‘Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer.’ Acts 3:1 NKJV
The Bible says: ‘Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer… And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple…to ask alms from those who entered…who, seeing Peter and John…asked for alms… Peter said, “Look at us.” So, he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.’ (Acts 3:1–7 NKJV)
Notice two things: (1) Miracles happen in ordinary moments. This man was probably no stranger to Peter and John; they walked past him daily. But this day was different. Peter said, ‘Look at us. We have the answer you need.’ Supernatural faith rose up in Peter’s heart, causing him to see an opportunity to glorify God, and he seized it.
(2) You must be prepared when your moment comes. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t tell what you don’t know. You can’t share what you don’t feel. You can’t give out of a vacuum. The fact is, nothing great is created suddenly; it takes time. Three and a half years of walking with Christ, listening to His messages, and seeing His miracles had prepared the apostles for this moment. So had the ten days they’d just spent in the upper room being filled with the Holy Spirit. So, the word for you today is: to help people, you must be prepared!
‘If we can be acceptable to God by obeying the Law, it was useless for Christ to die.’ Galatians 2:21 CEV
While grace doesn’t give anyone a licence to live as they please, the judgmentalism that comes from insisting that others live by our standards has caused untold damage. Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘Legalism spreads a paralysing venom… blinds our eyes, dulls our edge and arouses pride in our heart… love is overshadowed by a mental clipboard with a long checklist requiring others to measure up… soon friendship is fractured by a judgmental attitude and a critical look. And before you conclude that you’renot guilty, observe your reaction when you meet another believer who doesn’t think, act, or dress the way you do. Even when you think you’re sophisticated enough to disguise your real feelings, they come out in the “stony stare” and the “holier than thou” attitude.’
Jesus said, ‘Don’t judge others, and God won’t judge you. Don’t be hard on others, and God won’t be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you.’ (Luke 6:37 CEV) A judgmental Christian acts as though blowing someone else’s light out will cause their light to shine brighter. But it’s not so. Paul writes, ‘If we can be acceptable to God by obeying the Law, it was useless for Christ to die.’ You say, ‘But what if someone is getting off track, or sinning intentionally?’ The Bible says, ‘If another believer is overcome by sin… humbly help that person back onto the right path… be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.’ (Galatians 6:1 NLT) When you take it upon yourself to condemn others—you are denying them the same grace you may need before the day is over.
‘I delight to do Your will.’ Psalm 40:8 NKJV
Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, wrote: ‘Tonight I sit on the porch, our old German Shepherd dog lying at my feet. Thunder rumbles in the distance. As the storm nears he tears into the front yard to meet it… furiously doing battle. As it passes he returns to the porch, convinced he has driven it away. He’s a German guard dog, carefully trained in search and rescue, attack and obedience. Search and rescue in these mountains can come in handy. I can’t imagine an occasion on which I’d give the order to attack. But a well-trained dog can sense hostility or spot a weapon (even what resembles a weapon), in which case it’s a wise person who freezes in his tracks. But it’s the obedience training that gives real joy. To stop, to sit, to lie down, to go away, to search, to stay, to heel. A disobedient dog is not only a headache, he can be a liability. Obedience makes a dog a joy. Is it less so with God and His children? There are some I know who’ve been trained in attack. We will not mention their names—you may know a few—but they’re skilled at it. Then there are those trained in search and rescue. (I put the Salvation Armyin this group.) And there are those who’ve been trained in obedience. I think this more than anything else must give the Lord pleasure. Simple obedience; joyful, eager, unquestioning obedience. To be able to say with the psalmist, “I delight to do Your will, O my God” would be the height of training for the Christian. For this is what gives God the greatest pleasure.’
‘Offer up your prayers and requests to God.’ Philippians 4:6 CEV
The Bible says, ‘With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.’(Philippians 4:6–7 CEV)
When you pray more, you worry less. That means you have a choice: either pray about it or worry about it. In prayer you give the problem to God, therefore you experience more peace of mind. Does that mean you won’t worry about the problem at all? No. It means you’ll worry about it less. While your goal is to give it completely to God and not worry about it at all, you’ll only get there step by step. God’s not asking you to exist in a state of denial. ‘Don’t worry—be happy!’ fails to appreciate the seriousness of the concerns you have. God doesn’t expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead He offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry: ‘Pray without ceasing.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV)
Does that mean a thirty-second prayer will rid you of all anxiety? No. It means start your day with prayer, and continue praying off and on throughout the day. Pray as you drive. Pray at work. Pray before your lunch break. Pray when you get that difficult phone call. Pray when you’re disappointed by something. Pray when surprises come. Pray when you triumph. Pray in the midst of painful news. Pray without ceasing—literally. Your heavenly Father, being deeply touched by your struggles, loves it when you come to Him asking for help. He’s right there, ready to step in. Just invite Him to do it.
‘She has done a beautiful thing to Me.’ Mark 14:6 NIV
Most of us are good actors, but it’s difficult to fake a reaction. And when the woman broke the alabaster jar, the reaction of the disciples is telling. ‘Why this waste?’ They thought she was pouring her perfume down the drain by pouring it at Jesus’ feet. They called it a waste, but He called it ‘a beautiful thing’. Then He went on to say, ‘Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mark 14:9 NIV)
Can you imagine what this one statement did for her self-image? It had probably been years since she’d heard a kind word or a compliment. Those words could be paraphrased, ‘You may not believe in yourself, but I believe in you.’ No one can spot potential like Jesus. That’s because He’s the One who gave it to us in the first place. And that’s why God will never give up on you. It’s not in His nature (see Philippians 1:6). His ‘goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life.’ (Psalm 23:6 KJV) All you have to do is turn around. This woman was desperate enough to crash the party, and Jesus responds to desperate people. How desperate are you? Desperate enough to make a move, make a change, make a sacrifice? Desperate enough to pray through the night? Read through the Bible? Reconcile the conflict? Plead with a friend who is a lost cause? Give your life savings to a kingdom cause? The path of least resistance won’t get you to where you need to be. But if you go out of your way for God, God will go out of His way for you.
‘More than a year’s wages.’ Mark 14:5 NIV
It’s possible the alabaster jar of perfume represented every cent of this woman’s life savings. The value is evidenced by the fact that two gospel writers find it noteworthy enough to give us a written estimate: three hundred denarii—the equivalent of an entire year’s salary. Let’s get down to the bottom line. For most of us, the alabaster jar of perfume is money. It’s our nest egg. It’s our pay cheque. It’s our retirement fund. And the question is this: are you willing to give it all away? We’re not suggesting you should not pay your bills or plan for your future or take care of your family. But if God prompted you to give it all away, would you be willing to break your alabaster jar and pour it all at the feet of Jesus?
During his lifetime, John Wesley gave away approximately thirty thousand pounds. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more than $2,270,000 in today’s money. Wesley made a covenant with God in 1731 to limit his income to twenty-eight pounds a year. But the first year he made only thirty pounds, so he gave just two pounds. The next year his income doubled, and because he managed to continue living on twenty-eight pounds, he gave away thirty-two pounds. He never had more than one hundred pounds in his possession because he was afraid of storing up earthly treasure. He believed God’s blessing should result in raising our standard of giving, not our standard of living. Even when his income rose to thousands of pounds, he lived simply and gave away all surplus money. He died with a few coins in his pocket, but a storehouse of treasure in Heaven. Think about it!
‘A woman who had lived a sinful life… brought an alabaster jar of perfume.’ Luke 7:37 NIV
The Bible says, ‘A woman who had lived a sinful life… brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping… poured perfume on them.’ (Luke 7:37–38 NIV) This perfume was pure nard, a perennial herb that is harvested in the Himalayas. Half a litre of it! And the jar itself, made of translucent gemstones, was probably a family heirloom. It might even have been her dowry. Plain and simple, it was her most precious possession.
How ironic, yet how appropriate that the perfume used in her profession as a prostitute would become the token of her profession of faith when she poured out every last drop at the feet of Jesus. Breaking that bottle was her way of breaking with the past. No more masking the stench of sin with the sweet scent of perfume. No more secrets. No more shame. She walked out of the dark shadow of sin into the light of the world. There comes a moment when you have to come clean with God. A moment when you need to unveil your secrets, struggles, and sins. A moment when you need to fall full weight on the grace of God. Why do we act as though our sin disqualifies us from the grace of God? That is the only thing that qualifies us! Anything else is a self-righteous attempt to earn God’s grace. You cannot trust God’s grace 99 per cent. It’s all or nothing. When we try to save ourselves, we forfeit the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone, by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8–9).
‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’ Galatians 2:20 NAS
When men first learned to navigate the seas by using the stars, a whole new world opened up to them. A common saying in those days was, ‘He who is a slave to the compass enjoys the freedom of the open sea.’ Make a total commitment to let Christ be your compass in life. Consult Him on every step you take. Let Him set your course and He will direct you to places of freedom and fulfillment you never knew existed. Be willing to say, like Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
One night Toscanini, the famous Italian conductor, led the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a very difficult piece to conduct. So majestic was the music that the audience stood for ten minutes of applause. Toscanini took his bows again and again. He turned to the orchestra; they bowed. The audience continued to clap and cheer. Finally Toscanini turned his back on the audience and speaking only to the orchestra said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am nothing, you are nothing, Beethoven is everything!’
CS Lewis wrote, ‘To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though, we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.’ So, kneel at the feet of Jesus today and say, ‘I am nothing; You are everything. Here are my gifts, my resources and my dreams. I lay them at Your feet. I give them all to You, holding nothing back.’
‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ Acts 6:4 NKJV
In Disciplines of a Godly Man, pastor and author R. Kent Hughes says: ‘Jay Sidlow Baxter once shared a page from his own personal diary with a group of pastors who had inquired about the discipline of prayer. He began telling how… he entered the ministry determined he would be a real man of prayer. However, it wasn’t long before his increasing responsibilities, administrative duties, and the subtle subterfuges of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. Moreover, he began to get used to it, making excuses for himself. Then one morning it all came to a head as he stood over his work-strewn desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the same time another velvety voice was telling him to be practical and get his letters answered, and that he ought to face the fact that he wasn’t one of the “spiritual sort”—only a few people could be like that. “That last remark,” says Baxter, “hurt like a dagger blade. I couldn’t bear to think it was true.” He was horrified by his ability to rationalize away the very ground of his ministerial vitality and power.’ Understand this: minutes invested in prayer will give you a greater return than hours spent in ceaseless activity. The New Testament apostles understood that. As the church grew bigger and they became busier, they made a life-changing decision: ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ As a result, the church grew and multiplied. So, make prayer a priority!
‘I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.’ 2 Samuel 24:24 NLT
Instead of trusting God for victory over his enemies, David decided of his own volition to count the number of troops in his army to see how strong he was. God considered it ‘a slap in the face’, and a plague hit Israel that wiped out seventy thousand people. In order to stop the plague, David was told: ‘Build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ (2 Samuel 24:18 NLT) When Araunah realized what was happening, he offered his threshing floor and oxen to David free of charge. But David said: ‘“No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So, David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer… and the plague on Israel was stopped.’(2 Samuel 24:24–25 NLT) The old Anglo-Saxon word for worship is worth-ship, which is the act of ascribing worth or value to a person or object. What’s the point? It’s this: when it comes to serving God, if it doesn’t cost—it doesn’t count! God knows we can’t all give the same amount. But what He’s asking for isn’t equal giving, but equal sacrifice! The Bible says, ‘Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything.’(Proverbs 3:9 NLT) So, whether you’re worshipping, serving, or giving, make sure you’re giving God your best.