Tuesday, February 28, 2017


                                                                                                        Tuesday, February 28, 2017
I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel?  Of course not!  I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.  No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning.  Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this?  Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars.  I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”  And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”  It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them.  And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works.  For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.  Romans 11:1-6(NLT)

Depending on your worldview and how you see history, the grace-filled covenant lovingkindness of God towards Israel can either inspire you or make you shake your head like a doubting prophet. 

Elijah was discouraged – big time!  He had served God with a fierce passion and now thought he was the only servant God had left.  Elijah had stood alone on Mt Carmel in a contest against the thousands of prophets of Baal, a false god, and against all odds God gave Elijah a decisive victory.  But Queen Jezebel had put a price on Elijah’s head, and he was so scared of that woman he ran to the wilderness to hide and whine.

God’s answer to the downhearted prophet was a stinging rebuke.  God told Elijah He was not about to break His covenant promises to Israel because it looked bad in the polls, or because Temple attendance was down in Jerusalem.

Hundreds of years later Paul would write to the Christians at Rome and echo God’s message to Elijah – no matter what current circumstances are created by prevailing human notions and whims, God is faithful. 

And God always has his remnant. 

In Elijah’s day it was 7,000 who would stand – alone if necessary – against a deluded King Ahab, or an evil Queen Jezebel.  When it comes to the power of thrones, you have to look a little higher than the crust of earth’s surface if you want to know where ultimate power resides!

It’s important to remember that God is sovereign over this universe:

It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall.  Psalm 75:7(NLT)

I have to remind myself of this at least every four years when one gets elected, and one has to go home.  No matter which one I supported for our version of kings and castles, the winner is in office either by God’s design or God’s permission. 

God always has the final and deciding vote!

For You Today

Can you, like the apostle Paul, trust the grace and lovingkindness of God to keep you exactly where His sovereign will determines will be best?
And can you do that no matter what forecast the stock market, your doctor, lawyer, Congressman, or news channel declares?
Remember, life’s most important question is not what’s in YOUR wallet; life’s most important question is whom do you TRUST!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

Title image: By Gideon Pisanty (Gidip) גדעון פיזנטי (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 27, 2017

Back to Egypt

Monday, February 27, 2017
“Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush.  When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight.  As he went to take a closer look, the voice of the Lord called out to him, ‘I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’  Moses shook with terror and did not dare to look.  “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.  I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt.  I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them.  Now go, for I am sending you back to Egypt.’  Acts 7:30-34(NLT)

A pastor usually talks to a lot of people about such things as burning bushes.  In more than a few conversations over the years I’ve heard a statement such as:  If only I knew exactly what the Lord wants from me, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

The pure fact about that kind of statement is that most people want God to be very clear with them, but the reason God never seems to give that clarity is because they have no intention of obeying if God says:  You’re going back to Egypt.

Moses had made a mess of his life back in Egypt.  He had a burning desire for his people, but went about things the wrong way, heavy-handed, brutal, even murder!  Now, with Yahweh speaking plainly from the miraculous bush that wouldn’t be consumed by fire, Moses hears he is being sent back to the place of humiliation, his worst defeat, and all he can do is come up with excuses.

Have you been there?  Done that?
The problem with going back to Egypt is that there’s always somebody there who knows what you were like back then.  It’s always someone who changed your diapers, or cleaned up your teenage mess.  Going back to Egypt was the last thing on Moses’ mind; he’d learned to love this quiet life tending sheep in Midian.  He had a life now; the past was where it should be…way back in memory land.
But God said it without stuttering; I’m sending you back to Egypt…now go!
Ouch!  Who wants to go back to the worst memory and do it all over again?
Now, if the story ended there I doubt there would be much inspiration for any of us to pick up and go back to Egypt.  But we know how it turned out for Moses, and therein is our burning bush witness.  God was true to His word, and backed up everything he said he would do.  We can read what happened with Moses; God was faithful.
The God who spoke to Moses back then is still speaking today.  God’s willingness to speak has never been the problem…and still isn’t; for us the main problem is that we stand like Moses, with the rest of our story unwritten as yet.  We stand fearful and full of excuses like the man in the New Testament parable of talents.  His buddies received small fortunes to manage, but the man who’d received the least responsibility was fearful of the owner’s power over him, so he hid what he’d been given in a hole in the ground.  He did nothing with the reality the burning bush put in his hands.
And at the day of accounting all the man could say to the owner was:  Here, I didn’t lose what you gave me…it is unchanged…you can have it backCan anyone doubt that the owner had something different in mind?

For You Today

What does God have in mind for that which He’s entrusted to you?  Has He ever called your name from the bush?  Has He ever mentioned going back to Egypt?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

Title image: Gebhard Fugel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 24, 2017

God's Mountain - Moses' Faith

Friday, February 24, 2017
It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born.  They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.  It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.  It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger.  He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.  It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.  
Hebrews 11:23-28(NLT)

All the faith which surrounded the life of Moses beat a straight path to the mountain of God, Sinai.  And THAT was one difficult rocky road in the wilderness!  Eventually that road led to another mountain overlooking the Promised Land, where God would quietly bury the body of Israel’s premier statesman without so much as a graveside service.

Faith, it turns out, is never the easiest of ways. 

Moses had been groomed to take over the family business ruling Egypt.  Could it be an easy thing to turn your back on the most powerful throne in all of civilization?  Would you trade the board room for room and board with the snakes and scorpions of Midian?  Would it be an easy thing to come back to the place of your beginnings and speak truth to the powerful Pharaoh whose single command could snuff-out your life?

So, if faith is not the easy way, why do so many choose faith in the God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  Why do we follow Jesus through the wilderness of temptation, the agony of Gethsemane and its betrayal, all the way to the cross?  What is there about this mountain of the way to God that draws us like moths to flame on a summer’s eve?

The bottom line on that question is that truth rings true.

In the end it is not the board room, throne room or the cover of GQ or Sports Illustrated that speaks truth to our hearts; it is the love of Christ that resonates with life created in the image of the Father and placed as a longing in our souls to rest in God.  It is that eternal love story which cries-out from within to be requited.  It is the love of God that calls us home, and fills the emptiness that darkness proclaims is our lot.  Faith beckons us to walk through the darkest, most difficult pathways of life and death to find our way to God’s mountain.

Like Moses who looked ahead to his great reward, so we march by faith into the loving arms of a Heavenly Father.  And even the rockiest road can’t slow the march of that chariot! 

For You Today

As a wise man once said, when you get where you are going so fast, will you be anywhere you recognize?  Good question…and a good reminder to look up from time to time to keep your eye on God’s mountain!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

Title image: By Elijah Walton (1832-1880), via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Thursday, February 23, 2017
So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.  Exodus 6:9(NLT)

A “lagging sense of discouragement” seems to characterize what I see in the faces of a lot of people these days.  You can only guess at the source of such malaise.  Some would say it is a political season hangover.  Those who populate the far left and far right are treading water, with the left scrambling to come up with reasons why their candidate faded into the oblivion of an unfriendly electoral congress.  On the far right are those trying not to gloat in ungracious victory, and at the same time suffering embarrassment over the mixed messages that come out of the new administration.  Staying focused and level these days is like trying to nail Jell-O to the living room wall.

It’s hard to stay positive when everything has changed, changes daily, and it seems like no one really knows what is going to happen.  It’s as unsettling and discouraging as what the golfers experienced that day.  It was the town’s Methodist preacher playing with the rich businessman whose spotty reputation and foul-language belied the fact that he hadn’t graced the inside of a church for many a year.
The businessman was losing his temper over his terrible golf skills.  Every time he would swing at the ball and miss it by a mile, he’d roar:  I missed; I missed; I can’t believe I missed!  Four times on the first hole, six times on the second… I missed; I missed; I can’t believe I missed
By the time the golfers reached hole #11 the preacher had heard about the businessman’s missing, missing, missing about 40 times.  But it all came unglued on the twelfth hole when the businessman missed again…badly; he turned the preacher’s ears blue with a string of expletives that would have made a longshoreman blush.  And with that there was a lightning bolt from heaven that cracked open the cloudless sky and split the Methodist preacher clean in two! 
The businessman stood there, staring in disbelief at the charred remains.  Then, slowly, a deep voice from above:  I missed; I missed; I can’t believe I missed

There are times in life when all you can do is shake your head and agree with Scripture that the Lord sends his rain on the just and the unjust – and only He knows why![ii]

For You Today

If you’re feeling a little discouraged…or a lot discouraged…remember the settled fact that circumstances may be around you, but they cannot define you if you’re a child of God.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

Title image: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Matthew 5:45

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question:  “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him.  “Only God is truly good.  But to answer your question, you know the commandments:  ‘You must not commit adultery.  You must not murder.  You must not steal.  You must not testify falsely.  Honor your father and mother.’”  The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”  When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done.  Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.   Luke 18:18-23(NLT)

We have the center of the reason for this story when we hear Jesus ask the rich young man WHY he called Jesus “good”.  The young man was not looking for information, he wanted rationalization!  He wanted back-up for that which he already believed, that he was a good man, who did good stuff, and therefore he could relax from all his worry that it wasn’t enough.  He wanted some assurance that God was on his side, but He believed what he wanted to believe, and challenged Jesus (or anybody else) to say otherwise.

There’s another story Jesus didn’t tell, but it makes the same point.  A man believed he was dead.  He drove his co-workers, neighbors and family crazy with this idea, but nobody could shake his belief; unconvinced, he knew was dead!

The man’s wife took him to a psychiatrist, who used every technique he knew to convince the man he was still alive…but to no avail…the man considered himself dead!

Finally the psychiatrist asked the man, do dead men bleed? 

The patient looked at him and said, of course not; they’re dead! 

With that the shrink took a needle and pricked the man’s arm, which started to bleed profusely.  Smiling, the doc asked the cornered patient, well, then, if you’re dead, how do you explain that?

Totally surprised, staring at his profusely bleeding arm, the man answered:
Well, I’ll be; a dead man really does bleed!

People ask lots of questions without really wanting an answer that goes against their preconceived beliefs:

How could a loving God send people to Hell?
If God really loves me, why did He let this bad thing happen to me?
Why doesn’t God do something about all the hungry people?

For the most part that kind of question doesn’t look for an answer that will straighten-out our thinking; it’s more like the question the rich young ruler asked – the question of unbelief looking for a comfortable corner from which to criticize or escape responsibility.

The questions are a little worse than foolish; they’re attempts to put God on the hook for our responsibility.  After all, He did do something about all the hungry people – he gave us food, and he gave us hands to offer that food.  And he gave us a conscience to let us know what we’re supposed to do.

For You Today

You won’t be able to save everybody in the world today.  But you can start with saving yourself from asking WHY God does or doesn’t, and start asking WHAT I can and must do.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!
[i]  Title image: See page for author, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  Hebrews 12:14(NLT)

Just about everyone knows what a melt-down looks like.  There are varieties, such as the third grader who lost a race on the playground, or a high school athlete who just lost the year’s most important game.  There is the business agent who lost the big contract to competition.  There’s the bully who just got exposed as a fraud.

A melt-down is when everything comes unglued, and common sense becomes scarce.  It’s when irritability steps up its game to become white-hot, seething, foaming-at-the-mouth revenge-seeking anger!
The writer of Hebrews understood full-well that those who live a life filled with melt-down kind of anger are those who eventually find themselves alone.  Nobody likes to be around anyone who is perpetually melting-down.  In fact, Scripture condemns runaway anger as one of the seven deadly sins.  The writer goes so far as to say that kind of person will not see the Lord.
It’s that serious.

Unrestrained temper tantrums are becoming something of this new millennium’s hallmark.  Terrorist events, where dozens of people die, screaming matches in political events, road rage, and the dividing lines drawn in the sand by groups of all kinds, against other groups of all kinds…well, it seems to define what we’ve become; welcome to the 21st century!

And, as disturbing and depressing as the sound of all that may be, the beat of the drum may have only begun.  Somewhere, perhaps far in the future, perhaps sooner than later, there is coming an ultimate melt-down.  That one is known as End Times, Armageddon, and Last Days.
Jesus taught his disciples that they should recognize the signs of the last days.  One of those signs is unchecked anger, where evil increases and the disdain of people for godliness becomes overwhelmingly gross.  I would call it a perpetual state of melt-down, gone way past the point of caring about God, to the point where nothing about God can be seen.  It’s where anger has blinded so many there is hardly a thought thrown towards goodness any more.
But Jesus also taught his disciples that they are salt and light to just such a generation. 

For You Today

Have you thought about the way you’ll be a light-bearer in this melt-down world?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i]  Title image: See page for author, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 20, 2017

2-20-17 Not Duplication; Transformation

Monday, February 20, 2017
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2(NLT)

Occasionally I cross paths with someone who is pushing hard on the idea that God, if he really exists, only wants copycats, endless reproductions of well-behaved nerds who are so nice they make Mr. Rogers and Big Bird look like gangsters.  People who have that kind of picture of what it’s like to be Christian have misunderstood Scripture bigtime!  That is, they misunderstood it if they actually read it, and aren’t just parroting-back something they heard; kind of like a copycat agnostic wannabe. 

Actually that kind of thinking is a brand of fear that if you give into the notion God is a real person, and you bow your knee at His throne, you will somehow be swallowed up, have your personality ground-up like sausage and spit-out; you’ll be totally-unrecognizable, lost in a kingdom of rubber-stamp do-gooders who have to give up whatever’s fun, interesting or original.

The real truth about what God wants for every person is not duplication of someone else’s life, but transformation to the life of Christ, the most exciting, original, and, yes, fun life ever lived.

A case in point is Mother (now Saint) Teresa.  This was no copycat do-gooder!  She was a most gifted communicator of what real Christianity looks like:

In 1950 Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which had over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries in 2012. The congregation manages homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children's- and family-counselling programmes; orphanages, and schools.[ii]

That resume is well-documented, and the mental image of a shriveled old woman who, by God’s design, became a driving force for life in this world, the very symbol of what God is about, is astounding.  She looked like the least powerful and least influential person you’d ever meet, yet she became God’s poster child for vitality.

And that voice for life spoke with authority.
How did all that happen?  She decided as a pre-teen her life belonged to God.  The rest of the story is a matter of daily serving and allowing God to transform her by everything she saw, heard and did.  God spoke into Teresa’s heart a life’s-passion for children and the plight of those in poverty.  Her life’s original and meaningful work flowed out of that heart’s response. 
She listened; God led!

For You Today

Have you ever stood still long enough to listen – to really put away that fear of being swallowed-up – to hear the voice that will transform your life and speak the passion of a calling into your heart?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i]  Title image: Kattefreakske [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Wikipedia

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Monday, February 13, 2017
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.   James 1:2-4(NLT)

James, the half-brother of Jesus was revered in the early church for being a great man of prayer.  According to some sources they even called him camel knees because of the extremely baggy callouses on his knees from spending so much time kneeling on the floor.  And yet when I read about troubles being a big-time opportunity for great joy, there is an uncontrollable eye-roll that wells-up within.

And then we read the rest of his statement and it begins to make sense.  The testing of our faith is something of which God approves.  This is not to be confused with tempting.  James later says (verse 13) that God never uses temptation on us; that comes from a different direction – namely the world, the flesh or the devil.  But testing – ah, that’s from God, proof that you are a loved child the Father is developing.  And what development that is!

The Development of a Saint

Saints are literally those whom God has made spiritually-strong through testing and setting-apart from the sinfulness failure syndrome.  It’s a process of growing spiritually mature.  James tells us that when our endurance, matured through testing is fully-developed, that spiritual growth will have brought completeness to what God desired in your life, nothing less!  And that’s enough!

In a recent conversation with my bride we were talking about difficult times in the past and how we wish we could go back and make it better.  The thought came that, of all the mistakes and missteps, there is nothing in my life that has ever happened from which God has not somehow brought positive results.

That doesn’t mean testing is easy; never said that!  In fact there seems to be a definite correlation between the duration, depth and location of the testing and the meaningfulness of spiritual growth produced.

A Case in Point

The last thing in the world I wanted was another dog. 
But when Wellie showed up, he needed a home, and I guess God figured we needed another test (eye-roll suppressed again)!  A few months after Wellie came to live with us his back legs stopped working and he became wheelchair-bound.  I guess we were more depressed than he was; he still doesn’t know he’s disabled, except he has to wait to be lifted up a step or two.  Otherwise he’s still playful, mischievous and generally unwilling to let even a 150lb German shepherd pass without a challenge!
                                           Now, he’s still a lot of work, but that has become part of the family routine, and we deal with it.  The positive spiritual maturity that has evolved in all of this, particularly for me, has been the willingness to be compassionate, instead of just feeling compassion.  There is quite a difference between feeling an ache in your viscera over someone’s troubles, and getting hands-on to do something about it.
And that is definitely a kingdom of God reality.  He could have stayed very comfortably on his throne in heaven; instead he chose the cross.

For You Today

Have some troubles been working on you?  That’s the Father crafting another saint!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i]  Title image: By Anant Nath Sharma (www.thelensor.tumblr.com), via Wikimedia Commons

Shine - Week #4 - When All the Lights Are On

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.  As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in.  Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.  Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money.  But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you.  But I’ll give you what I have.  In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”  Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up.  And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened.  He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk!  Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.  All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God.  When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded!  They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.  Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this?  And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness?  For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.  This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him.  You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer.  You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.  And we are witnesses of this fact!  “Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before.  Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.  Acts 3:1-16(NLT)  
So far in this series on “Shine” we have looked at our main verse, which is Jesus’ command to his followers that we shine with good works so others will see and give glory to the Father. 
Of course Jesus did just that, and, to a lesser extent, so did Moses, Stephen, Peter, James, John, and Philip the Evangelist; they had lives that shined consistently showing God’s love to all.  They were like Flashlights walking wet inviting the Holy Spirit to use their baptismal vows to transform the way they lived so God’s light would shine on what Christ-like living looks like.
And then last week we prepared for the Lord’s Supper by examining our lives to see if we had sins to confess.  If we are to follow through on Christ’s command to shine, it makes sense that there should be no short-circuits (sins) that will turn off our light.
This morning is the conclusion of our series as we take a look at Peter and John out on the street with their faith.  And, after all, isn’t that what we really want…a faith that works from Monday to Saturday…not just when we come to church?
The lifestyle of a believer is characterized by three words we know very well, In Jesus' name.  There have been obvious abuses of that name.  I have known of people who use the name of Jesus like a magic wand to threaten the elements, sickness, even the devil!  It works like this; I know Jesus has promised that whatever I ask in his name, the Father in heaven has to give it!  Therefore, I ask in Jesus' name for a brand new Cadillac to be delivered to my door before 6am tomorrow morning, free and postpaid!  AMEN!!  Now, if I've asked in Jesus' name, God has a responsibility to give it to me...it’s His promise, right? 
Some motives for the use of "in Jesus' name" are eminently more subtle: 
·       We use it (that phrase) at the end of our prayers, so that they'll sound right to God
·       We may tack it on the end of a prayer because we're afraid God will squash us like a bug if we break the formula. 
·       Momma and Grandma always prayed "in Jesus' name", and they lived to be quite old, thank you! 
What our text suggests is that the name of Jesus is not a formula for success; it is not a trademark for Christians or a holy relic to be treasured, petted and protected by the United Methodist Church subcommittee on prayer theology.  Rather, the name of Jesus is the mindset, the attitude, the very “stuff” of which a Christian makes his daily trek through this strange land in which we live.  For a Christian, praying, living, working, and raising a family is all defined by this phrase, in Jesus' name
Strictly speaking, the phrase means, after the character of, meaning, if we pray, we are telling the Father, "I pray the same way your Son prays."  If we work, we are telling the Father, "I do this work with the same enthusiasm for serving, the same attitude your Son would do it."  If we raise children, scrub floors, manage a business, run a country, or walk the dog, we are saying to the Father, I am Christian, little Christ, follower of Your Son, and I walk this dog, do this chore, walk this walk in the name of the Carpenter of Nazareth.
What this means is that we are dependent on the life and actions of Jesus to teach us how to act in every circumstance.  If we are truly serious about having accepted the name of Christ for salvation, then His Lordship, our discipleship, following the Master becomes our way of life.  We are spending our lives living in Jesus' name, having that mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus. 
The story we read shows us two men, Peter and John, living life in Jesus' name, and sharing that life with others.  As the story unfolds, notice the unveiling of the dependent life Peter and John had on the name of Jesus.  Note first of all their....

Personal Involvement

We catch up with Peter and John in the course of a regular day.  It was time to go to worship services at the temple.  This was their everyday activity; and they encountered a person in need.  They were going about their routine of life, waiting for directions in Jesus' name
It is always amazing to me how many opportunities to minister occur when I am in the midst of daily routines.  Some years back I was asked to find a ride for the husband of one of my church members.  He was to have radiation treatments for cancer.  I tried to locate someone, but all the schedules were full.  So the Brownworth taxi was pressed into service.  I didn't have the time...this was a bi-vocational pastorate (work a regular job, and then do pastor-stuff every other waking moment of the day).  But we went anyway. 
It turned out that his wife could've driven him.  She was amazingly independent and spry for 83.  But this was more than just a ride; she needed someone to sit with her while he was getting treatments.  She was just overwhelmed at the thought of losing her lifetime partner, and needed the personal touch of a friendly ear listening to her fears.  You can look at the "taxi" stuff of life as trivial, or interruptions in your busy day.  You can get rid of them (I had the $10 to pay for a cab ride for them)....But you can't do either if you're going to live life in Jesus' name, after the character of the Man from Nazareth.                                   
Personal involvement is something demanded of a follower of Jesus.  Consider the fellow Peter and John met at the gate of the temple.  He was much in need of a personal involvement.  He was crippled from birth, and for most of his forty years he was carried to the gate daily to beg.  This was a lifestyle so dehumanizing that the man had learned to not even look at people. 
The two disciples could quite easily have passed by, or dropped a few coins in the cup.  But that wouldn't have been in Jesus' name.  What would Jesus have done?  They did exactly what Peter and John did...they got involved, personally. 
Beloved, God's greatest resource is not money, or evangelists, or great new movements in Christianity.  God’s greatest resource is you, the believer, who has committed his life to living in Jesus' name.

A Willing Faith

The beggar assumed that perhaps he was going to receive a healthy donation (he just didn't realize HOW healthy!).  Peter was willing to help, and the man was willing to receive.  An atmosphere of willingness, and the faith of God's man...this is a combination that changed the world in the name of Jesus!
We know the end of this story, how the man received both a physical healing, and a spiritual healing.  But often we miss the design God had for the whole event. 
In the final part of the story we see that the people watching this whole event unfold also received a blessing, recognizing God's hand in the whole matter.  This thing was done in Jesus' name in both attitude, and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
And Peter, before Pentecost, short-sighted, brash, brave and cowardly all in the same moment most of the time, was now living in Jesus name.  The big fisherman seized the miracle moment and shared the truth.  Some would call it preaching.  And certainly it was that; but, truth be told, at the base, whether it’s me standing behind a pulpit on Sunday, or you standing with a stranger, acquaintance or friend in the laundromat, on Monday, or at the lunch line in school, or passing a wrench to another mechanic at the garage where you work, all sharing of the truth of Christ is preaching the Gospel.  And that’s where all the lights are on when it comes to shining!   
And so, the question before the house this morning is several-fold:
1.     What would have become of the beggar, and the townspeople who witnessed the event, if Peter and John had not been WILLING, both in principle and reality to live their lives in Jesus' name
2.     Would they ever have found Christ and new life without this witness? 
3.     Was this their last opportunity? 
4.     Were Peter and John the "only Bible those folks would ever read"?
General Charles de Gaulle attended many official ceremonies during his leadership role in France.  He once said:
Mass is the ceremony I most favor during my travels.  Church is the only place where someone speaks to me, and I do not have to answer back
In the words of that great and revered spokesman for Chicken of the Sea™ tuna, Sorry, Charlie; you're dead wrong!"  Being a follower of Christ, which is living in Jesus' name, is the one place where you answer continuously.
Peter, the street preacher spent the rest of his life learning how to live in Jesus’ name.  He had a lot of opportunities and opposition.  Here’s what he learned about keeping all the lights on so people could see Jesus:
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it.  So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.  But do this in a gentle and respectful way.  Keep your conscience clear.  Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.  1 Peter 3:13 - 16(NLT)
And to finish up, here’s another story of a guy who learned how to turn on the lights:
In one of his many books James McConkey told how his brother received help to rescue 11 people adrift on a huge ice flow.  Hearing of the tragedy that the ice flow had broken loose from the land and was beginning to melt, and sweep the people down the river to their death, the brother put $50 in his pocket and hastened to the rescue. 
Arriving on the scene, he found many waiting on the banks of the river for what seemed to be the inevitable.  Stepping up to the crowd, he offered $50 to anyone who would attempt to help the imperiled ones; but not a person stirred.  The brother then got a stiff rope, tied it around his waist, and invited others to rope themselves with him.  Immediately four men came to his side, and the five picked their way over a dangerous gorge, and were able to bring every man, woman and child on the ice flow to safety. 
When you give yourself first, others will follow.  We are not called to be rich, successful, learned or influential.  Many of God's noblest servants have labored in poverty and obscurity. 
But we are called to be faithful. 
·       We ARE called to be living miracles of giving and healing
·       We ARE called to be in Jesus' name, men and women the world can't explain.
You can ask a bunch of people if they believe in Jesus; a lot of them will say “yes”.  But the mere facts of believing – in the sense that you acknowledge he existed, and died, and rose again, and is coming again to set everything right…that is head knowledge; you get an “A” in seminary.
The real question is:  are you living in Jesus’ name?
If so, all the lights are on.   If not, the lights may be on, but nobody’s home to shine!
   Mt Zion UMC           Pleasant Hill UMC

[i] Title image:  Russell Brownworth (own work)