Irony.

It seems that the older I get, the more irony I see in the world. I don’t think it’s a result of being wiser, it’s just that I move at a slower speed than I used to which allows me to take in more scenery along the way.

Let’s slow down and take a fresh look at a familiar story from Acts 3. Perhaps we will discover something that we missed in the past.

Acts 3:1-9

“Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them — walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.”

In this day and age when you hear the word “church,” what comes to mind? Worship, fellowship, ministry or perhaps pot-luck meals. For some, the place where we gather together as followers of Christ might be primarily known for a variety of reasons.

Perhaps none of those reasons are in and of themselves a bad thing. In fact everything I just mentioned is really a good thing. It’s when the priority list gets shuffled that we get into trouble.

For most of us, our church attendance has been severely interrupted due to COVID-19. I think we can check our priority list by asking ourselves what we’ve missed the most by not being able to gather.

In today’s passage of scripture we see several reasons people had for gathering at the assembly.

The lame man was there seeking charity. Unable to walk at birth, he had to find some way of supporting himself. He was seeking charity.

Three decades of ministry have taught me that many strangers in need will seek out a local congregation, hoping for a kind, generous reception.

From this same man we see another action. In verse 8 after his miraculous healing, we see this guy walking, leaping and praising God.

I must admit, when there is an atmosphere that encourages freedom of expression in worship, I like it. When my soul gets plugged in, so to speak, there is a thrill deep down within me that nothing else on earth can compare to.

We could conclude at this point and say that “church” should find us being kind hearted to others and it should find us offering great praise to God. But if we take a break now, we may be in danger of substituting our priority for God’s priority.

We find it in verse 1 and when we compare it to the words of God inspired in both testaments (Isaiah 56:7 and Matthew 21:13) we can come to no other conclusion than this – it’s top priority in God’s opinion.

In the first verse it teaches us that the gathering was for the purpose of prayer.

Peter and John were gathering for the hour of prayer which was designated to begin at the ninth hour (3 p.m).

Sometimes we get a greater understanding of something Jesus said by also considering what He didn’t say. He didn’t say, “My house shall be called a house of charity.” Nor did he say, “My house shall be called a house of healing” or “a house of praise and worship.”

Jesus plainly said in Matthew 21:13, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”

As we get up each day and face the unknown, let’s make sure we have a kind and generous attitude. Let’s make sure that our hearts are full of His glory and praise and adoration flow from our lips. In fact, let’s make sure those aren’t forgotten when we gather corporately again.

But then and now, at the top of the priority list, let us always keep prayer as the main ingredient. That’s the way it’s supposed to be!

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Dr. Dennis Cagle is the founder of Xaltm LLC who has been a pastor for 36 years and currently works as a church consultant. He is a former resident of McMinn County and current resident of Tellico Plains. He can be contacted at xaltm@yahoo.com

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