Spectators and Tourist

Read:

"Now . . . there was a certain disciple named Tabitha . . ." Acts 9:36

Reflect:

The quicker, the better. We assume for something to be efficient it must be done quickly. Our attention spans have been shortened from watching five second cat videos on YouTube. These days if we don't experience a miraculous move of God, we don't worry, we just move on. 

Spirituality has been captured by a tourist mindset. We will try anything until something else comes along. The newest potential-reaching destiny, defining psychotherapy successful living course, whatever is trending. 

One has to ask why was Tabitha healed? She had believed in Jesus, she had been baptized. But so had many others in her day, and they had not been healed or raised from the dead. She served others faithfully, but the same could be said for many who believed as she did. 

A woman working in the church was a regular occurrence. Looking back though the history of the first century New Testament church, nearly every woman among the early disciples mentioned in the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles, is associated with some form of ministry and service.

So why would Peter go to her house to pray her back to life? The answer is found in one word of verse thirty-six: disciple. She was a learner, not an acquirer of information about God, but an ardent learner of the skill of faith. Tabitha spent her life loving Jesus, learning His ways, and leading others in the same pursuit. Her life was not one of a tourist. Rather, hers was a life of long obedience in the same direction. 

She was a disciple. One who had learned that truth becomes altogether different when it's put into action. She learned love is never content with words, but always backed by righteous action. Love means days of ministry and nights of prayer. Love means healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and saving the lost.  

Spectators and tourists don't draw the same kind of attention from God as disciples do. A consumer faith is not the same thing as committed faith. We must heed the call to be a fully devoted disciple. 

Respond:

Get involved in one-on-one discipleship at Church Project.

The Beauty of the Lord

Read:

". . . they turned to the Lord." Acts 9:35

Reflect:

Faith has to do with marrying invisible with visible. When we engage in an act of faith, we give up control. We give up insisting on head knowledge as our primary means of our way of life. When we engage in an act of faith, we choose to deal with a living God whom we trust to know what He's doing. We choose a way of life in which mystery is the everyday norm. 

The ways of Jesus are vastly different from our ways, which are the ways of programs, techniques, organizations, and information pipelines. The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped. It requires an active participation as He leads through strange and unfamiliar territory. His ways only become clear as we linger in His presence. 

By taking on His likeness, we take in His ways. We mature gradually and incrementally in His way, so that who we are and what we do are realized coherently. Where our faith and Jesus intersect, the miraculous takes place. 

The two healing stories here in Acts chapter nine are exactly the same as the healing stories told about Jesus. There's no indication that the early church believed that the power to perform miracles belonged only to Jesus. The first disciples were promised by the Spirit that even they would do greater things than Jesus. And according to Acts, they proceeded to do them.  

One thing is for sure. Miracles can still be used as evidence of His nearness and divine nature. Jesus had no monopoly on miracles. Miracles are the result of a tremendous surplus and overflow of divine energy that has come into the world through Jesus. New life is the result from the resurrection. The declaration of God’s beauty is seen in His demonstration. Those who receive His work, turn to the Lord.

Respond:

Be open and available for Jesus to pour His life through you into the lives of others.


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.