Agents of God

Disqualified? Qualified! (John 4:1-45)

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Life is a sequence of many moments isn’t it? Yet not all moments are equal in their importance for our lives. Some of the moments in our lives are what one could call; ‘God-moments’. These are moments, which are often unexpected in which radical change can happen, faith can be birthed or strengthened, in which we can learn something new about ourselves, God or others.

Today, God wants to bless you. This devotion could be a God-moment in your life. God wants to bless you, to encounter you, change your view of Him, to change you, to pour His love into you, wants to heal and restore you…

Back to the story, this woman at the well is about to have an unexpected God-moment in her life as she comes to draw water at the well but finds Jesus there! After some interaction about Jesus’ thirst, Jesus’ offered her water that would satisfy her thirst forever, she then asked Jesus to give her this water so that she would never thirst again.

Jesus knowing everything about her, asks her about her husband, asks her to call him. She didn’t want to talk about these things, it’s too personal, she tries to cover up this sad aspect of her life. We are often like this woman aren’t we? At first she resisted God’s loving, kind advances, and she tries to hide from the King of Glory. But He’s all-knowing, He knows about all 5 of her previous husbands & He knows of her current sinful relationship with the man who is not her husband but whom she is with.

At this point you might expect Jesus to draw back. After-all, she has been exposed and it’s messy. Yet,
amazingly, graciously, God still pursues her as He pursues you and I. Amazingly, what God knows about you and I doesn’t cause Him to re-coil and run from us.

Yet Jesus stays with her keeps pursuing her in this moment and reveals to her that He is the Messiah (vs26). God accepts us as we are, warts and all, God wants to transform us from who we have been and who we are today into worshippers who will worship in Spirit and truth!

And so in this God-moment the woman has a revelation of God, a revelation of the grace, mercy & forgiveness of God. What she thinks about God, what she knows is re-written in a moment as God reveals His true character to her in this God-moment…

You might have thought that her past and her present disqualified this lady. And yet actually her mess strangely qualified her to speak to others about who God is and what God is like! Having slinked out of town to come and get water, ashamed, at a time when not many others would be there.

Having met Jesus though she runs back into town effectively shouting; ‘Come and see a man who told me everything that I ever did, I think He is God!’ This woman’s shame actually became her proof of who God is! Her shame was what qualified her to testify to who God is and what God is like. In that God-moment, her sin became her God-story of redemption which in turn then showed off the grace, love & mercy of God to her whole town.

In one sense, you and I can’t be entrusted by God to share with others about Him until we have received, encountered, grace from God towards us first. Receiving grace from God qualifies us to tell others about God’s grace and mercy.

God’s grace is that He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. God accepts us not on the basis of our merit but on account of His goodness and His lavish grace and kindness to us in Jesus. Although Jesus knew every sordid thing about this woman, He still accepted her and forgave her! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He didn’t come for those who think they’re doing just fine, stuck in their self-righteousness, He came for sinners like me, like you…?

The end of the story is amazing. One woman’s God-moment, one woman encountering Jesus as the God of grace, results in her sharing her God-story with her town so that Scripture then records that; “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

So what are you ashamed of? What do you feel disqualifies you from being used by God, from being God’s agent for change, His channel of grace and blessing to people? Can your sin potentially actually become a God-story which ends up showing off the God of grace?

Ask Jesus to forgive you, to pour His grace and mercy into your life right now and then go and tell the world how great and good and loving Jesus is! Needing grace, doesn’t disqualify you, it qualifies you to share with others about the incredible grace and mercy and love of God.

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They had been with Jesus… (Acts 4:13-22)

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Let’s re-cap for a moment the story thus far…   Jesus spoke to the disciples just before His ascension, ‘wait for the Promise’!  Then the promised Holy Spirit came with a remarkable manifestation of joy & power which resulted in a boldness in the disciples that catapulted them onto Jesus’ mandate and mission for their lives.  

Peter preaches the first sermon and 3000 people put their faith in Jesus on that first day!  The new community formed through the Gospel is a radical one which starts sharing life and possessions and devotes themselves to God in prayer and to one another.

In the days that follow, Peter and John then meet a paralysed man begging at the temple.  However, rather than meeting his financial need they decide to give him the very best that they have to give – faith in Jesus!  They pray for him and this man crippled for 40yrs is instantly healed in public which creates a crowd and a context for Peter to preach again about who Jesus is and what God did through Jesus on the cross in fulfilment of myriads of Old Testament prophecy.

All the commotion, the big crowds and the multitudes professing faith in Jesus (now about 5000 men so more like 10 000-15 000 women children!) raised the ire of the Jewish religious authorities who subsequently arrest Peter and John. 

The next day they are hauled before the council and questioned about under what authority are they acting – Peter full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8) stands up and preaches again proclaiming with razor sharp clarity the Gospel crescendoing with;

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

The Jewish council are dumbstruck!  They remark at the incredible boldness and clarity of these everyday men, who are unlearned fishermen and yet proclaiming with clarity and boldness regarding the Scriptures.  They can’t deny the miracle of the healing of the crippled man standing before their eyes and witnessed by the multitudes.  But they want to shut this movement down and so call Peter and John in again and try to intimidate them commanding them to stop speaking about Jesus as if He was Messiah and in authority.

Peter and John boldly refuse to be shut down, and so reply to this command saying effectively; ‘you decide whether we should obey you or obey God!  We cannot stop speaking about Jesus and all we have seen and heard!’

The council threatened them again and then had to let them go because the multitude was praising God for this miracle God had done.

It’s so important to hear the assessment of the Jewish council, Peter and John were ordinary men!  However they had been ‘with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13) and we know that they were now also filled with the power of the Holy Spirit & full of faith in Jesus.  Incredible things are possible if we will walk closely with Jesus in our daily lives, if we will be full of faith in the power of the name of Jesus and if we will be continuously full of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit!

  • What’s God saying to YOU through this passage?
  • What are you going to PRAY for as a result?
  • What do you want to START doing more of?
  • Is there anything you feel you need to STOP?

See, Love, Act (Acts 3:1-10)

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After the rousing sermon that followed the remarkable prayer meeting and the incredibly deep fellowship of the early church all recorded in Acts 2, Acts 3 has an air of normality about it as it starts.

Peter and John are about to enter the Temple complex at around 3pm in the afternoon which was the time of prayer.  The earliest believers had been raised all their lives up to the present of Jews, and the earliest church assimilated it’s new revelations about Jesus with their habitual rhythms (like daily prayer here in the Temple complex).

At an the entrance was a man who was lame, who had been unable to walk since birth.  He was seated at the gate asking people for money considering his state.  

What do Christ Followers do when faced with human needs like; this man’s physical, emotional, financial & spiritual need?

They SEE, LOVE & ACT in faith.  

Like Jesus with Bartimaeus (see Mark 10:46-52) who stopped for Bartimaeus, Peter and John stop for this crippled man.  They SEE him, they LOVE him enough to acknowledge his presence and this action of SEEING and STOPPING must have communicated value to him. 

They didn’t just toss some coins in the dust although he would probably have been happy with that.  Rather they stopped and looked at him saying; “Look at us… Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

They loved him enough to stop and to see him, to recognise him as a person but then they met a deeper need than even the need he would have identified as his need.  He was asking for money, they saw past that need and saw how being crippled would never allow him to do anything except beg for money and so they reached out and acted with faith speaking life, healing & health into his body all in the name of Jesus!

Having spoken with faith, Peter then reached out in faith with his hands to lift the man up and as he did Dr Luke records that the man’s feet and ankles were immediately made strong.  Peter and John, SEE, LOVE & ACT in faith when confronted with this man’s need.

The way Dr Luke records this miracle and the sequence of events, I can’t help be wonder whether the man would not have been healed unless Peter had had the faith to pray believing God would heal, and then also having the faith to stretch out his hand to lift him up so as to take his first steps ever as a person born cripple.

What life transforming things are passing us by every day?

What would God have you do, small or large that can transform someone else’s life?

Are your ears and eyes open to the leading of the Holy Spirit?

Dr Luke knows this condition was congenital, knows it had lasted 40yrs (Acts 4:22),  and so he records the medical evidence of this wonderful instant healing in response to Peter and John’s faith and their stepping out in faith.  Dr Luke tells us three times that this man was now walking, in fact more than that he was walking and leaping!

Thomas Walker comments, ‘the power was Christ’s, but the hand was Peter’s’.  Peter and John saw, loved and acted on their faith in Jesus and this man’s life was transformed!

What does God want to do through you in the life of others?

May we be those who SEE, LOVE & ACT in faith.  Amen.

Do it again Lord… (Acts 1:1-8)

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Picture the scene, the disciples (who by now are a core group of 120 men women and children, no more than an average size small church) have had a wild, exhilarating & challenging last three years with Jesus leading them. So much has happened!

Jesus taught and performed countless miracles, engaged with countless people but then dies at the hands of the Romans on the cross but then rises again from the dead as He promised He would! Jesus then re-appears to them at many times and in many ways over a remarkable period of 40days after his death & resurrection and before His ascension into heaven (vs3). Who would have missed out on those meetings?

During this time Jesus kept telling them about his kingdom. Telling them what His kingdom was like, what people who have Him as their king are like, what a community of people with Jesus as their king are like, how Jesus wants them to take His kingdom rule and reign and invade the known world setting people free from the kingdom of darkness and bringing them into His gloriously good kingdom characterised by grace & love, healing and wholeness, joy and peace with God.

At one time Jesus draws them all in and tells them all to;

‘wait for the Promise of the Father…John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’ (vs4-5).

And after some questioning from those gathered which just reveals how little they were getting at the time Jesus carries on with what He was saying;

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (vs8)

Something had been promised by Jesus (see John 14-16) and by the Father (Joel 2:28-32) that was about to happen, to be fulfilled! The disciples were instructed to wait for it. They were not to proceed until they had been totally filled to overflowing with the presence and the activating power of the Holy Spirit.

That in-filling of power from God would activate them as Jesus’ agents in the world, sent by Him to bring His kingdom to all those they met right there in Jerusalem, in the surrounding regions too and ultimately to the very ends of the earth! (vs8)

This book we’re reading in July/August is the eyewitness account of what those 120 did once they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and as they obeyed Jesus command to be His witnesses to the world.

So what relevance does this have for you and for me?

Ask: You have been walking with Jesus, you have put your faith in Jesus like they had. They were told to wait until they had received an out-pouring of Holy Spirit power on their lives that would activate and enable them to be Jesus’ agents in the world! Have you prayed and asked God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you too can be activated for God’s mission through you? Pray now, ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit for power to be an agent of Jesus’ today.

Consider: This book is not some nice church history, some nice stories of the early church. This book is not meant to be exceptional but rather an example of what God wants our lives and our church to be like and to do for God in our day. There were just 120 in that room listening to Jesus, no more than most little local churches but consider what God did through them!

Pray: Oh, Lord do it again through us, through me! Fill us, fill me with your Holy Spirit, with Your power and glory and send us, send me out on Your mission to the world.

Sin is serious & we all have a part to play in the BIG STORY! (2 Kings 9-12)

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In what is a long section of brutal narrative… 

Exactly what God promised through Elijah in response to Jezebel and Ahab’s killing of Naboth for his vineyard in 1 Kings 21 is now fulfilled and Ahab’s sin and Jezebel’s sin and evil is punished by God in 2 Kings 9-10 by Jehu.

What can we learn from this for our lives?

Sin is extremely serious.  If we don’t recognise the seriousness of sin before a Holy God we are deluded, we cheapen grace and ultimately we don’t need a Saviour to rescue us from our sin or to forgive us for our sin.

“Salvation shines forth brightly when it is seen against the dark background of divine judgment. We cheapen the gospel if we represent it as a deliverance only from unhappiness, fear, guilt and other felt needs, instead of as a rescue from the coming wrath.” – John Stott

Don’t prematurely decide that just because people don’t seem for the moment to be accountable before God for their sin and their rejection of Him that they won’t be held accountable by the Holy One.

All people’s only hope is Jesus Christ who was the propitiation for our sin!  That means, Jesus was the sacrifice that was paid in our place for our sin, the sacrifice which took away the wrath of God;

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)

Another feature of this section and all through 1&2 Kings are the little cameo’s in the BIG STORY of human history and salvation by often unremarkable individuals who did the work and will of God in the midst of a crooked and evil age.

Little cameo’s like;

  • The little Jewish girl who was carried away by Syrians and served in the house of Naaman who believed God could heal her master (2 Kings 5:2-3)
  • The unnamed servants of Naaman who helped him not miss his healing because of his reaction to Elisha’s instruction (2 Kings 5:13)
  • The four lepers (2 Kings 7) through whom God ended the brutal siege of Samaria
  • Princess Jehosheba who hid Joash from Athaliah for 6yrs in the house of God with the priest until the priest anointed him as king at the tender age of 7yrs old.
  • Joash the young 7yr old who listened to Jehoiada who discipled and instructed him and so he did amazingly good things reforming Judah and dealing with sin and Baal worship and repaired the temple.

What can we learn for our lives?

You never do know when you are going to do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, or whether you have just done it! – Michael Eaton

God’s kingdom advances through people just like you and I doing often what might not seem like extraordinary things.  Live every day as if it is the day you will do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, live on the edge in anticipation and serve God with whatever and whoever God puts before you, disciple, reach out, love, speak the words of God….

Enter God’s Agent (1 Kings 17:1-24)

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What an introduction!  There is no mention of Elijah prior to this point, we don’t know anything about him, his upbringing, his faith journey up to this point.  In that sense, he is not like David who is introduced as a shepherd boy learning God’s ways and in preparation for the moment he stands before Goliath.  Elijah just arrives on the scene but does so with remarkable courage and faith.  

I am intrigued.  What lead to this man’s remarkable faith and courage in the gift God had given him?  What multiple little steps of faith had he climbed to get to this place of faith?

He goes to the despicable king of the northern tribes, Ahab and declares;  

“As the LORD, the God is Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)

Don’t you love that God-inspired boldness!  To go before a wicked king who could kill you in a flash but to be so much more aware of God than him that you pronounce what God tells you to with conviction.  This is not arrogance but godly obedience.  This is God’s man declaring to this wicked king where the authority really lies – in God alone.

Baal-Hadad (or just ‘Baal’ for short) was the god of storms and rain and so people at the time were tempted to worship Baal, falsely hoping that Baal would provide the much needed rain to make the land fertile.  This prophetic announcement is a direct attack on the falsehood and futility of Baal worship which is what Ahab had allowed to proliferate in Israel.

Having spoken God’s word to Ahab about the coming drought, God leads Elijah to an inhospitable  ravine in the mountains with a little brook in it presumably to wait for the drought he had prophesied to begin having its effect.

But think about it.  God said through Elijah that there would be no rain, and yet God sends Elijah not a city with water reserves but to a ravine in the mountains with a little stream – that then dries up!  Elijah must have felt both relieved and concerned by the brook.  Relieved that God had withheld the rain (1 Kings 17:7) in a display of his power over Baal – just as Elijah prophesied and yet concerned in that his life-support was drying up too.

God spoke again!  ‘At last’, he might have a thought – ‘…time for a big meal and comfy room.’  However, this time God leads him to a town on the coast in the midst of Baal-worship territory (Zaraphath) where  he meets his host – a widow with no food in her house who is about to eat her last meal and then die (1 Kings 17:8-12).  ‘Great!’  I can almost hear him saying under his breath.

Elijah had followed God to the brook (1 Kings 17:5), Elijah followed God to a widow in Zarapheth with no food at all (because of his pronouncement of no rain).  Sometimes following God leads you right into hardship or scarcity in the natural realm.  We make a mistake when we assess whether we’ve been lead by God on the basis of circumstances being good/easy assuming hard/lack = not the will of God….

Why did God send Him here?

Did God send him to a foreign land to show him the extent of God’s power over not just Israel but all nations?  Did God send him here to experience the stress and strain of another person and to bring relief to her as maybe she had prayed to God?  We don’t know…

Elijah tells her to make a cake for him first and then for her a her son and then promises to her that God says that her little flour and her jug of oil will not run out until the drought is over because God ends it (1 Kings 17:13-14)!  And so a miracle of provision is recorded because she believed the word of God through Elijah.

Faith is believing God when we can’t see, when there is no evidence but miracles reside on the ‘other-side’ of faith and obedience.

Is there something God is telling you to do, to trust him in?  Do you, will you?

Agents of God in the World (Colossians 4:5-6)

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Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

Burk Parsons said; “God calls us out of darkness and into his marvelous light and then calls us to walk right back into the darkness and shine.”We are God’s agents in the world!

Scripture describes us as God’s fragrance, ‘the aroma of Christ’(2 Corinthians 2:15) amongst unbelievers and Jesus called us ‘the salt of the earth’(Matthew 5:13) and Scripture also describes us as ‘ambassadors for Christ’(2 Corinthians 5:20).  More than all of these you and I are also the sonsand daughtersof our heavenly Father (1 John 3:1)!

In all three of these passages we are not likened to these things but rather described as being them. These things are not something that’s merely metaphorical or just aspirational but is in fact a statement of what is true of us, it is in fact who we are.

And for that reason Colossians 4:5-6 instructs us to walk with wisdom, to really think about how we live out our lives and interact with those who are not yet Christ followers. It is assumed here that the church will not be some holy huddle excluding itself from the world, we are to engage with live amongst, reach out to people who are not Christ followers. We are those to whom God has entrusted the message and ministry of reconciliation – the good news that God wants to reconcile all people to Himself through faith in His Son, Jesus!

We have a high calling, we represent God in the world. In politics or business, an ambassador for a country or a brand has a real responsibility to represent his/her nation/brand well in all they say and do. Such a person is not just a free agent, they have responsibility, how they live and talk really matters.

Similarly, for us as Christ followers we are urged here to deeply consider our lives and our speech and to consider whether we are living and speaking as we ought to – with wisdom and with grace. Our ‘salty’ speech should preserve peace and should point people to Christ. God wants us to be able to answer people’s questions about life or faith or God – to give dignity to them by really considering their question and giving answers that serve them and illuminate the path to faith in Jesus.

These are easy things to write, easy things to read about yet difficult to do! I am freshly convicted of my need to wake up each day and to mentally put on this role God’s given – ambassador, representative! What an honour we have. May I, may we serve those who don’t yet know Jesus as Lord and Saviour by the way we live and speak – may we truly be the aroma of Christ and salt and light in the world for His sake and the sake of those who don’t yet know Him.

What can change today if you go into your day with this fresh realisation?