Friday, June 5, 2015

Peter had some explaining to do... (Acts 11, Matt 5:17-20)

"So glad God is in control, and not me!"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
I've been working on our garden this week.  So sorry I've been away.  I'm still having fun and learning as I work on this blog.    My garden is looking good, I think I'm getting better each year.  I thought it might be a nice little side job to do some gardening for others.  My friend loved the idea.  She doesn't like to garden at all.  My husband has been working hard and we plan to finish things up tomorrow.  We're back to Acts 11 today.

Acts 11

1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
The original Jewish law forbid eating food that wasn't blessed by a Rabbi.  And before Jesus made the sacrifice on the cross, Gentiles were completely excluded.  Through Jesus we were all included in God's amazing plan.  Even the Jews weren't perfect.  Personally I'm really grateful.  And glad I'm not the only one who messes up.

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying:  5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered,  I saw four- footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘ Rise, Peter; kill and eat. ’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’
This was a recollection of Peter's vision.  God never intended to remove the law, but to fulfill it.

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 5:17-20 NKJV)

9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 
What this says to me, is that God has cleansed the Gentiles.  We are no longer cast out of God's kingdom.  We are all part of His kingdom now.  This is really important to those of us who weren't born Jewish.  We all have an opportunity to join Jesus and enjoy His reign. The only time there will be complete peace on earth is when Jesus' reigns on earth.  

11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved. ’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

God's Holy Spirit gives us courage, words to say, comfort, understanding, the ability to heal through prayer.  The ability to escort new believers to our Lord Jesus.  I'm reading the verses above and remembered the words of Jesus.  They never really made sense to me until I could see it in these verses.  Here's what Jesus said:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
(Matthew 16:17-19 NKJV)
If you read Jesus' words and skip the book of Acts it sounds insane.  Peter was a rough and tumble fisherman.  He had no tact or ability to speak eloquently.  He probably knew a lot of cuss words and yelled trying to get the fishing crew on top of things.  The disciples are people like us.  They worried, lost their tempers, couldn't understand some of what Jesus said.  They probably even drove their wives crazy at times and the opposite.  But when all the thoughts, visions and everything finally made sense to everyone, here's what happened:
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

And that's why I totally love God's Word, it's so honest and believable!

If you remember when Stephen was killed by the Jewish leaders, the Church became afraid and wasn't aggressive for awhile.
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

Barnabas is a dear sweet man.  He shows up with the apostle Paul, and others. I would imagine him to be like a wonderful person who always seeks to see the best in things and never dwells on the bad.  Someone who would say, "Yup we have a flat tire. Time to get some exercise and walk."
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Not sure if you remember but Peter sent Paul back to Tarsus because all the Churches were upset with him.  It was Barnabas who believed in Paul and went to get him.
27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
And here's the first Christian relief effort to Judea, described in the New Testament of the Bible.

(Acts 11:1-30 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank You and praise You for Israel and the shining light they are.  I pray for Your hand to shelter them from danger and storms.  I pray You will help the USA remember who we are, a melting pot of all nations with one dream, freedom and independance.  Bless our country with Your presence Father.  I pray You will grant wisdom to our world leaders.  So much going on.  Protect those in harms way.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
(Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Here's a song from Kerrie Roberts, "No Matter What" (link)

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