Monday, June 28, 2010

Give What You Have--Acts 3

How many times have you looked at your lack of resources and thought, “It’s simply impossible to do what I need to do. There’s just no way this is every going to work. If only I had…” My guess is that there have been multiple times that this has happened in some form or another. We’re very good at noticing our lack, and fairly poor at recognizing our assets.
First, sometimes what we think we need isn’t what we really need. This man was trying to survive. That’s as far as he could think. He was in survival mode. He wasn’t asking much. Just a little bit of money to buy food. He wasn’t being greedy. He just wanted his daily needs met. He had no vision.
We get stuck in survival mode. We don’t ask for much. We only ask for what we think we need, but it never moves us forward. We have no vision. We don’t look for what God wants to give us.
God wanted this man to have much more than money to buy food for the day. God wanted this man to thrive! To be able to provide for himself and to be able to not only serve himself, but to serve others, and to glorify God in and through his life.
Second, God doesn’t want us to merely survive. God wants us to thrive. God doesn’t want us just to be able to provide for ourselves, but to serve others and to glorify God in and through our lives.
In addition, it doesn’t take money to do the work of God. Peter and John were broke. They didn’t have even spare change to give to this man, but that didn’t stop them from reaching out and serving and being involved in God’s work. Peter says, “I don’t possess silver and gold, but what I do have, I give to you: In the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”
I’ve heard over and over lately that it doesn’t take money to do the work of God. I heard it in every workshop I attended at the Linking for Ministry conference that Jim and I attended in South Carolina. I heard Rev. Brown say it when we went on our field trip to observe the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at First Baptist in Jacksonville. Instead, I’ve heard as the Scriptures also say, “God equips those whom God calls.” And the resources are already there.
When we were strategizing on how this church could serve the community, we knew we didn’t have much by way of financial resources, so what do we have that we can share with the community? We have land. We could start a garden. Yes, it eventually did take some funds to improve our land, but when we stepped out in faith, those funds were there. What else do we have to offer to our community? We have a facility. We open it up to the scouts; we’ve hosted Pre-K registration for the past 3 years, and now we have opportunity to open it up for respite care ministry. We can give what we have.
It doesn’t take money necessarily to do the work of God, but it does take commitment, perseverance, and faith. It’s fueled by prayer, and empowered by God.
Fourth point, Peter knew the value of what he had to give. He didn’t bemoan the fact that he was poor. He had something much greater to give. He had the power of Jesus. He wasn’t Jesus. Let’s note that Peter doesn’t forgive this man’s sins as Jesus did when He healed the paralytic. Peter is not God. He doesn’t have the power to forgive sins. But he gives the gift of healing in Jesus’ Name. This lame man was meant to thrive. Now he can not only provide for himself, but contribute to society. He has the ability to help others and to become a giver as well.
Too often we don’t know the value of what we do have. We possess the most valuable thing in all the universe. We carry the Name of Jesus. The value of what we have is only made evident when we give it away. We were meant to carry this power, this Person, into the world, as Henry Sofley talked about a couple of weeks ago. If we knew the value of what we do have, we wouldn’t be complaining so much about the things we don’t have, and we’d be much more eager to give what we have away. We need to know the value of what we have.
Jim’s brother, Joey, said something with which I wholeheartedly agree. He said this, worship, was intended to be Base Camp. The time when we come together to be reminded of our common mission, inspired and bound together by a common vision, and empowered to carry out that mission in the world. It’s where we share reports on how the mission is progressing. What’s happening? What’s going on? Not just to sing some songs, listen to some words, and put a check on our list.
Notice too, that an act of service isn’t an end in itself. Peter’s act of service doesn’t stop with the healing of this man. It’s actually a jumping off point for something much, much greater. This event is witnessed by many people, and the act of service becomes an opportunity to give Jesus away multiple times. Peter preaches to the crowd and gives them opportunity to repent and turn to Jesus. Again, it isn’t Peter who forgives, but he points to the One who can and will forgive sins. And still the story doesn’t stop. It will continue into Acts chapter 4 as we will see in a few weeks when some of our younger folk will be helping me out with the service.
Don’t think that God’s work and mission stops with individual acts of service. That garden out there isn’t just a garden. It’s a jumping off point for something much bigger. It’s an opportunity for people to find spiritual healing, as we are already seeing. The produce we take to the food pantry doesn’t stop there. It’s passed out into the community in the name of Jesus. Opening up our building doesn’t stop there. It provides opportunities for men like Greg Patterson and Brad Drury and Philip Clarke and Kathy Russell and others to demonstrate the love of Jesus by mentoring girls and boys and instilling in them virtues, so that as they grow like Stephen Tankard, who became an Eagle Scout a week ago Saturday, will live out those virtues in the world and lead others.
My sister-in-law had the following quotation from Howard Snyder on her Facebook page: "Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; kingdom people work to see the church change the
world." I added to the following to the quotation, “Church people are worried about the number of people they have in worship. Kingdom people rejoice over each person who comes to Christ whether they join their particular church or not." It’s never about church attendance. It’s about the growth of God’s kingdom. That’s not to say that worship isn’t important. It’s not just important, but vital. We’ve already established that. We all need to return to the Base Camp. In fact, Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray when all this happened. If Christian gatherings and worship are indeed meant to be our Base Camp, then we do need attend, and not just attend, but participate.
So what are we called to do? Proclaim the gospel for the salvation of humankind and to preserve and pass on the Truth, as Peter did when he preached. To shelter, nurture, and be in fellowship with one another—Base Camp meetings. To worship—our highest end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To work for social justice—Peter’s act of service in healing was an act of social justice, working for the improvement of the welfare of his fellowman. And finally to show the world what the Kingdom of God is like. May we be empowered today to carry out our mission when we leave this place and not to worry about what we can’t give, but instead to give what we have.

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