May 13, 2019
Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Saul became Paul after a miraculous conversion. Last week we talked about how that conversion came about. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I read about how it happened instead of participating in that particular mode of inspiration first hand. I’m glad Jesus gives us enough examples and heroes of faith in our lives to let us believe in him without having to go through what those early believers went through. But some of their experiences do raise some questions for us today.
We know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His word tells us that and we know he is truth. He does not lie, so we know he doesn’t change. Jesus also told those that followed him that they would do more than they saw him do when he walked this earth. He healed the sick. He made the lame to walk and the blind to see. He healed lepers and all kinds of illnesses. He even raised the dead to life. Then we see some glimpses of what he told his disciples.
Peter and John headed toward the temple and saw a beggar who had been lame since birth. The man asked for alms, but instead they gave him new legs. He stood on his two feet and followed them into the temple praising God for his healing. And today’s lesson from the scripture gets even better. Luke in his letter to Theopolis writes these words found in Acts chapter 9.
9:36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, "Please come to us without delay."
So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, "Tabitha, get up." Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.
He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
Jesus told his disciples they would do more than he would. Now here is Peter raising Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead, just as Jesus raised the Centurion’s daughter from the dead or Peter’s mother-in-law, or the widow’s son in Cana, or Lazarus. Can you imagine what that must have been like to be in that house when Peter ushered everyone out of the room, prayed for her life to be restored and then walked out of the room with her?
Can you imagine the uproar in the city when the news spread that one of those followers of that rebel, Jesus was doing the same things he did? Can you imagine what the religious leaders were thinking in those back rooms of the temple when they heard the news? They thought it was over. They figured with Jesus dead and gone, the miracles would stop. They figured that even if the claims they heard about the man were true, at least it was over now. He was gone and only his followers were left. The miracles were over and only words were left behind. These guys knew how to debate. They could win the arguments.
But then… The lame started walking. The blind started seeing. The deaf started hearing. The lepers came to these followers. Now Tabitha who every claimed was dead, was walking around saying Peter claimed the Holy Spirit raised her in the name of Jesus, the man they crucified. What were they to do now? It wasn’t over after all. It looked like this might just be the beginning.
We know the rest of the story. The church grew from the eleven gathered in the upper room the night of the resurrection to the 120 gathered in a room together on Pentecost to 3,000 the next morning after the Holy Spirit settled on the people in that room and set their hearts on fire. Then within less than a decade, the church had grown to more than 100,000 across an empire that was out to destroy them because they were “atheists” believing in only one God, not the pantheon of Roman or Greek gods the major religions of the world believed.
The small band of disciples were God’s plan to spread the message. It’s unbelievable that God would use such a crazy plan to get his message across to the rest of the world. But 2000 years later, it appears he had no backup plan. This was it. Come to earth in human flesh. Gather a dozen uneducated men from various backgrounds around him. Teach them for about three years. Leave it in their hands after giving them a spirit of power if they accepted him as their only means of salvation.
What a weird, ridiculous, sure to fail from a human perspective plan. But it worked. The men and women God touches change the world. They are never the same. The men and women God uses to carry his message are transformed and empowered by the same resurrection power that brought life back to the dead cells in that broken body that lay in the tomb Joseph lent to Jesus for three days. That power that enables men and women to do the impossible not because of their ability, but because of God using them as an instrument of his will.
When we allow God to do whatever he wants to do through us, God-things happen. The unexplainable takes place. Things that impossible when viewed from the perspective of human knowledge and human ingenuity happen when God powers the task instead of us. Jesus’ declaration that we will do more than he did comes true when an army of believers allow themselves to be catapulted into the community empowered by his spirit breathing his love into the world.
So where do we see these miracles taking place, you ask. My answer is everywhere. We too often go the doctors and give all the credit to science when someone is healed. But take a look at some of the statistics for the healing processes. Why are some healed and some not? Why do medications work for some and not for others? Why do some come back from the brink of death and some slip away without recovery? Are miracles happening? Yes.
But does that mean God is answering prayers for some and not for others? Not necessarily. First, remember that God answers the prayers of believers. Always. He answers the request for forgiveness of the truly repentant. Always. But does that mean he answers our requests the way we want? Not always. Sometimes. I expect Peter had prayers answered in ways he didn’t really want at times. I expect he didn’t want to go to Cornelius’ house and eat pork. But he did. I expect he didn’t really want to associate with many of the people he learned to love later as he prayed alongside Jesus.
Many of his prayers were not answered the way he wanted as he saw his fellow disciples tortured and crucified. Peter was changed at Pentecost and in his writings we know he learned to accept and understand suffering and the way of the cross in this world, but that doesn’t mean he enjoyed it. It doesn’t mean he, like us, didn’t pray for release from some of the pain the way of the cross brought he and his fellow believers. Even Jesus asked for another way. But the Father didn’t answer Jesus’ request the way he wanted either.
We don’t understand why God answers prayer the way he does. Does that mean prayer isn’t effective? No. It means we don’t see the way God sees. It means we don’t have infinite wisdom. It means we can’t see beyond the bend in the road. Last week, another school shooting in Colorado took the life of one and injured eight more. Did God do that? No. Did God not answer prayers to keep our children safe? He answered them, but perhaps not in the way we expect. I think we sometimes use prayer as a wish list and think we can demand God to do what we want because we are his children.
I seldom did what my kids “demanded.” I hope you didn’t either. We need to learn at an early age we don’t control most of what happens in this world. Demanding what we want usually only causes trouble. Good parents know that and don’t give in to their kids demands. I sometimes did what my kids asked of me, but as a parent, I most often did what I thought was best for them. If what they asked didn’t fit that category, I often said no. They didn’t understand then, but as parents themselves, I see them doing the same with their children. Why? Because we want what is best for our children.
So why does God think some good thing like keeping shooters out of school is bad? I’m sure he does. I’m sure he would love to have Adam and Eve back in the garden having never touched the tree in the middle he told them not to touch. But Adam and Eve were given the ability to choose for themselves the path they would take. And they chose to disobey. They could not choose the consequences, though. Their act disrupted the cosmos. Not just their lives, but the entire universe. God’s highest creation disobeyed and that act rippled through the heavens.
Now we live in a world in which God does not isolate us from evil. He doesn’t put us in a bubble and protect us from everything bad that could happen to us. Instead, when we choose to follow him, he puts his spirit in us and asks us to let his power in us help us live like he did when he was living in the flesh. Still bruised, broken, misunderstood, hated, even crucified. But empowered to love the unlovable. Empowered to share hope to the hopeless. Empowered to forgive when the world thinks there should be no forgiveness.
Does God answer prayer? Yes. Does it change circumstances? Sometimes. But more often it changes me and you. Keep praying that God will use you and make you more like him. That’s the right prayer and he always answers.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.