For some reason I just can't get past this verse we looked at during are study of the scriptures yesterday (see video on another page of this website). Verse 5 of the third chapter of Acts says "So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them."
The man who was sitting at the gate called Beautiful, begging alms at the place his friends and family always brought him, was expecting something simple, some food, a little bit of money. Instead his feet and ankles were healed and he got so much more than he ever expected. He went from expecting something to "walking, and leaping, and praising God.:
I shared the story yesterday of how we were going to have a second child and I was hoping for a girl, and God said, No, you're going to have a boy, and he is going to be beyond what you ever expected. He is going to have perfect pitch and be gifted on the piano, and he is going to love like you never knew someone could, and he is going to bring you more laughter and joy than you can imagine.
When we truly see what God is doing we realize that in life we have so much more than we ever expected. As we go to the future then, the question is simple, "What are we expecting?" We may be expecting certain things from God, healing, finances, a new house, restore relationships, but in all those things we are simply looking for something for us, that we believe will make things better. What if we change our expectations? What if, instead of expecting something from God, we simply expect God to be God. We may find that the greatness of God far exceeds any simple thing we are expecting.
And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them - walking, leaping, and praising God.
If only I was tall; if only I was handsome; if only I was built differently, if only I had money or could win the lottery, etc., etc.
Do you ever hear those words coming out of your mouth.? I remember a time years ago as we were traveling in Madagascar with a team of Americans and a bunch of us were in a hotel room playing hearts. I can still remember Jeff Gasaway made a bad play that cost him some points and after he said, “If I had done it differently I wouldn’t have taken those points.” Along with us on the trip was a seasoned (a nice way to say old) fellow from Texas who was full of all kinds of country wisdom, named Mickey Porter. Mickey sized Jeff up, and then responded, “And if my Aunt Jane were built differently she’d be my Uncle Tom.”
Of course we all found that incredibly funny, but I also realized something very true in all of that: We spend too much of our time wanting to be something other than we are, or expecting to people to be something other than what God made them to be.
We come to a story this week in Acts 3, in our series called Inception, and a section I have entitled "Converted". A lame man sits by the side of the rode and Peter and John come by, and this lame man has an expectation of what he wants from them. He wants them to provide him with silver, with money. But the two stop, and they look at him, and Peter says, "Silver and gold we do not have. Such as I have give I thee."
Peter has come to a point in his life where he realizes what he doesn't have, but even more important, he realizes what he does have. Peter's life has been converted from lousy fisherman to one who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter has Jesus, and he realizes that is all he has, and even more importantly, that is all he needs, and he shares that with the man beside the road.
Years ago, while living in Madagascr myself and Fred, the missionary I was working with there, headed to the town of Antsirabe, just south of the capital of Antananarivo for the day. Our purpose there was to meet with some local government officials to set the dates and location for some basketball clinics I would be leading in the area. We also met with some leaders from some churches to set up the evangelism and follow up parts of what we were doing.
On the way out of town Fred wanted to stop for a minute to visit someone he had met on a previous visit and who had played a role in our coming there. His residence was above a small pharmacy by the side of the road on the way out of town. We stopped, and he was there and invited us into his home. My Malagasy was very weak at the time (still is really) and I relied on Fred to translate. Not long after we arrived I saw the man's wife head out the door with a basket.
She returned about 30 minutes later with the basket full. Fred and this fellow kept on talking and I began to grow antsy. An hour passed and she came in placed two bottles of Coca Cola and some glasses on the table. Then in a little while came the bread, and before long a full meal was in front of us. Much of what they made that day was stuff I would not eat normally, but I partook. This couple had spent basically two weeks salary to go and get food and feed us and welcome us into their home. This kind of hospitality was not unusual there.
We've lost some of that in America. Our time crunch and busy schedules and large house and fences and so much more keep us from breaking bread and interacting with people.
Our scripture this weekend is going to show us that fellowship in houses and around the table was a cornerstone of the early church. As we look at Inception: Steadfast, part 2 we are going to see that time spent with other believers was key to the church becoming the church.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2: 46-47 (NKJV)
While it has been over 30 years since it happened, I can still remember the events like they happened yesterday. I was blessed to coach an Athletes in Action volleyball team that was touring Bolivia and Peru for six weeks in the summer. The format was simple, we would travel to a town and play matches against local teams or give clinics, and then we would take the opportunity to share our personal testimonies about how God has touched our lives. We rotated through who would share at each stop.
Midway through the tour we came to the town of Oruro in Bolivia, a place of over 250,000 people at the time. As we went there the missionaries we were working with warned us that there was a lot of satanic worship and influence in the area and people who did not want us to be there. We played our match that night in front of a large crowd that was restless, against us, and loud. When the post match time came there was an oppression that hung in the air. That night the testimony time was Paula's. She was the smallest member of the team, standing a tad over 5 feet tall. If you spent time around her you knew that she was one of the sweetest most gentle people ever.
As she began to speak I just had this impending sense of dread and doom as this young lady faced that crowd. She started to speak and you could barely hear her over the noise, but it didn't deter her at all, she kept on talking about how God had shaped and changed her life, she was steadfast and relentless despite all that was going on around here. The suddenly there was a moment of quiet that just swept the room and she just kept going, and people started to listen. This soft spoken girl through the power of God's Spirit delivered a message that day that ended up changing the lives of a number of people who were there.
This week in Acts 2:14-47 we are going to look at the speech Peter gave in the midst of a crowd that started by mocking him and the other disciples and accusing them of being drunk. Peter got up and got their attention and started to speak, and despite the commotion around them he just kept going. By the end of the speech, the 12, plus the women, plus the 120 that began the day as followers of Jesus found their number increased by 3,000, and the church was born. Verse 42 tells us that after that they all CONTINUED STEADFASTLY in all that the apostles were saying, and in fellowship, and in prayer.