Acts 9-10, Psalm 123
There is a true story of a missionary couple who had a trunk-load of Bibles in their car in Iran. They were bringing them in to distribute knowing what would happen if they were discovered. One night while getting gas, they noticed a captain of the Iranian guard standing in the corner of the gas station. The wife said to her husband she feels that they should give him one of their Bibles. The husband told his wife that she was out of her mind and took off. The wife continued to implore him to turn around feeling stronger that they were to engage the captain. Reluctantly, they turned around and against his better judgment he stepped out and presented the captain a Bible. The captain dropped to his knees. He told the couple that he had a vision 3 days prior that if he stood in that place he would receive what he needed. There he stood for 3 straight days and God provided. I have a patient who became Christian 10 years ago. She has a Muslim husband. Though he allowed her to proceed with her faith, he had nothing to do with it. One day he had a vision of Jesus on the water inviting him to come. He has given his life to Christ, but still must hide it to his Iranian family when they visit for fear of death.
We see in today's reading the story of Cornelius who we read in Acts 10:2 was, "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." It's interesting how God brings his desires to pass. We see on one end He works on Cornelius, in Acts 10:3 we read, "About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming and saying to him, "Cornelius!" The angel in the following verses in 10:4-8 tells Cornelius what he should do in sending for Peter. On the other end God is working on Peter to open up this Orthodox Jewish man to minister to a Gentile through a series of visions. The story continues and Peter goes to Cornelius and enters his house. In Acts 10:28, we read, "Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." Cornelius recants his story, then Peter simply presents the Gospel message to Cornelius and his family. We read in 10:44, of the first time the Holy Spirit filled a group of Gentiles. Prior to this those following Jesus were all Jewish. In fact, it was not until Paul, who we will soon read about who truly spread the message to the Gentile world. For the first 15 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, the Movement towards Jesus was almost exclusively among the Jewish people.
We read in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, we read, "...I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth." It was always God's plan for the Jewish people to spread the love of God to the unknowing world. It is probably why He chose the location of Israel to be in the then crossroads of 3 continents and the known world. Today we read of two coming together who were formerly separated by the Law, one being clean another unclean. We must all ask ourselves what prevents us from reaching out to others with the hope of Christ. Are there others from a particular religious group, who have committed certain sins, who are in a certain social position who we deem unclean or unapproachable? What were all of us before someone reached us with this message. God is still working on both ends of opportunities. God doesn't really need us but He lovingly allows us to be used to fulfill His purposes. I can't count the number of times that I have shared with a patient and heard them tell me that they needed to hear this message and they didn't know by who but they had this strong feeling that someone was going to tell them something that they needed to hear. This works when both parties are sensitive to His leading. I also wonder how many times opportunities are present but I miss them due to distractions, my own blindness or preoccupation. I pray to God that we will all keep ourselves open to the countless opportunities that God makes available to us on a daily basis.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: