Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gentiles Hear and Accept the Gospel

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Be Inclusive

Acts 10:34-43  The Message

34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.
37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.
39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

For Reflection
What could be a more compelling rationale for following the way of Jesus Christ? Peter is a witness among many to the resurrection. They and we now know that God lives and moves among us. And witnesses to God's will abound. And now, your witness is as powerful as Peters because you, too, have known Christ.

Pray
Make your life a living prayer. Pray that all that interact with you will see the Living God in all that you say and do. Pray so that your life can be a witness to the love and grace of God.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

People Are Neither Unclean nor Profane

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Be Inclusive

Acts 10:9-20 The Message

9-13 The next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray. It was about noon. Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch. While lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: “Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.”
14 Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.”
15 The voice came a second time: “If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.”
16 This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies.
17-20 As Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door. They called in, asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there. Peter, lost in thought, didn’t hear them, so the Spirit whispered to him, “Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don’t ask any questions. I sent them to get you.”

For Reflection
Peter had a problem.  His problem was that he had been a Jew.  In this case, Peters religion called for a strict adherence to the Mosaic law and all the other laws which followed them. His prejudices against the Gentiles would have prevented him from ministering to those considered unclean or who did not follow Kosher eating habits.

God intervenes in a dream to show Peter that the Christ event modified the Mosiac law and God showed Peter the meaning of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection. To accept God's grace and be saved from the seduction of the worldly wisdom one does not have to be a Jew nor does one have to adhere to Jewish tradition.

God loves us all.  God's will is that we all should live in the hollow of God's hands. Gods offer of reconciliation is open to all.

Pray
Pray prayers of thanksgiving to the living God.  Pray that when God's hand seems unpredictable and counter to your expectations that you will have unwavering trust in God's judgment.  Pray for all who understand the Gospel and accept it.  Pray that those who hear and do not accept God's saving grace will repent and return to become a faithful follower.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Lord Meets Cornelius in a Vision

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Be Inclusive

Acts 10:1-8 The Message

Peter’s Vision

10 1-3 There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea, captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next-door neighbor, came in and said, “Cornelius.”
4-6 Cornelius stared hard, wondering if he was seeing things. Then he said, “What do you want, sir?”
The angel said, “Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.”
7-8 As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He went over with them in great detail everything that had just happened, and then sent them off to Joppa.

For Reflection
Caesarea, what an unexpected place to find the first non-Jewish Christian.  Drawn to the Jews’ religion, the Roman Captian had adopted many Jewish habits and practices,  He also shared these rituals with members of his household of slaves and soldiers and helped people in need.  He had rejected the deity of Rome. God arranged a meeting with Peter so that this seeker of God, will be introduced to Jesus Christ.

Pray
Pray that all who seek to become righteous will find in Christ a path into a profound relationship with God. Pray for those whose prayers to God and acts of justice and kindness find full and conscious salvation. Pray prayers of thanksgiving for the living God who gives the light of truth to those who seek it. Pray that you will recognize the hand of God in a soul who is filled with piety and charity.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jesus Heals a Centurion Slave

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Be Inclusive

Luke 7:1-10 The Message

A Place of Holy Mystery

7 1-5 When he finished speaking to the people, he entered Capernaum. A Roman captain there had a servant who was on his deathbed. He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him. When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and urged him to do it, saying, “He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.”
6-8 Jesus went with them. When he was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell him, “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9-10 Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.

For Reflection
Many Christians express an ideology of exclusivity.  That is, some believe that if one does not belong to a particular denomination, one is not afforded the promise of God or salvation.

Yet God's church is composed of many doctrines and styles of worship. As God has called people from all walks of life, from all faiths, from all nations and races, God's intentions are clear.   The Centurion's trust as shown by his recognition of Christ marks him as a faithful servant. It is that profound trust in God, that identifies one as a faithful servant. It is one's faith in God, not one's religion that saves.

Pray
Pray for the unity of the Church Universal.  Pray that you will find God's handiwork in all denominations.  Pray so that you can serve God in humility offering Christian hospitality to all peoples.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Paralytic Aeneas Healed in Lydda

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Preach

Acts 9:32-35 The Message 

Tabitha

32-35 Peter went off on a mission to visit all the churches. In the course of his travels he arrived in Lydda and met with the believers there. He came across a man—his name was Aeneas—who had been in bed eight years paralyzed. Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” And he did it—jumped right out of bed. Everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking around and woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them.

For Reflection
Did Peter heal Aeneas?  I think not.  God healed Aeneas because, in his witness to the Gospel, Peter was a living prayer.  Could it be possible that our lives could become the vehicle for spiritual and physical healing? If we are faithful and obedient followers and if called to do so, perhaps. All is possible in God.

Pray
Pray sincerely and often.  Pray so that your soul brims with the Holy Spirit.  Pray that you will be a faithful and obedient servant to God.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Saul in Tarsus; Jerusalem at Peace

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Preach

Acts 9:26-31 The Message

26-27 Back in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t trust him one bit. Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.
28-30 After that he was accepted as one of them, going in and out of Jerusalem with no questions asked, uninhibited as he preached in the Master’s name. But then he ran afoul of a group called Hellenists—he had been engaged in a running argument with them—who plotted his murder. When his friends learned of the plot, they got him out of town, took him to Caesarea, and then shipped him off to Tarsus.
31 Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.

For Reflection
It is, I suppose, natural for one to hold in suspicion a person who has the kind of reputation that Saul had. Yet, some trusted him and protected him. But after Saul had been removed from the fray, (although not all minds were in sync), things seemed to settle down. After all, one cannot keep up the pace of threat without exhausting the cause.

One might say the developing Church was "at rest."  Both the Romans and the Jews had more to deal with than the small community of Christians.  Rest did not mean coast along.  The peaceful state gave an opportunity for unfettered growth.  The founding Christians practiced the Grace and preached the Gospel and in response, the number of converts multiplied.

Pray
Pray so that you can find quiet times in the pace of your life. Pray that in times of rest you remain alerted and active in the pursuit of a God centered life.  Pray, so that when little disturbs your life, worldliness will not seduce you.  Pray that when you rest you will continue to grow into grace.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Damascus

God's Urgent Call
Calling of Prophets


Called to Preach

Acts 9:21-25 The Message

Plots Against Saul

19-21 Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?”
22 But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah.
23-25 After this had gone on quite a long time, some Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul got wind of it. They were watching the city gates around the clock so they could kill him. Then one night the disciples engineered his escape by lowering him over the wall in a basket.

For Reflection

Astonished is the only word that could describe the reaction of all that heard Saul preach. The Disciples were not sure that Saul could be trusted with the Gospel. Saul's success in preaching the word convincingly threatened the Jewish leadership.  It seems (even today) there are those whose lives are transformed by the hearing of the Gospel message and those to whom the message is threatening.

Pray

Pray for those who hear the word of God and are changed by it.  Pray for those who hear and do not open their souls to accept and follow the will of God. Pray for those who protect Gods messengers.