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All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 10 When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! 11 They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.

12 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? 13 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. 14 You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!

16 “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 3:9-16

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Another Purple Everglade Flower| May 2019

When was the last time you’ve been amazed? Was it a stunning performance on America’s Got Talent? Was it the incredible blast of Jose Altuve into the third level of seats at Minute Maid Park? Was it your granddaughter’s ability to read – even before she “graduated” from kindergarten? Those are amazing and delightful things to experience to be sure.

But when I hear of a remarkable healing or a apparent change of heart I sometimes wonder. Is it real, fake, or just a fluke? Rather than being amazed when I see healings, life changes, or other miracles, I’m too often skeptical. How about you?

The amazement of the people who saw this once-lame beggar now healed and praising God was key to an encounter with God’s word, and an opportunity to repent and believe. Their amazement opened a door for Peter to put their false-assumptions to rest, and point them to Jesus. Rather than thinking of Peter and John as superstars they were to recognize Jesus as God’s Messiah and their Savior.

I am not in favor of falling for any and all amazing feets paraded before our eyes. But we do well to take heed when a life is changed, a disease is healed, or a relationship rift is healed.  These are all the work of God. Truly there are charlatans, con artists, and false prophets. But the scheisters do not negate the true work of God any more than a counterfeit bill negates the value of a real dollar bill. Too many counterfeits make you skeptical to be sure. But don’t miss the real thing just because there are those who are making a name for themselves.

Who knows? God may have something to say to you around those miraculous signs!

“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’

“Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today. You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.” – Acts 3:17-26

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Everglade Flowers II | Florida Everglades | May 2019

Refreshed! Can you recall the last time you’ve felt truly refreshed? It may be following a particularly good vacation. It may be after a shower at the end of a end of a good workout. Could be just a really good night’s sleep. Sometimes, however, these simple things are hard to come by. And the refreshment they bring are all too fleeting. Whether it’s struggling to get a good night’s sleep, the lack of any kind of workout, or the reality of stressful vacations: true refreshment is all too allusive.

Image result for the pause that refreshesYou might remember the Coca Cola claim that Coke was the pause that refreshes. Perhaps you have enjoyed your share of refreshing Coca Cola over the years. You’ve cherished break time, and really enjoyed being able to have some down time during the day. Those are great memories for me…in years gone by.

But God offers a greater, more far-reaching and longer-lasting refreshment through repentance, and the presence of Jesus in our lives: Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. 

True, lasting, and pure refreshment comes to those who give up pursuit of false treasures, and fake riches. They rest in the presence, mercy, goodness, and grace of God. True refreshment comes when we are shaped by the word of God, the truth of Scripture, and the values of godliness.

I notice that the promise is for “times” of refreshment. This is not a one-time deal. We sin daily and continually need God’s mercy and forgiving grace. That’s why we repent daily. Times of refreshment come when we daily repent of our sins and turn away from the devil and seek Jesus’ refreshing presence. Repentance and faith are the essential ingredients of the pause that truly refreshes.

“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’

“Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today. You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.” – Acts 3:17-26

Remnants of a Purple Flower | Florida Everglades | May 2019

I recall distinctly a feeling of visceral fear when I read C.F.W. Walther’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. In that book Walther lays bare the soul’s need for mercy and forgiveness. He does such a great job of it that I nearly despaired of God’s grace. I had serious doubts about my salvation!

The great relief came to me in the words of my professor who assigned the book. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I sense that Walther really knew the people who would read this book.” My professor’s comment revealed a place for me to stand with my beloved prof: at the foot of the cross. That is the only place of true comfort and security before God who knows our every thought, word, and deed.

The place of grave insecurity is in the spotlight of our own godliness. We have no standing if we try to stand on our righteousness. That’s why the promises of God are so precious to sinners and so inconsequential to self-righteous folks.

Self-righteous folks condemned Jesus. Self-righteous folks believe they have no need for a Savior. Self-righteous folks offer themselves to God as though that’s quite a gift. Self-righteous folks look down on those who call others to repentance and faith in Jesus. Self-righteous folks ignore the true message of the Bible, never fear God’s judgment, and hold themselves up as the example of true godliness, and dishonor the Son of God who is the full manifestation of the righteousness of God.

If you look to God’s word for justification of yourself, your life, your pet hobby horse, you will all too likely overlook your need for God’s justification, his mercy, and his faithfulness.

If you look to God’s word for his promises, his goodness, his faithfulness, his mercy – all within the context of truth, holiness, and justice, you will find Jesus on the cross, Laos in the tomb, and raised from the dead. Then you will find your true place in the covenant promises of God.

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 3:9-16

Single Sentinel | Florida Everglades | May 2019

I recall perhaps five sermons out of the 250 or more that I heard while in seminary. Three years of attending chapel services offered opportunity to hear many sermons. Most were edifying at the time. Many were very well delivered and right on target. But five stick with me even today, more than 40 years later.

The salvo-return-salvo delivered between two professors, making their points about the book of Isaiah as a single work of one prophet. I count this as two sermons.

The message following those two in which the professor told us over and over, “Every Christian Counts” based on 1 Corinthians 12.

The message near Christmas time when one professor suggested that inviting Jesus to your Christmas parties really missed the point of the season. Jesus invites people to His party!

I was reminded of the fifth sermon when I read again this passage in which Peter charges the people of handing over and rejecting Jesus, rejecting “this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer.” The message I recalled had some lines like that then said, “We would never do that…” Perhaps it was even, “We don’t do that…do we?” The point: we do the same thing even though we would like to deny it.

I have a little trouble truly taking that to heart. I have no illusion of sinlessness in my life. I am deeply aware of my need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. I know I have sinned in thought, word, and deed. I realize my sin is my fault, my own most grievous fault, mine and not another’s fault. But I have trouble believing that I drove the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. I have trouble taking to heart that I asked for a murderer to be spared in place of Jesus.

Truly, however, the whole issue is a difference without a distinction. You see, however we may sin, we add to the weight of sin Jesus carried on the cross. The wages of sin is death. And while it is true that some sins have a far greater impact, and weigh far heavier on our hearts than others, any sin separates us from God. Any. Sin. Kills.

We may be able to point to certain sins we have not committed outwardly. But none of us can escape our need for the Savior who died for our sins. Thanks be to God that he has offered his Son and redeemed us. Whenever we catch a glimpse of his healing mercies we rightly join the once-lame-man, walking, jumping, and praising God. Surely we can claim to do that just like he did.

All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 10 When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! 11 They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.

12 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? 13 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. 14 You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!

16 “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 3:9-16

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Dragonfly | Florida Everglades | May 2019

Perhaps you have discovered – as I have – that the anticipation of a great event is sometimes more fun and enjoyable than the event itself. You’re planning a wonderful vacation. You dream of the places you’ll see. You imagine the foods you’ll enjoy. You dream of the evening walks, the sunsets or sunrises, the mountain vistas or the ocean views. You can almost smell the leisurely breakfasts and taste the evening glass of wine.

The event comes along, and it’s great. Almost everything you imagined proved to be true. The food, sights, experiences are wonderful. But it seems that the event itself fades all too quickly. You can imagine and plan for weeks – perhaps even months. But the trip is over in 2 weeks – if you’re lucky. Now what? Back to work. Reality sets in. Bills to pay. Lawn to mow. Appointments to keep.

The people of the Old Testament looked forward to God’s ultimate deliverance for centuries. Fifteen hundred years before Jesus was born Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. From the moment that God first promised a Savior and for centuries thereafter the people waited. When would he come? How would he prevail? What would his reign look like?

Then Jesus comes. Little of what they expected came to pass. He was not the kind of king they expected. His apparent end was death by the cruelest form of Roman execution. But then he rose from the dead. He was alive. God vindicated him for his faithfulness, perfect obedience, and sacrificial love. Now he is exalted to the right hand of God. This is what had actually been promised. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all those who spoke for God pointed people toward this Jesus. He has come. He has fulfilled the promises of God.

This is one case where the wait was worth it. There was no disappointment once Jesus was fully vindicated. Even now we wait for the final consummation of God’s promises and kingdom. He will do as he has promises. From a human standpoint he has done the most difficult part. Soon will come the full and eternal experience of God’s faithfulness and promises. All the anticipation and preparations we are making will be fully realized. But the new will not wear off. The glory will not fade. The joy will not go away.

We have a picture of that reality in the healing of the lame beggar. We will have the full experience of it when Jesus returns on the Great Last Day. It will be worth the wait.

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 Preaches in the Temple

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 3:9-16

Everglades Flora | Florida Everglades | May 2019

The Christian walk has been described by Eugene Peterson as a long obedience in the same direction. John Baillie prays about our Christian walk this way:

O you who were, and are, and are to come, I thank you that this Christian way in which I walk is no untried or uncharted road, but a road beaten hard by the footsteps of saints, apostles, prophets and martyrs. I thank you for the sign-posts and danger-signals with which it is marked at every turn and which may be known to me through the study of the Bible, and of all history, and of all the great literature of the world.

Most often we think of these truths in terms of our obedience, faithfulness, and dedication. Indeed the example of others should inspire us. We should also seek to leave a legacy of faithfulness that others may wish to follow. There are times when we must remain faithful – even against temptations and hardships we endure along that path of faithful obedience.

But as Peter speaks to the people on this occasion, he speaks of God’s faithfulness and his long-term plan and purpose to redeem and save his people. This was worked out in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior. God brought glory to Jesus by raising him from the dead, and by healing this man in Jesus’ name.

Just as Peter and John could testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus – they were eye-witnesses after all – so now these people were seeing in bold relief the power of God. The man who was healed in Jesus’ name was standing before their very eyes.

There may be those who dismiss this witness to Jesus. They could dismiss this as people trying to sustain and support their own beliefs. They could be saying Jesus did this in order to gain popularity or fame. But there is no good reason that would sustain that idea. Peter and John had nothing to gain by crediting Jesus – unless Jesus really was the One who healed the man – which is exactly what they claim.

One other thought: Jesus deserves all the honor we could ever give him. He is worthy of our faithful witness.

All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 10 When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! 11 They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.

12 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? 13 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. 14 You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!

16 “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 3:9-16

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Yellow Water Lily – III | Florida Everglades | May 2019

Perhaps you remember the scene in the Indiana Jones movie where Indiana must walk across a chasm in order to save the day (or his own skin!). There is no bridge visible, but he must take the first step of faith. As he puts his foot out and down into thin air a solid bridge materializes under his feet. He takes another step. More bridge appears. And so it goes: believing makes it so.

Some people have that view of faith. The Bible does, after all, describe faith as “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” That truth does not translate, however, to bridges materializing under our feet when it comes to biblical, Christian faith. That faith is founded on God’s promise, secured by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and attested to in the Bible.

The impact of that faith is also attested to in these verses. We see how God acts in mighty and unanticipated ways in the healing of this man. We see how God changes his life. The man who once begged for daily sustenance now praises God for far more than a few alms. He can walk!

I am intrigued by the phrase, “Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.” The ESV has this verse: “And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”

Jesus is the source of perfect healing and complete restoration. This is not something we make happen by our hard-fought belief. This is something we discover as we exercise our Holy Spirit-given faith. Another way to put it: Faith does not cause one to be healed. Faith discovers the healing to have been a gift from God. 

A strong net will catch even the greatest doubter when he falls. But a weak net will fail the one whose faith is stronger than Abraham’s. The strength of our faith is that in which we put our faith. Faith put in the name of Jesus will never disappoint. It will discover perfect healing and complete restoration in his name.