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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.

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2 Peter 3: Encouragement During Stress

We looked at Peter’s response to Passover and Easter the past two weeks. I wanted to continue the Peter theme, so I opened the letters he wrote for inspiration. I was surprised to find several passages that I didn’t remember. Peter recognized the struggles we face in this broken world and gives some wise advice. Let’s turn to 2 Peter 3 for some encouragement during stress.

The Passage: 2 Peter 3

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:3-9 NIV

Encouragement during Stress from 2 Peter 3

First off, I want to recognize that between the original authors and modern-day translators, Biblical text sure can get muddy. (Peter even addresses this in 2 Peter 3:15-16 because people misinterpreted Paul’s letters!) So let’s break down exactly what Peter means when he repeats “water” and “words.”

Water

Peter’s rather confusing “of water and by water” refers all the way back to Genesis when God created the earth. In Genesis 1:6-10, we see God separate the sky from the earth, which the Bible explains using the term “water.” On the next day, He grouped all the literal water on the earth into “seas” so that dry ground appeared. Peter then references the flood account from Genesis 6:9-22. God punished the water-formed earth by sending a flood to kill everything. Only the faithful Noah and a select group of animals survived the flood in an ark God taught Noah to build.

Words

Peter’s first reference to “word” points to Genesis 1 where God spoke the world into being. (I haven’t met an English major who doesn’t love the power of words in this account, regardless of their belief in its scientific accuracy.) Peter goes on to connect God’s word with His mercy and judgement. Because justice characterizes God, He ultimately must judge evil as He did in the flood account. However, in His mercy, His word holds back the judgement we deserve until the time He decides.

Peter reminds us of God’s power by showing us how God created, judged, and maintained Earth. Yet, Peter doesn’t leave us with this image of an almighty, wrathful God. Instead, Peter points us to God’ loving patience. He reminds us that God holds back His judgement for our benefit.

In Light of A Virus

2 Peter 3 shows us that God holds ultimate control over the happenings of Earth. We very well may not understand God’s permissions or His timing. Instead, we remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. The early church did not know why Jesus still waited in Heaven. They expected His arrival yesterday. That same tension hits us today as we continue to face a complete upheaval of life as we expected it. Thankfully, the same powerful God of the early church draws us to Himself today.

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Review: “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob and Brooke Carlisle

It’s birthday month for my family. In the span of three weeks, we celebrate four birthdays, one anniversary, any graduations, and whatever else pops up that deserves cake. This week, we start off by celebrating my dad. In honor of his birthday, I wanted to review my dad’s and my special book, Butterfly Kisses by Bob and Brooke Carlisle. So, let’s all pretend we are four again, curl up next to our dads with our favorite blanket, and listen to the story.

Butterfly Kisses

First off, if you were a little girl whose daddy read Butterfly Kisses to you, try reading it as an adult without crying. I dare you. Even if the tears don’t fall, I guarantee you’ll feel a lump in your throat. And honestly, I think that’s the beauty of books like these. The book itself evokes so much love, and the added memory of that time together makes the message even more powerful.

For instance, I always remembered the page where the little girl stands on her Daddy’s toes and twirls around the room like a ballerina. That picture came to my mind first whenever I thought of this book. I remembered that part so well because I loved dancing with my own Daddy. He held my little hands and spun me in circles, and I’d giggle like there was no tomorrow. We created our own memories based on the ones in the book. As I got older, I remember random dance parties with my parents doing jazzy twirls while my brother threw his hands in the air and I did the Peanuts bop. This one page in a “Little Golden Book” now brings with it a slew of happy, laugh-filled memories.

God Our Father

I imagine all of us realized at some point in our lives that our daddys were not perfect. Maybe they snapped sometimes, maybe they didn’t always understand feelings, maybe they worked a little too hard. Some people may have endured much worse situations with their fathers than that. That’s why I love this book so much. Butterfly Kisses portrays the unconditional love we all long for and need. While the book shows idealized human love, it also reflects the perfection of God’s love for us.

Whether or not you had a relationship with your earthly father like the one portrayed in Butterfly Kisses, we can all experience that depth of love through Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus cared deeply for little children, and the Bible often talks about salvation as adoption into the family of God (Matt. 19:14, Eph. 1:3-8). All in all, I highly recommend reading Butterfly Kisses both to strengthen your own relationships and to remember how purely God loves us.

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6 Ways to Praise God’s Power

Psalm 21:13 ESV – “Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.”

The phrase “in your strength” sticks out to me in this passage. So often, my strength fails me. For instance, I helped with childcare for a prospective church member meeting last week, and I’m pretty sure that wiping the snot off of one sweet four-year-old’s face is the cause of the sinus headache I’ve had the past three days. (I even washed my hands… c’est la vie.) But it is the LORD’s strength that we exalt, not our own. We sing and praise HIS power.

I’m definitely not the best at praising God’s power. David spends a whole psalm giving examples of God’s justice and faithfulness for which “the king rejoices” (Psalm 21:1.) If I don’t sit down with a pen and paper or with this laptop, I will most likely get distracted after praising God for one singular thing He has done. So, if you are like me and need some ideas for ways to praise God, here’s a list of six ideas below.

1.) Make a Mind Map.

I’m pretty sure we called these “thinking webs” when I was in 2nd grade, but the principle is the same. Start with a central bubble that lists the topic you are thinking about. In this instance, God will go in your central bubble. Then, for every trait you recall, write it in a bubble shooting off of the central bubble. I love making these really complicated and extending long chains of bubbles.

Extra credit: For each trait you recall about God, write down a corresponding event where you saw God fulfill that trait in your life.

2.) Make a list.

This one is the more obvious cousin of Mind Mapping. If circles aren’t your thing, just make a straight list of traits about God. Listing out the things I knew to be true of God really helped me through a season of doubt.

3.) Draw sketches of God’s character.

Maybe you see God in a child’s laugh or a caterpillar’s stripes more than you see God in abstract terms. If so, that’s great! You probably recognize God’s creative, humorous side more than the theologians stuck in rounds of Biblical hermeneutics. Use this gift to your advantage! Sketch or photograph those things that best reflect God’s character to you.

4.) Play music that reflects God’s character.

Music can magically reflect so many different emotions in the world around us. If creating music is your thing, then play the bright, major keys that remind you of God’s playful, loving side! Try playing minor swells that reflect verses like Psalm 21:9, “You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.” Use the music lilting inside of you to tease out those complex aspects of God’s character we humans have difficulty understanding.

5.) Study science.

If you look at the veins on a leathery leaf falling from a tree, you will most likely wind up with a feeling of awe at something greater than yourself. At least, I usually have that reaction when I stop to study the minute workings of life more closely. Maybe you need something more tangible than letters and emotion to recognize God’s character. Look around and see how many tiny miracles are causing life to function that most of us don’t even notice. On the rare instances I stop to recognize this, I’m usually left with, “Wow, God!” That’s all the prayer I need in that moment.

6.) Study numbers in Scripture.

Numbers in the Bible often come with symbolic meaning. If counting makes you happy, try counting generations in genealogies and comparing it to where that number is used elsewhere in the Bible. See how many 7’s and 12’s you can find. Research other important numbers in the Bible and see if you can find them in your everyday life.

Do you have other ways of praising God’s power? Let me know in the comments below!