February 25, 2009

Looking For the Divine Appointments

I am greatly convicted and challenged as I read the story of Paul's shipwreck on Malta (found in Acts 28). The first thing that strikes me is the immediate reaction from the people there when Paul is bitten by a snake - "A murderer, no doubt!" This instantly reminds me of us - God's people - and our tendencies to judge things and people based on what we can see. The Lord operates on such a different level. This is why Jesus tried to warn us that there will be people in His Kingdom that none of us expect.

But the real brick upside the head for me is what happens when Paul and the others are welcomed into the home of Publius, the mayor of the island. After learning that Publius's father is sick, Luke simply tells us that "Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying hands on him, healed him." And of course when everyone else on the island dealing with any sort of sickness learns of this, they line up to see Paul and are all healed. We may think the fact that all these people were healed is the most important part of the story. WRONG. When you read verse 10 you learn that they were not only healed...they were changed! They were moved to act on behalf of others - to put others before themselves. And all of this began with prayer.

What really gets me is that in the middle of complete turmoil (they'd just been shipwrecked and washed ashore) and physical trauma (Paul had just been bitten by a snake), this disciple in chains is still thinking about others first. If I had been in this situation and condition and some nice mayor had invited me into his home for some shelter and some stew, I would most likely be asking to spend some time in the facilities, borrow a nice pair of clean clothes, and have my feet up on the furniture in no time. Not Paul. The instant he learns that this man in the home is sick, he goes in to pray with him and for him. It doesn't say he asked permission. It doesn't tell us that Paul made sure the man was a believer. Paul knew that God transforms people and that he listens when we pray. I know Paul prayed for this man to be healed, but I believe that his main prayer was for him to be changed.

I want this kind of focus and faith. I want this kind of boldness and courage. I want to recklessly embrace every opportunity to plead with the Father to change the people around me who need Him. I want to know that in the midst of the shipwreck I'm still going to be looking for the divine appointments. This is how the Good News - the Gospel - the hope of the message of the life & resurrection of Jesus Christ changes people. When we begin to live with this kind of focus and faith. That's Kingdom living.

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