Not the Norm

Do you know what I hate most about moving to a new house? The screwed up schedule for weeks at a time. I like routine; and when we move, my routine is interrupted by packing, phone calls, more packing, loading, more packing, unloading and then unpacking! Argh! Weeks can turn into months before I re-establish a consistent daily schedule, and my whole world spins just a little off-axis until that normalcy returns. We all gravitate toward some level of repetition in our lives—Do you know what I hate most about moving to a new house? The screwed up schedule for weeks at a time. I like routine; and when we move, my routine is interrupted by packing, phone calls, more packing, loading, more packing, unloading and then unpacking! Argh! Weeks can turn into months before I re-establish a consistent daily schedule, and my whole world spins just a little off-axis until that normalcy returns. We all gravitate toward some level of repetition in our lives—not so much as to become boring, but enough to feel warmly familiar. Each Monday morning, I send out devotionals, post the devotional on my website and post discussion questions on whatever novel I’m reading to a biblical fiction Facebook page (The Bible: What a Novel Idea). When these three tasks are accomplished, I can move on in confidence to whatever else the day holds. Until those three tasks are completed, I cannot eat, think, or breathe without concern. The blessing of a routine is that it offers a comfortable stability to life, but its comfort can lull us into blind ignorance of our surroundings. We become so dulled to the things we see and experience repetitively that we no longer truly see them or experience them. So, what happens if we deliberately choose to notice our normal surroundings…

Acts 3:1-2 – “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.” (emphasis added)

Peter and John were Christ-followers, but they were also good Jews. They would have been faithful to their daily three-o’clock prayers. And everyday, they would have likely taken the same route to the Temple, walking through the same gate, passing by the same beggar, who had been placed there everyday to beg. How many times had Peter and John passed this beggar without seeing him? How many times do we not see the ministry opportunities that surround us everyday?

Acts 3:3-5 – “When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.” (emphasis added)

Not only must we be willing to see ministry opportunities around us, but our normal contacts must begin to see us differently. They expect us to be like everyone else that disappoints them, appeases them, lies to them, manipulates them. But when Peter and John looked at the beggar, they asked the same from him—a private interchange in a public venue; a personal connection. Why? Because they were about to offer a personal Savior, and so their ministry needed to be personal…as does ours. We cannot remain aloof and offer salvation for the deepest places of someone’s soul.

Acts 3:6 – “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”

This may be Pete’s shortest sermon ever! He went with the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Short and Simple (amended for devotional purposes J). The next time a friend pours out his/her heart to you and asks for advice, this might be the best gift you could give. He said simply, “I’m NOT giving what others give. I’m giving what I have…Jesus.” Realizing our insufficiency in light of God’s perfect wisdom and ability to provide makes ministry much simpler and more powerful.

Acts 3:7-8 – “Taking him by the right hand, [Peter] helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (emphasis added)

I love how the author of Acts, Dr. Luke, includes so much detail! Notice God’s work to make the beggar’s feet and ankles strong the moment he accepts Peter’s outstretched hand. Since he’d been lame from birth, Dr. Luke reminds us that God had to strengthen unused muscles before the beggar could physiologically stand, walk, or jump. But notice that the beggar jumped before he walked! Love it! It’s also important to note that the beggar recognized the power by which he’d been healed. He praised God, not Peter or John. When we minister in God’s power, at God’s prompting, with God’s heart, God gets the glory!

Acts 3:9-10 – “When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (emphasis added)

When we move out of our normal pattern and allow God to use us for His glory—people notice. They see the difference God makes in a life. They see irrefutable evidence in an experience that interrupts their own daily existence. Peter will use this opportunity to preach, but he allowed God to get the crowd’s attention and provide the proof of the claims he was about to make.

  • Lord, I think I’ve made ministry and evangelism hard because I’m trying to do it from a mostly human perspective. I’m trying to learn the right words and techniques, when all I need to do is love people and offer You as You have offered Yourself to me. Help me begin by looking people in the eye—really seeing those people in my daily life. And then show me how to offer the gift of Jesus to heal the broken places of their lives.

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