effort – co-operating with the Holy Spirit – to be the kind of church where God can trust us with new believers. Let us not just preach the Gospel, but let us live it out each and every day. As we do so, it will be a witness to the world.

I pray that God will indeed add to the family of believers each day, and that the church globally will look like the early church described above. Amen!

You Can’t Please Them All (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

You can’t please everyone all of the time

I heard this story the other day and thought I would share it with you.

An older father and his son were heading into town. The father allowed the son to ride on the family donkey. When they arrived in the town, the people said, “Look at that! Insolent youth riding on a donkey and making his father walk like that!”

The next time, they swapped places and the father rode the donkey while the son walked beside. Again the people cried, “Look at that! Irresponsible father riding along while his poor boy walks!”

Another time they went into town while both riding the donkey. This time the people protested, “Look at that! That poor donkey! Having to cary two people on its back!”

The final time they went into the town, both father and son walked beside the donkey. This time the people laughed, saying, “Look at that! Those idiots! They have a donkey and yet they are walking!”

Moral of the story – you can’t please everyone all o the time. That doesn’t give us the right to do what we want or to deliberately displease, but we must ensure we are following God’s commands.

Let us please God with all that we do and say today, even if there are those who moan about us!