His Beautiful Ways

Read:

". . . Jesus Christ heals you, . . ." Acts 9:34

Reflect:

There's hope for your hang ups. We have heard the echoes of hope. We suspect there's something more, a breakthrough, a miracle, a healing. The supernatural is a beautiful thing, but it’s not the kind of beauty we are accustomed to. We are unsure how deeply to believe that God can, and will, and does, work in our life. So, the miraculous remains on the periphery of our faith. 

We have two stories plainly before us. To begin with, Peter cures a man from paralysis, then he raises a girl from the dead. These stories are meant to re-work and re-shape all of our short-sighted, sin-distorted beliefs. Living in the biblical world requires we re-acclimate ourselves to a life of faithful obedience given to us in Jesus.

Healing stories like these occur over and over in the history of early Christianity. They occur too often to be dismissed. They reveal to us what has been there all along. The supernatural is organic to who God is and the way He works, not an intrusion or violation. 

If we wish to keep company with God and His beautiful ways we will have to come to terms with this simple truth - wherever Jesus is present, there is power to overcome our hang-ups. 

We live in a culture where Christianity is saturated with pragmatism. It assumes that God can only work through legitimate means. But, if we decide to follow Jesus and live as His servants, we cannot do it the world’s way. We are agents of beauty. Miracles happened then and they happen now. And God is still our source.

In the life of the believer, and the church in which there are no signs of new life, if there is no indication that people are rising above the dead level of their old selves, that they are conquering fears and anxieties in the flow of their life, then, there is something radically wrong.

Respond:

What must be rearranged in your soul to be open to the beauty of God’s miraculous work?

Make Your Bed

Read:

". . . Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up, and make your bed. . . ." Acts 9:34

Reflect:

There's something about being almost there, but not there. All those around you who are succeeding are a reminder about what you are not able to produce. The frustration of being so close and still miles away. 

Aeneas had all the parts to walk, but the parts weren't working. He'd been on the mat for eight years, he believed he would die in the same condition he'd lived. There seemed to be no hope of change. But then, things changed.

Peter, the itinerant visitor, came walking through town. Peter was just like the one who discipled him. Jesus was always on the move doing good to those in need. Peter directs Aeneas to look to Christ and make his bed. 

We've been lying in our bed too long. Remember when you used to want more for yourself, when you used to not be afraid to dream, when you loved with an unbridled heart. When disappointment couldn't stop you. When depression didn't have a hold of you. But it's time for you to get up out of your bed. 

Peter doesn't pray for healing, rather he commands Aeneas to get up, that he should make use of the power and grace made available in Jesus. Peter calls this man into partnership with the presence of Jesus. And now that Jesus is here, what used to be a place of infirmity, is now a place of rest. 

To make up your bed means you take up the thing that's held you for too long. Your issues of guilt, shame, doubt, and fear. Arise! The thing that once held you, you now hold.  

But why not just get rid of the bed, just throw it away? Because the bed is there to remind you of your need for grace. Without the presence of the bed, you might get prideful and arrogant. Always be mindful from where you came, there has to be something to keep you humble. 

Respond: 

What's your bed? 

Trouble and Tribulations

Read:

". . . Peter passed through all the regions, . . ." Acts 9:32

Reflect:

The church has been guilty of over-promising and under-delivering. We throw around phrases like "God is for us," "God is in control," "God’s strong name is our help," to those mired in case histories of family tragedy, career disappointments coupled with a pessimistic world view. It's like waving a red cape in front of a bull.

In the fall out and failures of life, we are expected to explain God to His disappointed clients. But God doesn't need us to defend Him. He doesn't need us as press secretary or public relations agents. We may never have the exact answers to "Why did this happen to me?" "Why do I feel left in the lurch?" 

The proper work for the Christian is witness, not apology. We don't try to argue for God, explain Him, we simply show Him to others. We are to look at heaven and bring the breathtaking scene to hellish earth. The two miracles of Peter show us exactly what is required.

Emulate the example of Jesus

The words spoken by Peter were almost identical to those spoken by Jesus, in both Lydda and Capernaum, "Get up, take up your mat and go home." Peter was following what he'd seen Jesus do and say. 

Performed by the power of Jesus

Peter didn't try to use his chairman or boisterous voice to bring healing. He knew his own ability wouldn't be enough to get the job done. Instead he said "Jesus Christ heals you." 

Signals salvation from Jesus

Recovery and resurrection were both visible signs of the new life found in Christ Jesus. Life which we sinners are raised up from. 

Gives glory to Jesus 

In both cases, the people in the towns where these miracles were performed all heard the word, believed the signs of these supernatural acts, all placed their belief in Jesus.

When we dig into the trouble and tribulations of others, what we find is God is there in the details and conflicts. Faith is developed out of the most difficult things of life, not the easiest. 

Respond:

How can you bring heaven to earth today?

The Footing for Generosity

The greatest barometer of our belief in Christ is our giving. Our theology can be correct, our knowledge of scripture can be plentiful, but our giving habits tell all. As we begin our season of generosity, we step back from our series in Acts to consider our generous God and the generosity we show to others. Let these devos seep into the cracks and crevasses of your soul to widen the spirit of generosity in your life. 

Read:

“. . . in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Reflect:

The Christian life is not static. It has a flow and the direction of that flow is outward. No one would doubt that the flow of the life of Christ was in an outward direction. How then can the life of His that we carry be anything other than generously flowing outward to others?

Because it is His life that we bear inside our bodies, we become the literal vehicle through which God operates in this world. Our lives are the channel of His ministry, the conduit for His love, and the agent for His provisions to the world. There is to be no trace of stinginess in the believer’s life.

Christianity is not about enhancing our lives, it gives us life when we had none. The life of Christ inside of us is focused on carrying out the purpose and plan of God. This is the footing for generosity. Behind all God was doing through Jesus was love, simple and pure. The cross was designed to evoke an uncontrollable response of love from us.

Authentic generosity runs “counterculture to the mainstream” dogma of our society. Generosity violates much of our corporate and success training that teaches if we are to “get ahead,” we must maximize every opportunity for our benefit.

Authentic generosity “creates a large life.” Society’s way of thinking shrinks life down to its smallest possible size. Generosity produces self-generating hope, as well as an abundance mentality. The selfishness of society causes panic and fear of losing what we already have. Panic breeds greed, and greed always leads to stinginess, the opposite of generosity.

Generosity is a” core element of God’s personality.” God is a giver. He loves us, not because of anything we have given Him, nor is it because of what He knows we will one day be able to give back to Him. If this were the motive, then selfishness would be at the heart of His love to us. This is not God’s way of giving. He loved us even before we loved Him back.

Respond:

Lord, let me get to know Your generosity and make it a part of my identity in You. 

The Base of Grace

The greatest barometer of our belief in Christ is our giving. Our theology can be correct, our knowledge of scripture can be plentiful, but our giving habits tell all. As we begin our season of generosity, we step back from our series in Acts to consider our generous God and the generosity we show to others. Let these devos seep into the cracks and crevasses of your soul to widen the spirit of generosity in your life. 

Read:

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My House. . . .” Malachi 3:10

Reflect:

Generosity breeds generosity. The basis of generosity is God’s person and character. The barrier to this generosity is our fear of lack. And the boundary of God’s generosity is our obedience. This is another way of saying that the only limitation to God’s outpouring of generosity is the length of our obedience.

He calls us to generously invest our lives in meeting the needs of others. The Christian view of giving outstrips mere obligation. Under Old Testament law, an Israelite was required to give a tenth of all product and livestock. In the New Testament, those who have experienced the breakthrough of grace in their relationship with Jesus, those who have been seized by the power of great affection, are to give liberally and cheerfully. 

The contrast is hard to miss. If an Israelite living under the law gave a tenth, how much more should a Christ-follower living under grace give? Grace is the base of all our giving.

Generosity is limited by our obedience. When obedience is controlled by our stinginess   we cannot expect to experience the fullness of His presence. His call on our lives requires an investment, not a donation. The difference is the commitment behind the gift. 

God calls us to become obedient by investing ourselves and in extending the work of God’s kingdom. God’s plans and purpose for our lives is to expand the rule of His kingdom throughout the earth. This will require us to be unsparing when we give our lives and our money.

God demonstrated generosity by giving Himself to die for our sin. He continued generosity into the world. Our obedience to this call does more than determine the joy we experience, it determines whether or not the rest of the world experiences the generous life God has given through Jesus Christ.

Respond:

Just as in the days of Malachi, the Lord invites us to return to Him wholeheartedly, begin today by praying; Lord, help me to be obedient to Your call to be generous with my treasure, time and talents.

When You’re Stretched

The greatest barometer of our belief in Christ is our giving. Our theology can be correct, our knowledge of scripture can be plentiful, but our giving habits tell all. As we begin our season of generosity, we step back from our series in Acts to consider our generous God and the generosity we show to others. Let these devos seep into the cracks and crevasses of your soul to widen the spirit of generosity in your life. 

Read:

I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends for eternity. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven . . . but if you are unfaithful with your worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? You cannot serve both God and money. (Luke 16:9-14)

Reflect:

The first step in a spiritual revolution is not making moral resolutions to avoid our worst selves, it’s not promising to stop deceiving others, it's the decision to stop deceiving ourselves. Jesus gave His all. Unless we have the same passion of generosity seen in Jesus’ life, we are undermining our faith and deceiving ourselves. Self-deception is the enemy of generosity. It divides our loyalty, permits living with mixed motives and prevents us from making God-honoring decisions. Self-deception masks our lack of spiritual growth in the spirit of our generous God. The pursuit of truth and authenticity means looking at our cravings.

The true test of generosity comes when we don’t have a surplus. Do we still give what little we have to help somebody else?

What if we’re in a recession and things aren’t going well, or we are out of work, or we are out of money and we feel like we have no more time, or money, or energy to give? How can we be generous when we’re stretched thin? The real test of how much one trusts God is the way we handle our treasure, time, and talents. 

What has God given us that we could freely give? Is it time? Has God gifted you with a particular skill or trade that could be used at our church? Has God blessed you financially? We can look at Paul as he gave a personal challenge to each believer. He asked each one to examine what they have and give accordingly.  

Respond:

Lord, help me to look at my finances, time and talents and use them for Your glory, not for my pleasure in a personal way. Amen