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The Attempt: Day 3

 

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 who was lame 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 do 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 man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.

12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Setting: you can spend all day researching the Gate called Beautiful… shoot, you can spend a life time; and still not know exactly which gate Luke was talking about. Some think it was the gate that lead into the court of women which was a brilliantly polished bronze door, I think this is also called Nicanor Gate, the one at the bottom of this photo.

Others argue for the double gate at the south entrance of the temple. The stairs leading up to those gates were excavated years ago and you can climb them today. Those very stones were surely walked on by Jesus at some point. I have touched or sat on virtually every one of those ancient, sandal trod steps;  just so, well, you know… Jesus had to have walked on one of those spots…

There’s even more opinions about where and what the Beautiful Gate was. The list and discussion goes on and on. Like I said, you could spend a life time exploring that one thought.

Enough about the gate.

Let’s talk about the temple. But let’s start with the tabernacle.

God gave instructions for a Tabernacle when the Israelites wandered in the desert. It was essentially a moveable temple; a tent laid out in a specific manner as prescribed by the Lord almighty. And if you paid attention in Sunday school, you remember that the bible says that God hovered over the tabernacle  as a pillar of fire by night and as a cloud by day.

Blueprints for building the temple followed the layout of the  tabernacle.

And there were three temples.

The first one built by Solomon was lavish and astonishing. The Queen of Sheba (who may have been the great, great, great, great grandma of Candace, the Kandake, of Ethiopia) was certainly impressed, as were countless dignitaries and ambassadors who visited during the reign of David’s son and all the way up to the day it was sacked by the Babylonians.

A retired farmer named Alec Garrard made this model. Check it out: http://amazingdiscoveries.org/11.11.22-solomons-temple-biblical-temple-exhibit

The second temple is usually just called the second temple, but it’s also known as Zerubbabel’s  Temple.  The old folks wept when it was completed and we don’t know if they cried for joy or cried because it just wasn’t quite as grand as the old one. We know Herod the Great didn’t think it was wonderful enough.

We know Herod didn’t think much of the second temple because he painstakingly took it apart and spared no expense in building a new one.

The new temple Herod built is the third temple, and is most often called Herod’s temple (sorry Lord). You can visit what’s left of Herod’s temple today. Destroyed about 70 years after the birth of Christ, it lies in a monumental heap; a testament to the fact that when Jesus said “not one stone will be left standing” he knew what he was talking about.

I grew up going to Sunday school and hearing about the dimensions of the temple and the worship utensils for the temple and the holy place and the most holy of holiest of places in the temple. I saw some faded water color pictures in the pages of my old bible that only seemed to diminish what I could imagine and confuse what I could comprehend. I never understood until recent years just how intricate, ornate and amazing the Temple Mount was. Herod went full out Liberace in building, decorating and adorning what had started out in Abraham’s day as a place for oxen to tread grain. Really.

David had sinned and the death angel killed 70,000 Israelites, but when the angel stopped at the threshing floor of Arnan, David saw and confessed his sin. After God relented David decided to build a temple on the spot where the angel stopped. He bought the land, but the Lord wouldn’t allow David to build the temple… he’d shed too much blood, which coming from the Lord must have been a whole lot of blood… so the temple would be built by David’s son, Solomon; destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, replaced by the time Zarubbabel enters the story, and then replaced by Herod.

To keep peace, Herod had to meticulously follow the instructions of priests who oversaw dismantling the second temple as he rebuilt to exact spec the new temple, the third temple; what is called Herod’s Temple. But that didn’t prevent him from surrounding the Temple and its immediate courts with fortified walls and bejeweled structures which reveal that Herod, known as one of the greatest builders in history, was intent on achieving  8th wonder of the world status.

Herodian stone is the name given to the gigantic limestone blocks…. one as heavy as a Boeing 747… just massive!… and they are still identifiable by the chisel marks that undisputedly certify them as Herodian stone. The meticulous craftsmanship was also called Ashlar Stone and enabled the masons to set the stones and raise them to the sky without mortar.

 

Now that’s just talking about the first verse! Peter and John went up here during the afternoon time for prayer.

In those days they set their clocks with the sunrise; so 6 was the first hour of the day. The third hour was 9 am, and you’ll recall that’s when the Holy Spirit came on them and Peter said, “we’re not drunk, it’s only 9 in the morning.” The ninth hour is 3 in the afternoon. That hour coincided with the darkness lifting and Jesus’ death on the cross.

The Jews had three formal times to pray: the morning, afternoon and evening. And the afternoon time of prayer was called the ninth hour, or 3pm.

Our devotional for today begins in that ornate temple during one hot afternoon when Peter and John go up during the time of prayer, 3pm and see a man begging. They heal him, a crowd gathers and Peter preaches.

We have:

A Miracle. Peter seizes the opportunity to stop on his way into the temple to give the man something unexpected. The man was looking for money, never dreaming that he’d get what he must have longed for all of his life. Even though not being able to walk was normal for him, all he’d ever known; being able to walk must have been a fantasy come true for he “walked and jumped and praised God!”

A Multitude. A crowd gathers. “All the people were astonished and came running to Solomon’s colonnade.” We’ve had a chance to walk around the temple a little bit this morning, huh? So where ever that dang gate was, after the man is miracled to his feet, he’s jumping and walking… not standing still… he, Peter and John are on the move and end up in the colonnade. And as they are going through the foot traffic of people coming in to a place of prayer, the news of the miracle spreads; through the temple mount, out to the city, all up and down the streets of Jerusalem, so that a multitude gathers to see the man who couldn’t walk but now is leaping and praising God! So now we have a crowd, and if there’s a crowd then we must have:

A Message. Peter begins to preach. Unlike Acts 2 we don’t see the sermon climax with thousands baptized. It can be argued that before that could happen the temple guards show up and cut short the event, but that will be tomorrow’s story.

It can also be said Peter has a chance to talk about baptism but does not; that he tells this crowd something different from the Pentecost bunch. This line of thought contributes to the argument that there are different ways people are told to be saved in the book of Acts. But, is that true? I still don’t think that reasoning really makes sense if we look closely. There more differences to consider when you compare what happened on the day of Pentecost with what happened on this day in chapter 3.

On Pentecost the people were “cut to the heart” by the message. We see no such response from the Acts 3 audience.

On Pentecost the crowd cries out a question and Peter’s answer is in response to that cry, “What should we do?” No such question is asked here in chapter 3. Yet Peter tells the crowd that if they repent they will get seasons of refreshing. And that’s a true statement.

But before I sound like a typical church of Christ preacher who can’t get off the subject of baptism, let’s not miss what Peter and John are doing: they are imitating Jesus. We are going to  see that fact  become clearer and clearer to the authorities of that time, and we will also see that fact become clearer to us,  if we don’t get distracted. If we don’t, as the old timey preachers were fond of saying, “miss the forest for the trees.”

We can enjoy a lot of ‘details’… studying the history of the temple, analyzing the basics of obeying the gospel, looking for a beautiful gate… but we need to avoid getting so bogged down in interesting facts,  that we miss the beauty of what’s really happening.

Jesus called Peter and John to be fishers of men. They are doing more than attempting now. They are accomplishing. They are fishing for men.

Jesus showed them first-hand how to love people. Jesus touched lepers and ate with ‘sinners’. He held children and stooped to wash feet.

Jesus demonstrated how kneeling before the neglected and hugging the horrible would usually draw a crowd. And Jesus time and again set an example of this: if you ever get an audience, don’t waste it. You better have something to say.

And on that note… I’m hearing a B major btw… my dear friend and partner Sherwin asked me to be sure to exhort (there’s an old word I bet you won’t hear again today)  … Sherwin asked me to exhort us all to pray. With that in mind, will you please keep a few things in mind and pray with us? And for us?

I began this series to encourage our cast and crew to share a scripture reading/devotional time together as we prepare to stage an epic musical in St. Louis which is coming up in… oh dear Lord… coming up in only 38 days! So please understand that while we know there are all kinds of things and people and events to pray for, we’re coveting prayers for this show and the health and creative juices of this wonderful group of thespians who are devoting themselves to attempting to make this message inspire multitudes and considering our challenges… it will take a miracle. See what I just did there?cast rehearsal pan

And I’m hearing from a number of other friends who aren’t in “Upside Down”,  but you have joined us here with “The Attempt”.  So please, you’re part of the family now; join us in prayer, too.

Each day I’ll ask you to pray for various people. I’ll probably always ask that you keep these two in your prayers: Sherwin, who has been dealing with health issues for some time, and Lisa, who at this moment is going through some excruciating pain. And for my daughters who battle chronic illnesses and were the inspiration for so much of what I’ve written; McCall and Skylar. Love them forever; like them for always.

But in addition to our personal loved ones, let’s make a prayer list that will include:

Costumes – our amazing Gia Lamothe & Crew; making the upside down world look right.
Sets – Glen Anderson our dear friend who actually lives, teaches and does sets in St. Louis.
Tech – Patrick Collins… I’m very confident about our show because God gave us “a Patrick”. Pray he can bear up under all the issues that he has to deal with in order to attempt to make the show glitch free.
Angels … that’s show business talk for the amazing donors we have.
Orchestra – Wendy Cavett who is conducting and the wonderful group of musicians volunteering!
Stage Managers – Chelley Wilkes and team; please give them health and extraordinary memories. : )
Ticket Holders – pray that we will inspire our audience with a message that lives way past the finale.

For Gina Stickley, our producer, and more. Bless and keep her. Keep her sane. Relatively.

DVD/CDs – Winston Philips who is producing our preview album for now; even more later.
Pray for our LIVE STREAM that we will accomplish our attempt to turn the world upside down. Really.
Music – Pray for Sherwin! His request: Creativity and productive. Orchestrations. Computer cooperating.
Health of all the Cast. Amen.
Impact in other countries – Russia, Africa, Asia, Island Nations, Europe, North and South America… Angel in Dominican Republic : )
Facility – load in to go smoothly… now you know Sherwin made this list. The dude’s thorough.

For Gina.

Finances – yes, we always need more cow bell.
Food
People to become believers through this attempt!
People being encouraged to fight to the end.
Families who are housing us. They are so generous, please bless them Lord.
The REACH conference, which the Lord’s used to give us this opportunity to preach the way we preach.
Travel safely. Amen.

For Gina. Again.

Props – chariot and some surprises that we want to be good surprises.
Lighting, sound, cameras, tech… no glitches oh please Lord!
Hair & Make up – we still need someone great to help Gia with this . . .

Gina…!

For this generation of youth to remember the Lord and turn their world upside down.

And I’m sure I failed to include everyone, but let’s pray for each other, and forgive Sherwin if you were omitted from this list. We are old, out numbered, outgunned, understaffed…

For a most amazing young lady I watched grow up, Carrie Mackintosh Kelsey. She is the soul of this show and more than just an A.D. God bless her family and her.                                                                                                           And if you ever pray for me keep it simple. Just pray that before I die I’ll do something that makes me guilty of the accusation “he’s a Christian”.

That’s what I’m attempting and hope you’ll both join me and do much better than me. Really.

slj june 3, 2016

Steve has been a minister for almost 5 decades; and for more than 40 years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the http://portlandchurch.org

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