When God Suggests the Unthinkable

28 08 2020

As Covid-19 has worn on longer than any of us expected, many strongly desire to regather with our church families. That is good and right. But I believe God would want us to consider new directions in our lifestyle.

We are surrounded by people who are lonely and frustrated.  What if this time of frustration actually turned out to be an opportunity we otherwise would have missed?

Come with me into the world of the book of Acts (10-11), and consider Peter’s amazing year. In the previous few years, incredible change had invaded his world. As if the three years of following Jesus were not crazy enough, the years since Jesus rose from the dead were equally wild.

Just weeks after Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter’s congregation of 120 believers was rocked by an incredible day when the Holy Spirit brought unprecedented signs — sound of howling wind!  flames over each person!  speaking in languages never before learned!  And Peter tried to explain that this was fulfillment of prophecy. And 3,000 believed!

New leadership had to be appointed so as to replace Judas. Peter and John were imprisoned for proclaiming Christ. Along came Saul, persecuting the church and driving believers out of Jerusalem. There was a conflict in the church over the feeding of widows — one ethnic group feeling slighted by the other.

Suddenly word comes that the persecutor, Saul, has been dramatically converted and is now following Christ. Can this guy be trusted?

Peter’s ministry is going well. He even raises a young girl named Dorcas from death itself! The church is growing and at peace.

And then, WHAM!  Peter’s world capsizes.

He is the honored guest of a tanner named Simon. Up on the rooftop, awaiting lunch, Peter falls into a deep sleep and has a trance-like dream. He sees a sheet descending from heaven holding all sorts of food — including some forbidden for Jews. Then a confusing voice from God, “kill and eat.” Three times Peter rejects this heretical command. But finally he realizes that God is turning his traditions on their head. God has an unthinkable plan in mind.

I write about this incident in Biblical history because we also live in a time of immense change. And I believe Jesus is calling His church to new directions.
Peter went on to cross old barriers — by entering the home of a Gentile and sharing the good news. Peter was changed, and this became a turning point in the development of the church.

What principles can we take away from this incident?

1. Maintain a lifestyle of listening to God’s promptings.  Peter heard the voice of God and, even though it was confusing, continued to listen for truth.

2. Stay open and responsive to new directions.  After two messengers came and invited Peter to the home of Cornelius, Peter could have resisted. But he took the first step that changed history.  Our new journeys often begin with a small initial step in a new direction.

3. Be intentional in crossing over to those who you normally would not know. Peter put himself in an uncomfortable place. You may have neighbors whom you have rarely talked to. Some may be of a different ethnicity than you. It will take intentionality to get acquainted with them.

4. Remember that God is preparing people to be receptive. It was God that brought Cornelius and Peter together. We can trust God to be opening people to be receptive to our friendship.

A final word:  As we befriend others for Jesus’ sake, focus on being a genuine friend. Consider the life and needs of the other person. Don’t make them a project — a person to be converted. Let God do His work. You and I just get to be conveyors of the unconditional love the Jesus brings.


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