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What You Have Can Make a Difference…..by Robert Beike

“So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have neither silver or gold, but what I have, I give to you; In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk”‘”     (Acts 3:5-6 HCSB)

 

“If only our church was bigger, and had more to offer.” “If only we had more money and resources…then we could really impact our community.” “If only I had more talent, or more time, or was better connected…then I could make a difference.” When facing the monumental problems around us, we often default to an “if only” stance. Confronted by poverty, illiteracy, and depravity, loneliness, depression, dysfunction, and physical difficulties, we naturally feel overwhelmed and inadequate. We’d like to make a difference, but our inventory of resources seems woefully inadequate to meet the demand. And humanly speaking, that’s true. But, you are not limited to your own resources. God gives you all you need, to do all He wants you to do, as long as He wants you to do it. What you have can make a difference, if you are willing to give it away.

Thomas Aquinas called on Pope Innocent in the thirteenth century. The Pope, who was counting a large sum of money that had come to the church, told Aquinas, “See, Thomas, the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and Gold have I none.'”

“True, holy father,” Aquinas responded, “But neither can she now say, ‘Arise and walk.'”

Packed pews and overflowing offering plates don’t guarantee effective ministry. But, neither does the absence of such things indicate a lack of power to say “arise and walk.”

Peter and John lacked funds for an offering, but what they possessed was exactly what the beggar needed. They had access to all the resources of heaven and the power to make a real difference in the man’s life. So do you, if you have a personal relationship with Jesus. Like Peter and John, a Christian may have nothing, yet possess everything (2 Corinthians 6:10). Followers of Christ carry within them a treasure far superior to silver or gold, or anything the world offers. The gospel is more than a message, its an experience. God’s forgiveness, mercy, grace, and transforming presence are part of the Christian package delivered to us at salvation. You already have what it takes to make a world of difference. You can make a difference where you are, with what you have, if you are willing to give what you have “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.”

LOOK AT US…..by Robert Beike

“Look at Us”  (Acts 3:4b HCSB)

     “Look at us?” “Look at me?” Whoa! Wait! Doesn’t saying that to a person in need imply that we can meet that need? How could anyone have the audacity to say that to a world of hurting and needy people? Is that believable, or even thinkable? Yet, that is precisely what Peter, along with John, said to a lame beggar at the temple gate in Jerusalem. The man’s paralyzed condition seemed hopeless. When he asked for a mercy offering, they said it, knowing they did not have money to give– “Look at us.” Where did they get the notion that they could offer a solution to his problems?–From Jesus!

Three and a half years of spending quality time with Jesus had convinced them that He could make a difference in the lives of people. They were there when Jesus healed the paralytic lowered through a roof, and when He commanded the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda to pick up his bedroll and walk. They had watched the Master give sight to the blind, sanity to the demoniac, and even life to the dearly departed. They had also participated with Jesus in feeding a multitude with only the meager lunch of a little boy.

     In addition to observing Jesus meet the needs of people, they believed what He told them; The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these” (John 14:12).< Peter and John were simply living out the expectations of their Savior, and when the church says to the world, “look at us,” they are doing likewise. As the body of Christ, His ambassadors, we must be willing to not only capture, but invite the world’s attention. But, looking at us, they must see Jesus.

John A. Huffman, Jr. relates a story about Florence Nightingale, who was ministering in hospitals during the Crimean war. One night while making the rounds she paused at the bed of a wounded soldier, bending down and looking at the young man with eyes of compassion. The wounded man looked up and said, “You’re Christ come to me.”

Peter and John were Christ come to the lame beggar, although he didn’t yet realize it. Likewise, as those sent by Jesus on an incarnational mission to flesh out His love, we are Christ come to the world. Saying “look at us” anticipates a relationship–a personal connection with those we would help. It also includes a responsibility for their well being–physical and spiritual, and foresees a reorientation of a life touched by God. A world in need sits, virtually, on the steps of our churches. Life transforming ministry could begin with the simple, but audacious, words, “Look at us.”

THE EYES HAVE IT……………by Robert Beike

“Peter, along with John, looked at him intently…” (Acts 2:4)

     What you see is what you get passionate about. Needs that are unnoticed tend to stay unmet. That is why Jesus told His disciples, including Peter and John, “Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest” (John 4:35 HCSB). Scientists estimate that the human eye is capable of seeing a light from a candle twenty miles away on a clear night. Even more remarkable is the ability to see, with God-given perception, real human need around us.

     Unfortunately, some form of people blindness afflicts most of us, skewing our ability to see as God designed. Prejudice and bias cloud our spiritual vision like physical cataracts. Near-sightedness prevents our seeing those who are culturally or ethnically distant, while far-sightedness causes us to overlook those on our own doorstep. And because of spiritual tunnel vision, people on the periphery of society are marginalized or missed altogether. Obviously, to really see with Christ-like perception we need corrective lenses. As Peter and John approached the temple in Jerusalem they saw this lame beggar clearly, for perhaps the first time, through lenses corrected by the Holy Spirit and polished through regular prayer and worship.

     Every opportunity to make a difference begins with a problem. Vision for ministry is often birthed from a desire to see what is become what must and should be. “Peter, along with John, looked at him intently.” They fixed their attention on this broken man, in the shadow of the beauty of God’s temple, and knew something needed to be different.

     Apart from God, all humanity is spiritually lame, and are pitiful beggars. Suffering from the debilitating condition of sinfulness, they are helpless, and hopeless, trapped in a desperate existence of unfulfilled potential, and undiscovered purpose. Clearly, something needs to be different. Go ahead, look around you–intently.

 

OPPORTUNITY SOMETIMES BEGS…..by Robert Beike

“Now Peter and John were going to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon. And a man who was lame from his mother’s womb was carried there and placed every day at the gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help.”

(Acts 3:1-3 HCSB)

     We’ve always heard that opportunity knocks. The truth is, opportunity sometimes begs. It did for Peter and John as they made their way to a prayer meeting. Likely, they were traveling their usual route past familiar surroundings to participate in a common practice; their hurried footsteps taking them past a lame beggar who was carried to the same place every day to beg for mercy offerings. But this was no ordinary day, and what began as routine, became anything but. When Peter and John were confronted by this pitiful sight in front of that beautiful gate, the customary gave way to a customized divine encounter. Opportunity was begging.

     Opportunities to meet needs, share Christ, and make an eternal difference are all around us. Recognizing and responding to those opportunities is part of great commission living. The following is from Blaine Allen’s book, When People Throw Stones: “Researchers in human behavior decided to find out whether people who trained for vocational ministry at seminaries are Good Samaritans. William McRae writes:

They met individually with 40 of the ministerial students under the pretense of doing a study on careers in the church. Each student was instructed to walk to a nearby building to dictate an impromptu talk into a tape recorder. Some were to talk on the Good Samaritan parable, others on their career concerns. Meanwhile, the researchers planted an actor along the path who, as a seminarian approached, groaned and slumped to the ground. More than half the students walked right on by, reported the researchers in Human Behavior. ‘Some, who were planning their dissertation on the Good Samaritan, literally stepped over the slumped body as they hurried along.'”

     Who has God placed along your path? Who’s asking for help in your neighborhood, or around your church? The ancient Greeks had a statue depicting opportunity as young, attractive, unclothed, with only a forelock of hair (the back of his head was bald), running swiftly with wings in his feet. The obvious message is, opportunity never grows old, and can only be grasped while it approaches, for it is quickly gone, and once past, remains so. Opportunity may often knock, but it sometimes begs.

 

          

Rattle Those Pots and Pans…………by Robert Beike

“And every day they devoted themselves (to meeting) together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,…” (Acts 2:46 HCSB, parenthesis mine)

The rattle of pots and pans, the clanking of dishes, and the aroma of food, are important ingredients in Christian fellowship. We often joke about eating meetings, and the ever-present fried chicken, but the breaking of bread has a way of binding us together. Moreover, hospitality has a prominent Biblical precedent, and roots deep in the human experience.

The Old Testament records Abraham hosting a trio of heavenly guests who had serious business in Sodom and Gomorrah. Before continuing their mission, they enjoyed the riches of fellowship over a wood-fired steak with all the trimmings. Jesus experienced hospitality as a guest on many occassions, and practiced hospitality with the disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. Upon His resurrection, Jesus revealed His identity to incredulous followers during a meal in Emmaus, and while hosting a fish fry on the beach. Bread and “The Bread of Life” seems to just go together. Its not surprising, then, that the disciples continued the custom of sharing the life of Christ around a meal.

A contagious kind of joy accompanied the gatherings of the first church as “they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” There was no pretense to their joy. They were sincerely glad they had Jesus, the word, each other, and the power of God in their lives.

Hospitality might be the most underutilized gift in the North American church. There are, likely, members in every church, and small group or class, that are wired to be gracious hosts, and/or who would be glad to cook for the kingdom of God. Hospitality is putting grace to work. It’s about giving purpose to the “pot-luck.” Let’s get together and share a little gladness. Rattle those pots and pans.

VELCRO CHURCH……………………..by Robert Beike

“Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as everyone had a need.”

ACTS 2:44-45 (HCSB)

Many churches seem to have a Teflon-like non-stick coating. First time guests don’t stick around and members seem to slip out the back door without much notice. Not so the first church of Jerusalem. Their fellowship was more like Velcro.

The word Velcro is a combination of the two French words velours and crochet, meaning “velvet” and “hook.” This hook-and-loop fastener was invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. It consists of two components: lineal fabric strips that feature tiny hooks on one side, and even smaller loops on the other. When pressed together the hooks catch in the loops and the two pieces form a tight bond. Separating the two Velcro strips creates a distinctive “ripping” sound. (Wikipedia.org, “Velcro”)

These new believers in Jerusalem formed a Velcro kind of connection as available resources hooked to pressing needs. It was the kind of uncommon connection that “had everything in common.” This was not a “communistic” effort to redistribute wealth, and create an artificial equality, by taking from the “haves” to give to the “have-nots.” Instead, it was a genuine Christian community, caring for one another, and fleshing out the life of Christ in real servanthood. This was a family of believers putting others’ needs ahead of their own. They not only shared the word of God, but also, their worldly goods. They practiced what was preached.

Velcro churches are easy to spot. They stand out like cities on a hill. Authentic friendships replace superficial “friendliness.” Members carry ropes to rescue and not rocks to condemn. Meeting physical and spiritual needs is normal behavior for all members. Loving relationships create a kind of warm incubator conducive to safety and spiritual health. Connections in Velcro churches are so tight that if they are separated, for whatever reason, its as if they are being “ripped” apart.

Get S.M.A.R.T. About EVANGELISM….by Robert Beike

Let’s get S.M.A.R.T. about evangelism. No, I’m not referring to a “cone of silence,” or communicating via shoe phone, for those old enough to remember the TV series. I’m talking about a holistic approach to reaching more people for Jesus. Examine your church’s entire ministry and overall approach to fleshing out the great commission. Is there proper focus on others, and their need for the gospel? Do the elements of church life work together to create positive synergy for evangelism? Here are some ways your church can get S.M.A.R.T. about evangelism.

SPIRITUAL CLIMATE

Learn to become a spiritual climatologist, and evangelism environmentalist. The spiritual atmosphere of your church largely determines if you will experience showers of blessings or a draught in the baptistry.

Pray for souls to be saved, and for believers to be bold. Preach the word of God in season and out. Stress outreach and include gospel presentations in Sunday School classes and small groups. Conduct regular witness training, and set aside  specific times for outreach. Make use of testimonies. Be mindful that every kind word and caring act enhances the spiritual climate of your church and community. We must be good news if we are to share the “good news.”

MINISTRY TO OTHERS

Get outside the walls of the church and serve beyond the gravitational pull of the membership. Discover the needs of others around you and develop ministries to meet those needs. Recovery ministries, child care, food distribution, tutoring, literacy classes, and servant evangelism efforts are just a sample. Create your own list of 101 ways to reach out to your community.

ACTIVITIES FOR OTHERS

Include those outside the church in activities of the church. In fact, initiate activities just for them. Vacation Bible School, concerts, musicals, dinner theaters, recreation, family movie nights, and game nights (including video games), just scratch the surface of possibilities. But, activites need not be just an inside job. Consider how others can join you in engaging the community for Christ.

RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS

Equip and encourage the church to cultivate relationships with neighbors, co-workers, and others in their constellation of influence. Learn to genuinely care for them and show it. Practice a lifestyle of evangelism, and “infiltration” tactics, so when Sunday services are over the church is strategically deployed not simply dispersed. Be salt and light by “infiltrating” organizations, teams, exercise classes, and other venues where lost people gather. As Jesus demonstrated, meeting people where they are is the first step to getting them to where God wants them to be.

TRUTH SHARED WITH OTHERS

Become an opportunist. Be sensitive to holy moments and divine appointments. Share the truth about Jesus; who He is, what He has done, and the difference He makes in your life.

Since evangelism is a top priority of the church and every Christian’s job, let’s get S.M.A.R.T. about it.

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