Archive for February 6th, 2008
Believing in the unseen is tough in a world like ours. “Gimme proof!” skeptics say. Part of me truly understands and resonates with their doubts when they see the way so-called “Christians” behave in the world today. Proof of genuine believing seems hard to buy when the character and compassion of Jesus see in such short supply in many manifestations of church and Christianity today. Some of that, I believe, is a mean caricature that has been perpetuated by the enemies of faith. Some, however, is clearly an issue on our part of not living up to what it means to be real disciple, a passionate follower of Jesus.
We can have wishes and wild dreams, but faith is something different than that. Faith is not a magic parachute or some delusional wish that things will be better great later — “pie in the sky in the great by and by” — but faith is changing the way we live now based on what we believe God did in Jesus and will do through us.
In Acts 4, our daily Bible reading today, we see several streams of testimony come together to help many of he unbelievers come to faith in Jesus.
First, there are the powerful signs God was doing among the people. The lame man’s healing made it very difficult for anyone to deny God was at work in this new movement of Jesus followers (Acts 4:16-17).
Second, there was a clear message that Jesus was God’s one true way to salvation, and that “Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” whom they proclaimed as “the Lord Jesus,” fulfills the hopes and dreams of the Old Testament prophets as God’s “holy Servant” (Acts 4:8-12, 27-30).
Third, the commitment to prayer, especially prayer for boldness to proclaim the message made the followers of Jesus strong and courageous even as they confronted the very same officials who had Jesus put to death (Acts 4:5-12, 23-31).
Fourth, the change, the quality, the compassion, and the character of the community formed by the followers of Jesus was special and different and offered a visual testimony to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and the legitimacy of His followers (Acts 4:32-37).
//Inspiration: Acts 4:13
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
When people look at us, and more particularly at me, can they tell I’ve been in the presence of Jesus. So many today have a hunger for Jesus, but reject the shallowness and hypocrisy of what they see in churches. Rather than criticizing culture for catching us in our weakness, hypocrisy, and duplicity, should we take a harder look at ourselves and see if we can see Jesus in what we’re doing? Are we truly “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15), or do we smell like church as usual? Is there something winsome, some drawing power about who we are that connects with the “perishing” like we find in Jesus, or are the tax collectors, sinners of the city, and the outcasts driven away from us rather than attracted to Jesus through us?
Of all the four qualities that helped unbelievers have faith in that early move of the Holy Spirit through the followers of Jesus, I believe that maybe the most neglected is the fourth one. Where is our compassion to one another? Where is my generosity with those in need? How am I helping those who have no hope? Am I a Barnabas: an encourager in both words and actions?
This chapter sharpens my focus on my need for prayer, my commitment to boldness, my anticipation of God doing great things among the hurting, and my need to help demonstrate the good news of the Kingdom of God in a fellowship of real people, right here, in the world today.
O God of power and might, pour out your Spirit on the followers of Jesus today so that we can courageously speak the message of Your grace offered through the Messiah. And please, dear Father, help us as we seek to demonstrate the character and compassion of that grace in our concern and help of each other, both near and far. You know my heart, and today I especially pray that the upcoming bloggers’ trip to Uganda is successful and helps us find sponsors for hundreds of children as we try to make the compassion and care of the early church real in our own time. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.