Tuesday, May 05, 2009


God continues to weave recurring themes throughout my quiet times and devotional and has therefore given me plenty to ponder. Twice, now, a passage from Scripture that weighs heavily on my mind has popped up into sermons. It's as if I was NOT getting the point so, God generously spelled it out for me from the stage. I'll think twice before taking a seat next week.

Several weeks ago LifePoint Church rolled out a new missions strategy based on Acts 13. Last year, following the Sacred Gathering, God led me to learn everything I could about the first missionaries. Is studied the life of Paul and started in the book of Acts. A story in Acts 10 stuck with me: Peter has a vision of something like a large sheet being led to earth by its four corners. It contains all kinds of animals. Then he hears a voice, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." Peter replies, "Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice replies,
"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
This happens three times. As Peter considers the meaning of the vision, three men arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them because, "I have sent them." The men ask Peter to accompany them to the home of a Roman centurion, Cornelius, a good man but a Roman nonetheless, who has requested his presence. Cornelius heard word from the Spirit to send for Peter. He obeyed. Peter did too. He goes with the men and arrives at Cornelius's home.

And now they sit together. A Jew and a Roman. Brought together by the Holy Spirit. Wondering why.

P:Why did you send for me?

C:It was the man in the shining clothes. He told me to. And now we are ready to listen to everything the Lord commanded you to tell us.

So......a high level Roman soldier, placed in Israel to keep the peace, just so happens to love God. He is well-respected by Jews and actively seeks the Lord. He has a vision to send for Peter. But he is a Roman, there are Gentiles with him and for that reason, Peter should not go into his home and share a meal. Rules, rules, rules. Fortunately Peter is focused on the ways of the Lord, not the ways of men. Fortunately he obeys the Spirit. He goes.

And what does he find?

A captive audience. And a life-changing lesson.

Peter's first words after Cornelius invites him to speak:
"I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."
I wish I learned my lessons that quickly. Peter immediately connected the dots between "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean," and his call to visit a God-fearing Roman and some Gentiles. So he does what the Spirit brought him to do: he shares the gospel. Verses 44 and 45 continue,
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles."
Wow. What a testimony of obedience. And the blessings that follow obedience. It is a testimony that Good News is for all men. It speaks to our prejudices and our contrived rules, and to the boundaries we set up between ourselves and others. Are we the ones to determine who is worthy of Christ's love and who is not? Do we withhold the Good News from those with whom we do not identify? Do we think they don't want it.... or won't accept it?

This story reminds us there are people everywhere eager to believe. Some of them need only to hear the story. Are we brave enough to identify those we deem "unclean"? Do we have the strength to defy society's rules and share the Good News with them? Is God calling us to do just that?

I've thought about that question too often. Who have I labeled as "unclean"? Thinking can make me stagnant, and it has, so the Good Lord delivered Acts 13 to me a few weeks ago. I bogged down in the details of that passage. I knew it was connected to my lesson from Acts 10 but I could not figure how. Finally, it hit me. Look at the big picture. Peter learns in Acts 10 that "God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." He identified the group with whom he needs to share the Gospel. And what happened soon thereafter? Enter the church at Antioch. They also identified a need to share the gospel, and.....

They went.

There's the lesson. Maybe we go next door, or far away. There are people everywhere who want to know Him. Our man-made boundaries and prejudices should not keep us from following God's call to share our faith with them.

We just need to go.