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Surprise by Design

Acts 3:1-10

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Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. [2] And a certain man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. [3] And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. [4] And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, 'Look at us!' [5] And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. [6] But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-- walk!' [7] And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. [8] And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. [9] And all the people saw him walking and praising God; [10] and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." (NASB) 

In the late 1980s, Dr. Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, wrote to 250 of the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, and intellectuals in the world. He asked each one, "What is the meaning of life?" 

Dr. Moorhead published the responses in a book. Some of these thinkers offered their best guess, others admitted they made up a purpose for life, and a few honestly admitted they had no idea. A number of the intellectuals Dr. Moorhead questioned asked him to write back and tell them if he discovered the purpose of life! (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Have you made the discovery?  Do you know your purpose?  James and John knew theirs. On their way to pray at the temple, Peter and John choose not to rush past an invisible man, instead they paused to minister to him.  And what unfolded in that ministry shows a lot about them, their character and their purpose in life because purpose is often fulfilled with unexpected people.  This was the type of man that disappears into the background the kind it is easy to look right past and not even give a second thought.  He could be a panhandler, like it was with Peter and John, or he could be an unattractive, intellectually slow person whose desk is across from yours in the classroom, or the person who speaks broken English who is taking your order at a fast food joint.  Do you have the capacity to look past their circumstances and see their soul?  I hope so, because we often fulfill our purpose in life among UNEXPECTED PEOPLE.

It also happens at UNEXPECTED TIMES. Think about it, isn't that usually the case?  Real ministry often happens during the journey, not after we arrive at our destination.  How many times did Jesus teach, heal and make a difference in somebody's life while he was going somewhere?  I can think of several right off the top of my head.  He met Zacchaeus on his way to Jericho and transformed his life.  (Luke 19) Right after he stepped off the boat returning from Decapolis Jairus stopped him and asked him to heal his daughter, and a woman with a 12-year chronic illness reached out her hand to touch him for healing (Mark 5).  Come to think of it, much of the meaningful ministry Jesus did was on the way to somewhere.  When He gave His church the Great Commission he knew from personal experience that real ministry happens "along the way."   The Message paraphrases the Great Commission this way, "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. [20] Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:19-20 MsgB) Real ministry happens "on the go" at unexpected times.

During worship services Pastors have commented more than once that the priest's sin in the parable of the Good Samaritan was that he was too busy to stop and help.  Now we don't know that for sure, he could have been too hardhearted, but we often speculate that he was in a hurry to get to a ministry appointment to offer ministry to the man in need.  It is great to be proactive as long as we don't miss an opportunity to minister on our way to ministry.  The most significant thing you did today may have been to help your mother get a brother or sister ready for church today, or to comfort someone who had a problem all of these things, on the way to church.

We often fulfill our purpose in life at unexpected times with unexpected people and in UNEXPECTED WAYS.
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