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On this Fourth of July weekend, let me say I am proud to be an American.  This is the greatest nation on the planet, and it is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave.  We are so proud of our military men and women who are serving us with distinction.  Malisa Deweese, we honor you as well for your sacrifice as your husband is away and you are ministering to many military wives during this time as well.

I’m sure the sermon title has you a bit curious.  The message is titled “Who is expecting?”  Since I know where your minds are going, let me simply say, “Not me.”  Not in that way anyway.

I do want to talk about expecting from God and expecting from one another as we allow God to use us for His glory.  I believe that if today’s unbelievers can rely on anyone, it ought to be a Christian.  Hear the Word of God from Acts 3.  Please stand with me for the reading of God’s Word.

Acts 3:1-11

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.

Silent Prayer

As this passage opens, we hear: A Condition Was Described

This man’s life had been limited from the time he had been born.  Think about what it might be like to have a limitation that left you unable to go anywhere on your own from the time you were born.  Day after day the cycle started over.  The beggar would try to get enough money just to get by.  Disenfranchised from society, he would sit on the outside looking in.  Dropped off each day to beg at the outside of the temple he’d watch everyone else go in to worship.  He’d sit and look at those who were part of the religious community.  He must have thought, “This is it.  This is as good as it will get.  I’ll never be able to move from this gate into the inner part of the temple.  I’ll always be on the outside looking in.”  He just resigned himself to be in the rut he’d always been in with no hope for any different kind of life.  He didn’t know anything else was possible.  Not only was he crippled, but he was also poor.  Being grateful for the change that people would give him on their way into the temple, he believed what he needed was simply enough money each day to get by.  He didn’t even know what he really needed.

Each one of us is born into this life with a severe limitation.  We are crippled by sin unable to get to where we need to go.  Adam and Eve fell when they disobeyed God, and the Bible says we’re all born crippled by sin.  Day after day we just exist, taking what life hands us without recognizing that something different is possible.  We’re on the outside looking in.  We see others who seem to have peace, who seem to know their purpose for life, who seem to know why they exist and we can’t figure out as we’re on the outside looking in how we can move into that same place. Do we just have to move through life as outsiders and beggars?  Is there hope for anything different?  Not only are we crippled, but we’re also poor.  We’re spiritually bankrupt.  We don’t have what it takes to buy God’s favor.  I believe this passage outlines the glorious hope we can both receive and offer to those who are still on the outside looking in.

Second, A Commitment Was Expressed. Peter looked straight at this beggar.  He wasn’t content to just drop some money into his jar and continue into the temple for prayer.  He had been filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and it changed the way he saw everything and everyone.  He wasn’t going to avoid eye contact and engaging this man in a conversation.  Oh it would have been a good deed to give the man some spare change.  It would have been a help to him, but how much more awesome to think that rather than a little help, you could give someone hope-that you could give someone healing?

Peter asked this man to look at him.  Have you ever done that?  You need to get someone’s attention and you know that if you make eye contact, there is a better chance that the person will actually hear you?  I used to tell Hannah and Joshua a lot when they were little “Give me your eyes.”  The beggar had to know immediately that something was up.  Something was different.  This man standing before him wasn’t just dropping money into his pot on his way to do something else.  This man stopped to share something, give something, do something that created a sense of expectation in this man.  It was after Peter told the man to look at him and John that Scripture says the crippled man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Perhaps he had sat by the outer gate to the temple day after day and had never had a conversation with any of the passers by, except to say “Thank you,” when someone would drop some coins into his beggar’s pouch.  Maybe it startled him to think that someone was actually stopping to talk.

I believe Peter stopped to talk to the beggar because he had something to offer.  He knew he had the power and authority to make an eternal difference in this man’s life.  He had something life changing to offer him.  If you knew that someone was crippled or crushed by the cares of life and you had the power and authority to swoop in and change their circumstance or change their life in a dramatic way, what would you do?  You’ve seen those surprise shows where someone appears on a talk show thinking they are there for one reason and there is really a surprise waiting.  There is a new house, a new car, a new job or someone there who wants to pay off all of their debts.  Aren’t those amazing shows?  I’m sitting there in tears because it seems those people who feel crushed under the weight and pressure of life are suddenly renewed in an instant.

Listen, I believe as Christians that people ought to be able to expect something from us!  I believe we are the ones who walk in power and authority to make an eternal difference in people’s lives.  I believe that generally speaking, we have been living in the shadows, walking on egg shells, guarding our words and trying not to bring up anything religious so as not to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings.  We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or not like us or see us as fanatics or whatever our motivation is.  I’ve come to say, “Father, forgive us.”  We’ve been hiding under political correctness and the guise of good manners. When in reality, we need to be out in the world saying, “Look at me.”  “Give me your attention.”  “Listen to what I have to say.”  “Take what I have to give because it will change your life.”

When Peter told the beggar to look at him in the eyes he was making a commitment to that beggar.  You don’t get someone’s attention in order to give them false hope or to ridicule them.  You get someone’s attention because you want them to receive what you have to give.  You don’t always know what you’re getting into when you ask someone to give you their time and attention.  You don’t know what it will cost or require of you, but it didn’t cause Peter to hesitate.  In the power of the Spirit he made a commitment to engage this man, to help this man, before he knew what the commitment would even entail.

Often we’re so busy and bogged down and preoccupied that many times before we’ll commit to doing anything in Jesus’ name, we want to know how long it will take, how much study it will involve, when it will be over and if it will last more than a week or two.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t be mindful of stretching yourself too thin.  I’m not saying you should be involved in the life of every person who has a need.  What I am trying to say, however, is that there are commitments we must make because we have power and authority and wear the name of Jesus.  There are commitments that we must make that won’t be wrapped up in four sessions or in the giving of one grocery gift card or in the giving of a ride to a doctor’s office one time and as the people of God we have to be open to making a commitment to people whether we have all of the facts or information or even understand the need or not.

Pastor Thom shares about the way Pastor Rich committed to him while he was outside of the church.  (Pastor Rich had no idea that his commitment to Thom would lead to his conversion and then a life of ministry as a profession through counseling and pastoring.)

The good news, however, the safety for us is what we see demonstrated in Peter’s life.  “Silver and gold I don’t have, but what I do have I give to you in Jesus’ name, get up and walk.”  God didn’t expect something of Peter that he couldn’t produce.  Peter didn’t try to act beyond himself.  He simply gave what he had.  It was the message and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Some of you are thinking, “Whew, my savings account is safe.”  I’m not trying to say that either.  I’m simply trying to say that when we give what we have it will be more than enough and the name and love of Jesus will work every time.

I want to share something that Mandy shared with me this week.  This is not to elevate Mandy, but to point out that all God requires is that we make a commitment to obey Him and share His love with the world.  Mandy was in Anderson this past week for our national meeting and was drawn to a particular missionary family.  She ran into them everywhere.  2500 people were populating this event, and it seemed that Mandy was stalking this family.  If they were at Wal-mart, she was at Wal-mart.  If they were standing at a certain place in the huge lobby where the evening services took place, she was standing right beside them. She saw them everywhere and was impressed by God the last evening to go to an ATM and withdraw a certain amount of money.  She felt like God wanted her to give some money to someone, and I think in the back of her mind, she expected it to be that family.

The last service came and went and things were drawing to an absolute close when, you guessed it, there was this family standing in Mandy’s shadow.  Mandy simply told the father of the family how much his family’s commitment to the mission field had blessed her and that she felt God wanted them to have the gift she had in her hand.  She didn’t know the need.  She didn’t even know if there was a need, but she communicated the love of God because she had made an internal commitment to this family to let them know they were loved and appreciated for their sacrifice on the mission field.  There may have been others who could have given more than what Mandy gave, but what she gave wasn’t important.  It was that she was giving at God’s command, in God’s love and in Jesus’ name.

If the world can expect to receive a blessing from anyone, it ought to be from God’s people.  If someone pays for your coffee behind you in the drive through, I think it ought to be a Christian.  If someone leaves a 20.00 tip behind because God showed them that it would bless their server, it ought to be a Christian.  If someone’s yard needs mowing and someone recognizes that to take a couple of hours to do so would meet a need and bless someone it ought to be a Christian.  Beyond acts of service and gifts of financial assistance, we are the ones that the world ought to be able to expect will not only help but will breathe hope into their hopeless circumstance and healing into their broken world.

Hear me, anyone who is hopeless this morning.  God is saying to you, “Look at me.  Give me your attention.  I want to speak words of healing and blessing over your life that will change your life forever.  But you’ve got to listen.  You’ve got to get your head up and give Me your attention.”  The Psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  Many of you want your circumstances to change.  Look up at Jesus.  Many of you want your heart to change.  Look up at Jesus.  Many of you want your relationships to change.  Look up at Jesus.  Don’t settle for the rut and routine of just scrimping to get by.  Don’t be satisfied with status quo if it isn’t abundant life.  God wants your attention.  He can make an eternal difference in your heart and life.  Are you listening?  He is making a commitment to you.  He is calling your name.  He wants something better for you than spare change in this life.  He wants you to look at Him and receive everything He longs to give.  Until you look at Jesus, no one is going to look at you.  Until you look at Jesus, no one will be able to receive anything life changing from you.  But when you give Jesus your full attention, you too will walk in newness of life and receive life changing power to make a difference in the lives of those around you.

Peter went beyond words.  He wasn’t going to leave the poor beggar at the gate.  He told the crippled to get up and walk in Jesus’ name, but he went a step beyond that.  He took him by the hand, the scripture says, and helped him up.  Some people are only going to receive Jesus if they are helped in their journey.  Some people receive hope as you help them up.  The idea of salvation, forgiveness and eternity in heaven, as a free gift, sounds too good to be true to some people.  They’ll only unwrap that gift if someone helps them get the tape off the box and remove the ribbons that are tied on to the packaging.  Some people need help taking that first step.

Many times in my life, even during a worship service, when an invitation has been given, God has led me to go to someone and take their hand and simply whisper, “I’ll go with you.”  Some of you are here today because someone not only told you about Jesus, but they walked you to Him in prayer.  What a risk!  But what a joy-filled commitment to make that you are going to be one who helps people walk out their new life in Jesus.  Don’t leave the poor beggar at the gate.  There are some people within the sound of my voice who have people trying to get close to you at work or school  or in your neighborhood because they’ve noticed you’re on the inside of this Christianity thing.  They are hanging around you because they need someone to help them move from the gate to the inside.  Don’t leave those in your sphere of influence at the gate.  Take them into the temple and introduce them to Jesus.

What if Peter would have said, “Well, I’m just going to let my life speak?  I’ll go to the temple and those begging outside of it will see that I am a devoted follower of Jesus, and that will be my testimony.  I’ll just let my life be the light that shines in the darkness.”  I’m all for living a righteous and holy life.  I think we are to let our lights shine and let people see our good deeds, but if we never share the reason why we are shining or good deeding who will get the credit for the way we live?  We will.  People will think, “He’s a super guy,” or “Isn’t she so sweet?”  There has to come a time when our witness isn’t just watched, but it is explained.  The Christian life isn’t like the game of Pictionary where we paint a picture and ask people to guess what it is suppose to be, but where we preach the gospel so that Jesus is the focus and Christ gets the credit.  The commitment is to do the ministry of Christ by getting people’s attention, by speaking words of healing and hope over them and by helping them get up and move from where they are to where they need to be.

A God -Connection Was Made

It was through the commitment that Peter and John made to the crippled man that a connection was made.  The crippled man got up because Peter helped him and began to walk and jump and twirl about while he praised God.  He could have run home to show his neighbors that he could now walk.  He could have found an agent and tried to get booked on the talk shows and get the attention of newspapers as someone who had experienced a magical or miraculous healing.  But he didn’t.  He went from the outer courts to the inside of the temple.  He didn’t praise Peter.  He praised God.  He went from being one who watched the religious community from the outside to being someone who had been healed who was now on the inside.  What a journey from an onlooker to a participant.  From a spectator to a praise maker!

Do you know anyone who is sitting outside the temple?  I’ll bet there are people, who would love to be sitting in this sanctuary this very minute, but they see themselves as outsiders and they don’t know how to get in.  They don’t know how to move from where they are to where God is, but they want to.  What if each one of us who name the name of Christ developed the motto that we exist to take people from the Gates to God?  How powerful!

Verse eleven says, “11 While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them.”  He wasn’t only celebrating his healing and praising God, but he was holding on to the people who took hold of him to help him up.  He was connecting to them.  If he was holding on to Peter and John, that meant he was in the middle, in between them.  He knew that what happened to him, that what God did for him came through the hands and hearts of God’s servants, and he was going to hold on because he wanted more.  He wanted it all.

I like to think of the beggar’s tight group as a sign that he was relying on Peter and John.  He was relying on them to stand by their commitment to teach him, to speak life to him.  He was holding on to them so that he could continue to grow in this new life and experience.  Apparently, they let him.  Have you had the experience of having someone rely on you in the faith?  Can you lead someone into the temple and then let them rely on you?  Do you know how to lead someone to Christ and then disciple them and help them become strong enough to stand on their own two feet?

It is interesting to note that it was while Peter and John were on their way to pray that they encountered this beggar.  The Jews would pray three times a day and devout Jews would get to the temple during those prayer times.  I point that out simply to say that Peter and John’s trip to the temple helps us see that they were committed to their faith.  It was the prescribed time for prayer and they weren’t going to miss it.  They had been filled with the Holy Spirit and now they were cultivating their faith connection through prayer.  It’s in this context that the crippled man expected something from Peter and John.  People of an authentic and devoted faith in Christ will inspire expectancy in others.  When you are growing in your faith relationship and are truly committed to Jesus, others will be drawn to you.  Others will expect that you have something spiritual, something significant, something life changing to offer them.

I’ll be forever grateful to Lynn Fensler.  She made a commitment to me and let me connect to her in a life that truly changed my circumstance and gave me great joy.  You see, I was very overweight as a child.  I weighed 150 pounds in the fifth grade and while I’m not exactly tall now, you can imagine how short I was at age 10.  Lynn had started going to Weight Watchers and was having great success when I was in the sixth grade.  I never have asked her what precipitated her commitment to me and my connection to her, but one day at church she simply put her arm around me and said, “You know I’m going to Weight Watchers and it has really been helping me.  If you would like to go, I’d be happy to take you.”  She didn’t focus on my obvious need to do something about my health. She didn’t try to lecture me about what needed to happen in my life.  She just shared that she had discovered something great that was changing her life and asked me if I’d like to get in on it.  I was the only child there, but I lost all of the weight I needed to lose in order to reach my goal and I experienced junior high differently as a result.  Lynn offered me an opportunity for greater physical health.  It’s the same way with our opportunity to invite people to accompany us in our journey for spiritual health and life.  I am convinced I would never have simply observed Lynn’s weight loss and as a sixth grader thought, “I’ll ask her if she’ll take me with her.”  I doubt I was really even aware of my need to make any kind of change.  It took her invitation, her offer to “take me with her” on this journey that gave me the courage to go along.

Randy Frazee has written a book called “The Connecting Church.” He has a son who was born disabled.  He was born without a left hand. One day in Sunday School the teacher was talking with the children about the church. To illustrate her point she folded her hands together and said, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple; open the doors and see all the people.” She asked the class to do it along with her – obviously not thinking about his son’s inability to pull this exercise off. Then it dawned on her that the boy wouldn’t be able to join in. Before she could do anything about it, the little boy next to his son, a friend of his from the time they were babies, reached out his left hand and said, “Let’s do it together.” The two boys proceeded to join their hands together to make the church and the steeple.”  Some people are only going to see the church and experience the church because you will put your hand in theirs to help make it happen.  The greatest favor you can do for someone is to introduce them to Jesus Christ!

So the sermon title is the question I ask as I close.  Who is expecting?  Who in your life is crippled by sin and pain and addiction?  Who is watching your ongoing spiritual walk and how is their level of expectancy increasing because of your commitment to Christ?  Whose attention are you commanding?  Who are you speaking words of life and hope over?

For those of you not yet in Christ, what are you expecting?  Are you trying to avoid eye contact with Jesus?  He’s saying this morning, “Look at me.  I want to give something to you.”  Don’t pretend you don’t hear Him.  Don’t ignore His voice.  That beggar sat outside the temple at that beautiful and unusual gate.  Day after day he hung out around the church, around people who were pursuing their relationship with God, but he was on the outside looking in.  If you are here this morning and you don’t know Christ, I am thrilled that you are here.  I hope you come back every week.  I hope you stay in this place because I believe this is a place where God speaks and where God is at work in an unusual way.  But I invite you to allow the Spirit of God to take you inside.  Move from being an observer to a saved pursuer of an ongoing relationship with God.  Don’t waste another minute being a beggar when you can be a spoiled child of God.

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