I have had the great joy the past three weeks of preparing to bring the message of Messiah Jesus to my church’s K-2nd grade Sunday School. We have been talking about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the grave and His subsequent appearances to the beloved women and 11 disciples. We talked about how He helped them see that these things are the work of God in keeping His promises from long ago, ages past, in the Garden of Eden and all through the thousands of years before Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary…
This Sunday, we are going to jump ahead a bit to Acts 3-4. This will take the children to The Beautiful Gate and Solomon’s Porch in the Temple to see how Peter and John expressed that they were sure of the Truth that Jesus is Lord, and all the excitement that came with that experience…
My studies this week have reminded me of what it means to live without doubting the Lord Jesus in a very troubled world. My meditations on Acts 3-4 have taken me back to readings in a worship service at least five years ago, upon which my heart could not keep silent. What follows below is from a journal I wrote following that worship service, and it resonates in my soul again as I prepare to visit Acts 3-4 with my children this Sunday. That journal entry so long ago was a note I shared in an e-mail to my fellow choir members to encourage them in these times. Here it is, intact and uncut. Hope it is a blessing to you…
I’m still meditating on the Lessons from this past Sunday. Both the lesson from Acts 4 and the Epistle from 1 John 3 are powerfully encouraging.
The verses from Acts 4 remind me of the powerful prayers of the faithful:
…The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us’…Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done through the Name of Your holy Servant, Jesus.
Much of that prayer, spoken in the first days of the Church, not only echoes the prophecy in Psalm 2.2-3, but it also speaks of the posture of the world against the Church in our day. Rulers take counsel together against God, against the Deity of Christ Jesus, and against His anointed–those who are believers in Jesus Christ, bearers of His Holy Spirit. The adversarial agenda is to break our bonds into pieces and remove our influence from this world, to silence our praise and to discredit our testimonies. And yet, young and new as the early church was, their prayers in response to the threats were bold and completely trusting in God’s agenda: “Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that…they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand…that signs and wonders may be done through the Name of Your holy Servant, Jesus.” (And the place where they prayed was shaken.) Wow!! This is powerful prayer, because it focuses on God’s agenda…
The verses from 1 John 3, a powerful link to those in Acts 4, are a wonderful reminder of God’s unfathomable love, that we should be called the sons of God.
When I reconsider the prayer of the early church in Acts 4, I started to think about the greatest sign and wonder of God’s outstretched hand of healing for these times. What the Lord laid on my heart both encouraged me and showed me my need for His continuing transforming work in my life. I share it with you from my heart, not to preach, for I have not attained. I share it to encourage you as my family in Christ in times hungry for signs and wonders. Here, then, are signs and wonders for such a time as this…
…love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul and with all your strength…do justly…love mercy, and…walk humbly with your God…have love one for another…Love suffers long and is kind; does not envy…does not parade itself…is not puffed up…does not behave rudely…does not seek its own…is not provoked, thinks no evil…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…never fails…And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
–Deuteronomy 6.5; Micah 6.8; John 13.35; 1 Corinthians 13.4-8,13
It can’t be faked. It’s the authenticating sign of God’s work of restoration, regeneration, and healing in a fallen, human heart. Here is wonder in a sickened, dying world:
…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.”
As I reflect on the radiant glory of this, I rejoice and I tremble at the same time. On the one hand I shout praise to God. On the other, I earnestly pray for His greater transforming work in my life by stretching out His hand to heal all the stuff in me that resists love and that obscures the wonder of His redemptive power where He has set me in this world.
Now, Lord, as our brothers in Christ prayed two millenia ago, look on all that threatens Your work and quenches Your Spirit in us in our times; and grant to Your servants that with all boldness we may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal the inmost infirmities in us, and that signs and wonders may be done through the Name of Your holy Servant, Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever–for such a time as this. Amen. (from Acts 4.29-30)