Posted on Leave a comment

Obedience and Love: Peter in Acts 10

Is it cheating to use our church’s preschool curriculum as inspiration for my blog posts? I figure that I’m already spending a couple hours a week studying a passage of Scripture to teach it to small children, so I might as well share my discoveries on here for adults. That brings us to the story of Peter in Acts 10. (Because Lifeway doesn’t want to go in order, apparently.) Between angels and visions, God sends Peter to a family of Gentiles in a story full of obedience and love.

The Passage

About noon the following day as [Cornelius’ servants] were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Acts 10:9-16 NIV

While Peter was still speaking [about Jesus,] 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 Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Acts 10:44-48 NIV

Peter in Acts 10

I have two things to say about Peter in this first passage. First, I imagine I would be dumb-founded by a sheet of animals falling from heaven, too. I would immediately worry about hallucinations and the state of my mental health. Which leads me to my second observation. Peter’s consistent; he needed to hear things three times to actually absorb the information. But then, if I worried about my mental stability as the vision occurred, it would probably take me at least three times to hear God, too. All in all, I really love that we get this glimpse of Peter’s confusion and humanity right after he miraculously healed a paralytic and a dead woman in Acts 9.

Obedience and Love

In addition to Peter’s overwhelming trance, God gave him commands that completely shattered Peter’s expectations. Peter believed that Jesus came for the Jews. As a Christian, he still followed all the Jewish rules he grew up with. He avoided gathering with non-Jews per the Jewish Law (see Acts 10:23-29.) Yet, when God called Peter to alter his beliefs, Peter obeyed. He acknowledged God’s signs that Jesus came to save all people, regardless of their background. Because Peter obeyed, God’s great love spread to the whole world.

God broke down prejudices when He sent Peter to visit Cornelius. He showed that He loves all the people on earth. His followers no longer distinguished themselves by the rules they followed. Instead, they united over a common faith in a good, powerful God. Like Peter in Acts 10, let’s pray and confidently go forward in obedience and love so everyone can know that Jesus came to save them.

Advertisements
Posted on 3 Comments

A Way Out: Hope in Acts 16

We’re working through Acts and the ministry of Paul for our preschoolers at church. I have to admit, the lessons taught by the preschool teachers often inspire me more than the sermons preached for the main service. In preparation for this week’s lesson, I reviewed Acts 16 and stumbled upon the account of Paul and Silas in jail. The jailer’s story always struck me, so let’s look at how the jailer finds a way out and gains hope in Acts 16.

The Passage

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailor woke up, and when he saw the prison doors were open, he drew his sword to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.

Acts 16:25-34 NIV

Hope in Acts 16

To be honest, I feel absolutely inadequate to speak on the issue of suicide. How do I distill such a complex, highly personal, and deeply emotional concern into a 500 word blog post? I’ve tried before, and I really don’t think it can be done. Yet, the weight of it prompts me to speak anyway, so here goes.

We find the jailer sleeping through the night shift when an earthquake shook open the jail. The jailer believed all the prisoners had fled. At the least, he imagined he would lose his job, and at worst, he imagined his execution. Faced with all hopeless options, the jailer decided to take his own life. At least, that was his plan until Paul yelled from the inner cell.

The jailer asked Paul to explain the Gospel, Paul obliged, and the jailer’s family converted to Christianity. It seems that Paul’s message of Jesus’ resurrection gave the jailer a way out from his fear and pain. Thankfully so! Unfortunately, belief in Jesus doesn’t take suicidal thoughts away from everyone. Suicide and suicidal ideation finds roots in everything from genetics to inflammation. Treatment can require more than a declaration of belief.

A Way Out

I prayed for a year for God to remove me from an unhealthy workplace. Every door that seemed to open later slammed in my face. I watched four employees who had only worked at the office for a few months move on to better positions while I still waited for a job in my dream writing field. My belief that God would provide a way out cycled with my fear that I would be stuck in the stressful position forever. After a year, the feeling of being trapped won out. The thoughts racing through my head scared me to death.

I accepted Jesus into my heart at 5 years old, so faith wasn’t holding back my mental health. I found a way out by seeking additional counseling and psychiatric help. Thankfully, I was able to remove myself from the unhealthy work environment and recover from home. I’ll be honest, God still hasn’t dropped a writing job out of the sky for me. He led me in directions with childcare and children’s literature that I never imagined for myself and that I now love.

Perhaps you relate to the jailer, and faith in a loving God would provide your way out. Maybe you’ve believed in God for a long time, but you don’t see a way out of your current situation. Or possibly neither scenario reflects your journey, and you just feel stuck. Please seek counsel that encourages you to keep trying (the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and they offer texting). There is a way out, and it’s probably a path you never expected.

Posted on 2 Comments

Confidence to Speak: Peter in Acts

I’ve noticed a theme appearing lately in conversations with my friends. For some, this time of quarantine has grown my friends’ confidence to speak and move forward God’s kingdom. For others, this quarantine makes their need for confidence more apparent. It reminded me of Peter. We saw how Peter’s rash and impetuous nature changed after Jesus’ resurrection. After looking at Acts, I noticed that Peter’s redemption gave him confidence to speak.

The Passage

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city… They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

Acts 1:12, 14-17 NIV

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest of each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them…

Amazed and perplexed, [the Jews] asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…”

Acts 2:1-4, 12-16 NIV

Confidence to Speak

If you flip back one page to the end of John, you will read an intense conversation between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection. (Granted, different people authored John and Acts, but I find the canonical juxtaposition interesting.) Peter responds in frustration to the point of anger when Jesus asks if Peter loves him. Basically, Jesus calls out and restores Peter all at the same time. This conversation seems to deeply impact Peter’s trajectory in life.

Back in the first chapter of Acts, we find the disciples anxiously waiting for God’s next directions. They pray and fellowship until Peter stands up in a moment of clarity. He points out how Judas’ actions fulfilled prophecy. Then, he directs the believers to appoint a new apostle. A few days later, the miracle at Pentecost came. It stirred up a big old ruckus with rumors flying. Who stands up to address the crowds? Peter does, and he makes sure everyone can hear him, too.

I hope you find comfort in Peter’s transformation. Peter continued to grow as the early church spread. Yet, Peter’s actions in the beginning of Acts shows us how believing in God’s power gave Peter the confidence to speak. Peter outright denied Jesus before the crucifixion. In spite of that, God gifts Peter with the wisdom and the confidence to lead His church. I can’t think of a greater mercy and love than that.