Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recovery from Shipwreck

There is one thing in life that we all face, trouble. None of us is exempt; from time to time we all face trouble and if we’re not careful it can have a lasting affect on us. I can look back at my life and see certain times, certain traumas that shaped how I lived life. It wasn’t so much how the traumatic event ended up, but the issue itself that messed me up.

One of the things that I have come to understand about schizophrenia is that it can sometimes be onset by trauma. The trauma has already passed and life has gone on, but the person is caught in the trauma of the thing that has happened. They had built up a fantasy to escape the pain of that traumatic time in their life and after a time they can no longer separate the fantasy from the reality.

I was thinking about this and it is like the person suffering from schizophrenia has a reality of his own, it’s not the same reality to which the rest of us are responding. They are responding to their personal reality and trying to make sense out of it. To us who have the “real” reality what they are doing appears strange and doesn’t make sense. But there is a logic in their response, it’s the reality that they’re responding to that is the problem: That other reality was set into motion by the trauma they’ve suffered and the fantasy they’ve created in order to deal with it.

Problems in life can create trauma for us. A Cheating spouse, with his/her repeated violations attacks your self worth: A loved one’s death; a loss for which you were unprepared can result in loneliness and in some cases, survivor’s guilt. Debilitating disease, a loss of physical strength and self-reliance can result in a loss of self-esteem. Accidents that result in chronic pain or injury for you or death for someone else can destroy self-worth and leave massive guilt. These are devastating traumatic problems and if we’re not careful they can influence us in every aspect of our lives. In this post, I want to deal with those issues and our response to them.

Acts 27:9-22 (NKJV)
27:9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." 11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there. 13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. 21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.


We have all from time to time experienced shipwreck. These are times of great stress in our lives. They are also often beyond our control.

Life threatening illness: People get sick
Loss of a close family member: Your husband or wife dies; maybe a child.
Loss of a job: Lay off due to downsizing

Or perhaps it’s an accident where someone is hurt or killed, a financial reversal, an act of nature, such as an earthquake or a tsunami. These are not just bad days I’m talking about these are terrible and lasting traumatic times for people. Sometimes these times are the result of our own misbehavior or sin, such as a drunk driving accident that causes an innocent person to be killed. It doesn’t matter how these things occur in our lives, the point is that shipwreck happens and it is important how we deal with it, in order to overcome the affect.

I wrote in the introduction about schizophrenia, but that isn’t necessarily the only result of trauma. I know in my own life that it can lead to severe depression and hopelessness. It can also lead to bitterness and hostility.

I read recently about a man who shot and killed eleven children in a school in Brazil. He left a note indicating that this was planned as a method of suicide. I’m sure that if we tracked down his past we would find that at some point he suffered shipwreck and he allowed that shipwreck to destroy him. I believe there is a pathway to recovering from shipwreck.

This event that’s taking place in our text is truly shipwreck. All of the people in this story are under extreme stress. We can read about their fear and anxiety. We can look at their responses to the events to understand the stress they were under.

In verse 18 they began to lighten the ship. The ship is carrying cargo. Cargo is the means of payment for the people operating the ship. This is how they make their money. This is their means of support and they are tossing it overboard to lighten the ship.

In verse 19 they began to toss overboard the tackle of the ship. This is the equipment that’s used to steer the ship, to set the sails to operate the ship. This is a panic move, because without the tackle it is virtually impossible to steer and direct the movements of the ship.

In verse 21 it says, “after long abstinence of food.” The fear, nausea and work kept them from eating. In verse 29 they prayed for daybreak. In verse 30, some of the sailors tried to escape in the lifeboats. This is a hugely traumatic event.

What they are experiencing is what we all experience during the traumatic events of our lives. The stress, the fear, the anxiety, sometimes we lose our appetites. We sometimes begin to panic and jettison the things that have been important to us.

Here’s an example, a family comes under financial problems and at first they begin to lighten the load, and they cut out the luxuries. They figure out what they can do with out. But sometimes the financial problem doesn’t get better; it damages the relationships within the family. Do you know what the number one source of arguments in marriages is? Finances. Sometimes the marriage is cast overboard. Which creates another shipwreck…for the children.

Not every problem in our lives is our fault. Paul is innocent in all this. He makes a statement, he says, “I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” But Paul is a prisoner, he doesn’t have a say in what happens to the ship. The centurion trusts the man who has experience in sailing. Paul is carried along.

This happens to all of us. Many of the problems we face in life because we have no choice: Your company downsizes; another driver makes a mistake. You can’t plan for every contingency in life.

People who are careful about their health are an example. They eat right, they watch their weight, they exercise: They do all the things that they should protect their health: The things that should help them to lengthen their lives. I read about a man just the other day that went to a baseball game and was beaten by two thugs and left with serious brain damage. His life completely and forever changed. His family suffers a shipwreck.

Much of life is unpredictable and ends up in trauma. Our response to that trauma can be the difference between recovery and devastation.

Responding to Shipwreck

We see a number of different responses to shipwreck in our text. We have talked about some of them as panicked and improper responses. In getting rid of the tackle of the boat, they have lost all control of their destiny. The Bible says the ship was driven by the wind. When we discard the things that give our lives direction, we also lose control of our destiny.

Have you ever seen someone become angry with God because of the circumstances in their lives? Things don’t go the way they want them to go and they blame God. “How can I believe in a God that would do this to me?”

By doing that you are tossing over the guiding principles of life. You’re refusing to read or hear the Word of God. You’re turning away from prayer. You’ve basically discarded the things that give our lives direction. Once you have done that where do you find comfort and release? By turning away from God you’re taking it all on yourself. This is what the sailors tried to do. They called upon their own strength and skills to save the ship…and even they lost hope. That’s why they tried to escape in the lifeboats; they were unable to save themselves.

But Paul’s response was different. He didn’t abandon God. Look at this:

Acts 27:22-26 (NKJV)
27:22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island."

Paul listened for God’s response to all this; and God did have a response. Do you realize that God often speaks in the midst of crisis? God speaks to Paul and gives him comfort and hope. Paul uses that confidence and hope that he has because of the words of God to give the others hope. People watch us in a crisis, and how we react can give them hope as well. The sailors were watching Paul. They grabbed hold of his words because they could see the confidence that Paul had in God. Paul makes a statement about God and about his faith in God.

23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me

The God to whom I belong, and I serve…I believe God. This is a testimony of faith. They heard those words and saw the confidence that Paul had in those words, and they were encouraged. God has spoken to Paul through this angel. In the midst of this huge crisis God speaks and the word of God brings comfort.

I sometimes feel sorry for atheists. They have nothing besides their own skills and strength to believe in. Where can comfort come from for them? They’re comes a point where you realize that you’re not going to be able get yourself out of trouble. There’s no hope and no comfort.

But God speaks to Paul and tells him “It’s going to be alright. Everybody can live.” The interesting thing here for Christians is this: Where does the comfort come from? It comes from God’s plan and destiny for Paul’s life. “You’re not going to die here, Paul. I have another plan for your life.”

Remember when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and the storm is blowing and they all think they’re going to die? What’s Jesus doing, He’s sleeping. The disciples are panicked, they’re losing hope and Jesus is so relaxed He’s sleeping. Jesus can relax because He knows God’s plan and destiny and that His destiny doesn’t include drowning in this storm. What does he say to the disciples, “Oh you of little faith…” There’s comfort in knowing that God has a plan for your life.

God will speak to you in the midst of shipwreck, but you have to be listening for Him. Don’t jettison the thing that brings comfort and direction to your life.

The other thing that’s important here is that Paul tells the soldiers to cut away the lifeboats.

Acts 27:30-32 (NKJV)
27:30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.

We think we can use the lifeboats to save ourselves, but in some cases getting into the lifeboats makes it worse.

In the book, Working on the Edge, author and King Crab fisherman Spike Walker, tells this story of the crabbing boat, The St. Patrick.

The St Patrick, a 158 ft vessel, encountered a nightmare storm in the Gulf of Alaska. The storm whipped up huge waves. A monstrous wave that rose twenty-five feet above the wheelhouse slammed into the boat and took out all navigation equipment and the engines lost power. The ship took on water and began to list at about fifteen degrees. And the batteries exploded from the contact with the seawater. The ship was in danger of sinking. The captain and the crew made a desperate decision, climbing into their survival suits and tying themselves together they jumped ship into the icy thirty-nine degree water, to swim to the lifeboat that had been washed off the stern of the boat. By morning all but two of the crewmembers were dead of exposure. Without a survival suit a person can only survive twenty minutes in water that is that cold, with their survival suits they died one by one overnight.

These people felt they had no chance if they stayed with the boat., they were afraid the boat would go down and suck them down with it. They abandoned the only hope of survival they had by choosing to jump. The saddest part is, that the boat didn’t go down. If they had stayed aboard the St. Patrick, most likely they would have all survived.

Sometimes, taking the lifeboats can be more dangerous that riding out the storm in faith.

Getting Back to Normal

Acts 27:33-37 (NKJV)
27:33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship.

There is a young woman in America that was kidnapped at 11 years old and held as a sex slave for 18 years until she was discovered by two policewomen and rescued. The interesting thing is her comment at being asked about what has happened in her life over the last two years. She said, “I’m trying to get back to normal.”

Paul encourages the sailors and soldiers to eat and get back to normal. The Bible tells us that they were encouraged. What happens all to often, I think, is that we dwell on the hurts and disappointment? When we do that, that’s the time when bitterness and anger can set in. We can become fatalistic and always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Depression and psychosis settle in and we lose part of ourselves.

Our text gives us a strategy for recovery from shipwreck:

First, we need to pray, read our Bibles and attend church. So that we can hear from God, so that we can listen for God to speak in the midst of a crisis.

Second, we need to cut away the lifeboats so that we will trust in God to bring us through. We cannot try to “tough it out” in our own strength, let God’s power help us.

Third, when we have made errors and cut away the things that support, sustain and guide our lives, we need to return to a normal Christian life, which are all the things in the fiorst two strategies.

I know that God can help us to recover from shipwreck. I’m not just giving you a theory here. I have experienced God’s life changing power of deliverance from this very thing. God is a miracle working God, who cares about our lives.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Gate Beautiful

The Bible is an amazing document. We can read through the words written so many centuries ago and gain an understanding about life in 21st century. You can get revelation about what God has for your life, even though you’re not specifically mentioned.

I am convinced that those who make the argument that, “the Bible was written by men, and so it can’t be the inspired word,” of God have never read it. How can this be true when it has so many connections and references to the Messiah: When it has all the foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, written hundreds of years before His birth; all of the rituals that are chronicled that speak of the death and resurrection

In this post I want to examine one porton of scripture for how it speaks to us in the twenty-first century, more than two thousand years after it happened.

Act 3:1-13
And on the same day Peter and John went up into the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. (2) And a certain man, who was lame from his mother's womb, was being carried. And they laid him daily at that temple gate which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered into the temple. (3) Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. (4) And fastening his eyes on him, Peter with John said, Look on us! (5) And he paid heed to them, expecting to receive something from them. (6) But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk! (7) And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up. And immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength. (8) And leaping up, he stood and walked and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God. (9) And all the people saw him walking and praising God. (10) And they recognized him, that it was him who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (11) And as the lame one who was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering. (12) And seeing this, Peter answered the people, Men, Israelites, why do you marvel at this? Or why do you stare at us, as though we had made this man to walk by our own power or holiness? (13) The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His son Jesus, whom you delivered up, denying Him in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to let Him go.

The Apostles’ Ties to Their Roots

The first thing that I’d like to examine is that these men were tied to their roots. In the text we find them on their way to prayer. Peter and John are no longer Jews in the sense of religion. They are now believers in Jesus as Messiah, the savoir sent by God. So now they’re Christians. They have accepted the Messiah. The law no longer binds them, because they have been justified by their faith in Him. But yet they are still involved in prayer at the temple. Don’t forget that the beginnings of the New Testament church was Jewish. They’re still meeting daily at the temple courts.

Act 2:46-47
And continuing with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they shared food with gladness and simplicity of heart, (47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

They wouldn’t cast off their Jewish identity because they accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Christianity isn’t the end of the Judaism it’s the fulfillment of their faith. For centuries, prophets predicted Jesus as the Messiah that was sent to deliver them.

Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be on His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) There is no end of the increase of His government and peace on the throne of David, and on His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on, even forever. The zeal of Jehovah of Hosts will do this.

The problem is that they missed Him, they didn’t recognize Jesus as the one who was predicted. They were looking for another type of Messiah; a political one.

But Peter and John recognized this in their lifetimes. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah who had come for us. They knew that He was God among men. They knew that they had seen the fulfillment of the prophecies and rituals come to life before them. Can you imagine how exciting it must have been for them to realize that the Messiah they had waited for, for so long had been revealed? All of their lives they had been taught to expect Him; all of their lives they had heard the words of the prophets and now they were actually seeing them come to life, right before their eyes. It must have been a terribly exciting time to be alive for a believing Jew.

One time Brenda and I had an opportunity to go to Tombstone Arizona. This is a very famous part of the American history of the old west. This is the place where the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, had his most famous gunfight with the Clanton Brothers at the OK Corral. I was standing in the very place where Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday faced down the Clantons in that famous fight. I was excited. I had seen the movies, I had read about it, I was standing in the place where it had happened. But it was just history. No change had taken place in my life as a result of that gin battle. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I ever stood at the garden tomb, or on the hill Golgotha, or in the garden of Gethsemane.

That’s what it must have been like for them as they met God face to face: the One who had been prophesied; the One who had been foretold. Can you imagine how the preaching in the temple came alive after as saw some of those prophecies fulfilled?

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King comes to you. He is righteous and victorious, meek and riding on an ass, even on a colt, the son of an ass.

Matthew 21:1-9
And when they drew near Jerusalem, and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, (2) saying to them, Go into the village across from you. And immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. (3) And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them, and immediately He will send them. (4) All this was done so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, (5) "Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King comes to you, meek, and sitting on an ass, even a colt the foal of an ass." (6) And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. (7) And they brought the ass, even the colt, and put their clothes on them, and He sat on them. (8) And a very great crowd spread their garments in the way. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them in the way. (9) And the crowds who went before, and those who followed, cried out, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Church must have really come alive for them. Their future was tied to their heritage. Our future is tied to our heritage. Have you ever heard the saying, “Learn from history or you’ll be doomed to repeat it?” We can learn from our heritage to enhance our future. Look at this scripture:

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope

The word translated as future comes from the Hebrew word achar which is the same root for the word that means behind. In Hebrew the thought is that your future is something that is coming behind or following after.

You can get a word picture if you think of a man rowing a boat. He is facing where he has been and where he is going is at his back. He is looking backwards and moving forwards. If you look at it in that sense, where we have been is important to where we are going.

Of course many of us think, I've had a horrible past. I have lived my life in opposition to God. But if our past is linked to our future then we can’t be all that God calls us to be, without that influence from the past. God may want to use something in your past to minister to someone in your future. Your heritage plays an important part in who you are today. I can minister effectively to someone who is heading down the same path I went.

I once shared a testimony on a university campus. I shared with those students that I was once a university student. Like any university student I experimented with alcohol and drugs but I always thought it was all harmless fun, I wouldn’t get addicted. Ten years later I was a broken and hopeless alcoholic, on the very verge of suicide. I told them that some of them, even though they didn’t see it at the time, were on the same path I was on, because the university party scene was where I started drinking heavily. I was able to use my past to answer God’s call on my life.

Their Understanding of Their Calling

Secondly, I want to examine what they were doing at this moment and what that says about their calling as Christians. We can look at their example, here, and understand what was important to Jesus. These men are his disciples. A disciple is someone who has attached himself to a teacher. They are seeking to learn, but discipleship implies even more than that: Disciples are looking for an impartation from their teacher. Impartation literally means to bestow something. In other words they are looking for something to be laid into their lives; not just to be taught but that something be transferred to them so that they become like their teacher.

Next to our church in Riverside was a Kung Fu school, and often I would talk to the young men who frequented the place. I was struck with the words they spoke about the teacher. I would ask a question and they would answer with, “My master says…” or “Our master teaches…” One day, I asked one of the most faithful of them, “You want to be like your teacher, don’t you?” His response was, “Oh yeah!” This young man was a disciple, he was looking for more than knowledge, he was looking for impartation.

Jesus has imparted something into these men, Peter and John, about the importance of their ministry. Look at verses three through six of our text:

Acts 3:3-6
Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. (4) And fastening his eyes on him, Peter with John said, Look on us! (5) And he paid heed to them, expecting to receive something from them. (6) But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!

Their ministry is about people, not about being in church, although we notice they are on their way to the temple. The word ministry literally means to serve; a minister is a servant.

Once our church choir was invited to a choir competition with a number of other churches in our city. The sponsoring church made a big fuss over the pastors who attended. They had set up a section right in the front where they sat the pastors. It was like first-class on an airplane and they provided comforts that they didn’t provide to everyone. I learned something from my pastor’s reaction, he was so uncomfortable that after a few minutes, he got up and went and sat with the other people in our church. His priority was about ministering to the needs of people. It wasn’t about his ego, in fact, it wasn’t about him at all. That’s how Jesus was too. He focused on the needs of the people. He put Himself at risk to minister to the blind, the lame and the deaf.

Luke 6:6-11
And it happened, also on another sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue and taught. And there was a man whose right hand was withered. (7) And the scribes and Pharisees watched him to see if He would heal on the sabbath day, so that they might find an accusation against Him. (8) But He knew their thoughts and said to the man who had the withered hand, Rise up and stand in the middle. And he arose and stood. (9) Then Jesus said to them, I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save life, or to destroy it? (10) And looking around on them all, He said to the man, Stretch out your hand! And he did so. And his hand was restored whole like the other. (11) And they were filled with madness, and talked with one another as to what they might do to Jesus.

Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, He understood the law. He knew the Pharisees would see it as a violation to heal this man on the Sabbath. But His regard was for the man who suffered. This beggar stopped Peter and John, as they hurried into the temple, and they focused all their attention on him.

There was a liquor store very near the church in Riverside, and homeless men would stand near the liquor store or the church and beg. Everyday when we went into the church we would have to pass them to get into the church and there was an interesting thing that happened. People would bring them food, they would give them money, and they came and ate with them. Some people said they wanted to experience what the homeless men experience, everyday. These things were nice. They ministered to these homeless men on one level, but they never offered them what they needed most: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peter and John have surely seen this beggar before. The Bible says he was brought to the temple everyday. But on this day when the beggar speaks to them he can’t even look at them because he’s ashamed. They tell him, “Look at us.” The beggar feels worthless, Peter doesn’t give him money, he reaches into his life and lifts him up. He gives him a whole new lease on life.  The people who fed and comforted the homeless men in Riverside, gave them food and comfort that would help them in that day, but never the new lease on life that only Jesus can give.

Peter and John understood what it is to be a minister of the Gospel. They understood that it was about serving people, not with the material things (although there is a place for that) but serving them with the thing can meet all of their needs.

Our church isn’t involved with all the “Christian” causes. We aren’t boycotting products, we aren’t protesting in front of abortion centers. We aren’t doing any of those things. Why? We are here to preach Salvation through Jesus Christ, if the people we deal with come to a place of salvation and deliverance, then all those other things will take care of themselves. I’m not saying those things are bad, or that people shouldn’t do them, but the focus of ministry is conversion. Conversion will change behavior in a way that these other things can’t. Look at the reaction of this beggar as Peter reached down and pulled him to his feet.

And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up. And immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength. (8) And leaping up, he stood and walked and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.

He leapt up and went into the temple to worship God. I bet worship service had a whole new power for him, as well.

The Beggar’s Testimony

Finally, I want to consider one last point and this concerns the beggar more than Peter and John.

Act 3:9-10
And all the people saw him walking and praising God. (10) And they recognized him, that it was him who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Have you ever considered your testimony? This is the thing we have; this is what God has done for us. This is what he has given each of us, specifically. What you have been given by God is most likely different from what He has given me. I was delivered from the sin that was specific to my life and you were forgiven from that sin specific to yours. Your testimony of God’s grace and mercy is different from mine.

In our text, this man receives the ability to walk. He has been lame from birth; from the womb. Everyone knew him as the beggar from the Gate Beautiful. They have seen him for years, lame and begging at the gate. Here he is walking, leaping and praising God. They were filled with amazement and wonder. Do you realize that people look at YOU that way? You're the person they knew from the bar or prison or wherever your sin took you. Now they see you well and living for God you’re life completely changed and they’re amazed.

A few years back, my wife and I had dinner with a woman that knew me in high school. She couldn’t get over the fact that I was a pastor, because she knew how I was before. She knew how I lived; she was involved in some of the sin in my life. She knew me well. She could see the profound change that had taken place in my life and she was amazed. That night it struck me how important my testimony is, because in seeing the change in me, someone who is hurting and enslaved by sin can envision a change in his or her own life.

People are convinced that they can’t change. They’re convinced that they’re stuck with who they’ve become. . But we who have experienced the power of Jesus Christ understand that there is a lasting change that can come into our lives. That change that is so evident in us can become a beacon of hope for others.

That’s why it is so important that we guard our testimonies: That we always protect the change that has taken place in our lives. If we stumble publicly and destroy our testimony, we may shatter the hope that someone else has. They may say, “See, I told you it was too good to be true.” That’s the tragedy of people who have destroyed their testimonies and been caught in some gross sin. They have brought a reproach on the Gospel and other people will throw it at you when you tell them you’re living for Jesus. Have you ever heard this, “I know this guy who said he was saved but then I see him doing…” I’ve heard that recently, too many times. Our testimony is a gift from God and we need to protect it so that others will find hope in it. Those that surrounded Peter, John and the beggar were greatly wondering, and people are looking at your life and wondering, “Can that work for me, too.” People are watching you, not because they hope you will fail, but because they hope that you won’t.

I want to leave you with one final thought.

Acts 3:12-13
And seeing this, Peter answered the people, Men, Israelites, why do you marvel at this? Or why do you stare at us, as though we had made this man to walk by our own power or holiness? (13) The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His son Jesus, whom you delivered up, denying Him in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to let Him go.

Peter and John took no credit for this miracle. God didn’t heal the beggar to make Peter and John look good. He didn’t do it because they were good people and He wanted to give them credibility. He did it because He’s a sovereign God.

Exodus 33:19
And He said, I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before you. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.

We are just lucky that he uses us for his work. It’s a privilege to be used by God; to be a part of what He wants to do in the lives of other people. We were rebels, liars, cheaters and fornicators, but He has chosen us to be the instruments of His will.