Robber or Redeemer

it’s mid-afternoon and i am on the floor;
belly down, the Book of Acts before me
i am struck (again)
by the power of the Spirit of God

listen close:
this is what Jesus says to his apostles at the ascension

“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:7-8

his apostles had asked him at what time he will restore the kingdom to Israel (6)
and in his response, Jesus reminds them that his will is his Father’s will
he had already told them that where he is going they cannot go
(see the bottom of this post for Jesus words in the Book of John)

listener closer:
for there is a promise here,
his return

his death, resurrection and ascension is pointing to a final restoration
we learn this from the messengers (presumably angels) in white robes who speak to the apostles after his ascension (11)


> to finish his Father’s work
> to restore the kingdom to Israel
> to call us home

Jesus assigned his apostles with the responsibility of being his witnesses to the world
w o w
that is a huge responsibility
and we too are called to be witnesses
but before you freak out

listener closer again:
for there is another promise here,
the Spirit

the Father has not left us without a Helper
His Spirit is no one-off help or promise
it is His gift to us

“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” Acts 2:38-9

w o w
what a gift

as i lay, belly down, my arms numb beneath me
i lost track of time

dwelling on this:
the Spirit enables us to know and grow in our love of God
in the name of Jesus there is power and healing and hope

but because i lost track of time
i suddenly had to catch a bus to church
(i was on welcoming so should have left a little earlier for prayer beforehand)

i was so stirred up by the Book of Acts
that i just wanted to start praying for people on the street

everyone who calls on his name shall be saved (2:21)

how many are yet to call on him!?
how many are yet to be saved?!

of course,
in hindsight i realised why God stirred me up with this conviction
it was all for one man

i process through writing, 
so here is an interesting encounter i had with a seventy-three year old at church

it’s 6.30pm
the service has started
the saints are singing
and at the door one of the staff workers, a friend, comes to tell me there is a man downstairs
grey hair, in the corner’ are the descriptives
the friend tells me to grab one of the guys who are welcoming with me
i turn and see them both at the bottom of the walkway, near the entrance to the church
but it didn’t make sense to go and get them
i didn’t need to fear this man because i was a woman
so with the conviction God had gave me before church
i went

i descended the stairs to the man
i asked if he would like to come to the service upstairs
but he tells me that he only came for a feed

unfortunately he had missed the dinner with the overseas congregation
but he already knew this
which was why he was sitting there

i realised there was another option
if he stayed for the service upstairs, there would be supper afterwards
i tell him so and his eyes light up
he rises to his feet
this cripple man with his cane
and we slowly shuffle to the stairs

i noticed this man could barely lift his feet
so i tell him we can take the lift
we head over, slowly
the ground floor is deserted
we wait for the lift
i try to connect with this man, nearly four times my age
we wait and wait
the lift finally decides to change
heading to the basement first

in hindsight i realised why God held that lift
once it came, i breathed a sigh of relief
there was a married couple from the congregation
praise God
John noticed the mirrors on the roof of the lift

making a crude comment
that the last time he saw one of those was in a bedroom

to watch the sex

at the end of the service
John is by himself

he is sits to the side
he gets up for tea
and shuffles back
he gets up for food
and shuffles back
no one makes a move

i didn’t need to fear this man because i was a woman
so with the conviction God had gave me before church
i went

i ask him how he found the service
he starts telling me about other services
and a cult

he tells me how the church is full of people who try to set you up
he asserts to me that anyone can fool you
even Christians

his words are heavy of abuse and attack

he tells me how he had been robbed
so i ask him if he believes that God was a robber

he starts sharing a monologue
stories that tell me
he is disheartened
he sees defeat
not living in light of Jesus victory
he has lost heart
and he doesn’t speak of Jesus
he speaks of prayer
how he prays to himself
when he goes down the street
so i ask him if he ever prayed to God
and he repeats
that he prays to himself
that good things will come

he speaks of what he can see in his mind
so i try to prompt him
what about about what he couldn’t see?

i ask him if he believes in God
and he says
he believes in spirits
that there are good and bad spirits

i tell him i believe that too
but he is distrusting
and he says
that churches have good and bad spirits
and that you can never tell
because anyone can fool you

i tell him that, as a Christian, i believe in the Spirit of God
that he is our Helper who give us the ability to know the difference between these spirits
to test and discern if they’re good and bad

but he doesn’t receive this
instead he starts talking about consciences
‘the sign of a Christian is whether they have a conscience’
he proclaims this so adamantly i know he believes it to be true
‘but everyone has a conscience’
i try to challenge him, to refer to C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity
to explain the concept of the moral compass that Lewis refers to,
that we all have this inner compass for right and wrong, good and bad

he won’t receive it

i realised in that moment that he didn’t have ears to hear
his heart was not ready to receive
so i submitted to listening

i felt more disheartened and downcast than he,
because i could see his need for Jesus
his stories were emotionally and spiritually draining
so all i could do was listen
he just needed someone to listen
but if only he would listen to the Lord
if only he would hear the good news
and be free of his discouragement and distrust

i listened as this seventy-three year old man told me story after story
while i prayed silently for him in Jesus’ name that he might be healed

i didn’t get to tell him that a true Christian isn’t constrained to our consciences,
our own ability to judge good and evil
i didn’t get to point him to the Christ in Christian
he wouldn’t hear it, he wouldn’t receive it
the healing is there!
the freedom is there!
grace is freely there!
the victory is there!
who has ears to hear?

let us pray
f e r v e n t l y
for redemption
for restoration
for repentance
for renewal

in hindsight i realise why God had stirred me up with this conviction
it was all for one man

but there are many like John
who are hurting and in need of healing
but the only one who can heal is the Lord
and if they don’t know the Lord
how can they receive this healing?

one part of the story i left out was that a brother saw me with this man
praise God
for after multiple more stories
i could listen no longer
had freedom to leave

in forty-five minutes i saw no fruit in this conversation
no radical healing or miracle
but i take heart
because in the Book of Acts
we see
there is power in the name of Jesus
the lame beggar was healed because of this name (3:1-10)
a place was shaken through the name of our holy servant Jesus (4:23-31)

i believe in the power and name of Jesus and believe that the Spirit is at work in John’s heart and mind
i believe that this man, seventy-three years of age,
though wounded and stubborn in heart from past experiences and mistreatment,
will find Jesus
and i believe he will be moved by the Spirit when he discovers
that this Jesus too was robbed and betrayed and mistreated
that this Jesus comes for men just like himself:
 to proclaim liberty and hope
that this Jesus came to do his fathers will on this earth:
that men and women of every tribe nation and tongue might know that he is Lord over all
that he is

my heart is heavy for John
nothing can be done to change his past, his hurt
my heart has hope for John
because something can be done to change his heart
it was not my place to change his heart last night
that’s the work of the Spirit
but what i can do
what you can join me in doing is:
learn to listen to the hurting
point them to Jesus
gently challenge misbeliefs about God
pray for them
that the Spirit would open the eyes of their heart

that they might BELIEVE and be HEALED in the name of Jesus

will you pray with me:
that we ALL might call on his name

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them” John 12:40, Isaiah 6:10

listen to Jesus teaching prior to the crucifixion, echoed in the words he speaks to his apostles before his ascension:

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me,
but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life,
and I will raise him up on the last day” 
John 6:38-40

“I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.
You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come” John 7:33-4

Respond from the Heart