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Posts Tagged ‘Acts 10’

Last Thursday I shared with you a decision-making discovery God brought to my attention while studying Acts 10:1-11:18. In that passage we read the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (a non-Jew). As a result of the apostle’s visit to this Roman centurion’s home, his entire family and many friends became Christians. (For a summary of those events, click on the link above to Part One.)

In review…

God doesn’t always connect all the dots when guiding our decisions.

Peter experienced a strange vision, and received brief instructions from the Holy Spirit. But a number of important questions were left unanswered. It appears Peter was left to connect the dots on his own.

The lesson for us seems to be: act upon what you know (from scripture), heed the inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith.

And now…

Decision-Making Discovery—Part Two:

Peter received confirmation from others that a visit to Cornelius was the right choice. (Remember, according to Jewish law, it was the wrong thing to do.)

Affirmation #1: The entourage from Cornelius knew exactly where to find him.

Peter was traveling about the country (9:32). There was no way for those messengers from Cornelius to know he was in Joppa, staying at Simon the tanner’s seaside home—except by divine intervention (v. 5).

Surely this extraordinary revelation was not lost on Peter. Events were lining up in a miraculous way. God was about to do something extraordinary.

Affirmation #2: Six Christian brothers from Joppa accompanied Peter to Cornelius’ home (10:23, 11:12).

There is no record that Peter had to cajole them. Scripture simply says, “Some of the brothers from Joppa went along.” Remember, Cornelius’ home in Caesarea was thirty miles away. This was no quick trip across town. By volunteering their time and effort, these six friends offered valuable encouragement and support.

Lessons #1 for us:  Affirmation of others can be important evidence of God’s approval.

I say can be because if we try to manipulate people’s response, if we shamelessly seek after it, that affirmation may not be reliable.

But let’s consider what happened to Peter, and learn from his experience.

Lesson #2: Step out in faith and accept the affirmation, especially if there’s any hint of God’s miracle-working ways involved. Peter’s encounter with the three messengers is our example.

Lesson #3: When a number of people tell us the same thing, it’s probable the message is accurate. Six men showed their support of Peter’s decision to visit Cornelius by going with him to Joppa. There may have been others who gave encouragement also. Scripture includes no record of opposition.

Are you puzzling over a course of action?

 

 

Do you have supporters coming alongside to offer encouragement, verification and support for a particular choice? Count them. You may be surprised how much confirmation God is presenting!

Thank you, Father, for the encouragers in my life. They have created uplift in my soul when circumstances have weighed me down.

May I remain faithful to renew my mind with the wisdom and guidance of your word. May I step out in faith each day, ready to embrace any surprises you have for me–like a spur-of-the-moment trip to Joppa! And may I rest in the confirmation you have already given. Equip me, I pray, to be a wise, encouraging support for others.

* * * * * * * * * *

What affirmation have you received as you faced uncertainty or a tough decision? Please share your experience and be a voice of encouragement for someone else!

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The story told in Acts 10 may be familiar to you. The apostle Peter was staying in Joppa, and one noontime he went to the rooftop of his host’s home to pray. Instead he fell into a trance. Three times he saw a puzzling vision of a large group of unclean animals, unlawful for Jews to eat. Yet a voice directed him to do so. Three times Peter said no. “I have never eaten anything impure,” he replied each time.

While he was still thinking about this strange dream, three men came to see him on behalf of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, stationed about thirty miles away in Caesarea. Cornelius had also been surprised by a surreal experience: an angel visitation. Not only did the heavenly visitor tell Cornelius to send for Peter, but told him the house in Joppa where the apostle was staying.

The three men found Peter, precisely where the angel had said he would be. Compelled by the Spirit, Peter went back to Caesarea with them, accompanied by six men of faith from Joppa. When the entourage arrived, they found a large group of Cornelius’ family and friends gathered. Peter preached to them, and while he was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon them all!

Bernardo Cavallino - St Peter and Cornelius th...

Sometime later Peter went to Jerusalem. Jewish Christians criticized Peter because he went to the house of Gentile and ate with him—both acts unlawful for Jews. Peter explained what had happened—the angel’s visit, the vision, the timing, and the evidence of the Spirit. He ended his explanation with a rhetorical question: “If God gave them the same gift as He gave us…who was I to think I could oppose God?” (Acts 10:1-11:18).

Bible teacher extraordinaire, Anne Graham Lotz, uses this story in her book Into the Word (Zondervan, 2010) to teach us about God’s guidance. While meditating on Peter’s experiences and considering Anne’s thought-provoking questions, the Holy Spirit led me to several interesting observations. Perhaps they’ll interest you, too.

Discovery #1–God Doesn’t Always Connect All the Dots

Why didn’t God send an angel to Peter as he did to Cornelius? Why the puzzling vision?

Granted, after the vision, Peter did receive an impression from the Holy Spirit. “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (vs. 19-20). Clear instructions, but no reasons given.

Why not explain in plain terms that visiting Cornelius was the right thing to do? Why the strange dream? It seems Peter was left to connect the dots—between the cryptic vision and the Spirit’s instructions—on his own.

Perhaps God wants us to follow Peter’s example, to act upon what we know, heed those inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith. You might ask along with me: What do I know that is guiding current decisions in my life?

We have a resource that Peter did not: sixty-six books of God-breathed truth at our fingertips, the Bible. Here are several of my favorite passages about His guidance:

• “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).

• “Delight yourself in the Lord and do good, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this (Psalm 37:5-6).

• “I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10b).

The word “will” stands out to me. He’s not finished instructing me, working on my behalf, or accomplishing his purposes. It would seem God is guiding me to press on, to pursue the passion in my heart—a particular desire. I will continue the pursuit until God makes clear another course of action.

But every day I pray for his guidance, as an act of committing my way to him. I tell him if I’m blindly heading off course, please adjust my rudder! Every day I seek to submit to his instruction.

I know I can trust God’s truth to teach me in the way I should go, including a change of course if he sees fit. I can trust his heart of love, to understand me and know me. And I can trust who he is: my Heavenly Father who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth (Jeremiah 9:24)—including my little corner of the world.

Meanwhile, waiting may be involved, and hard work may be required.

“Faith doesn’t make things easy. It makes them possible”—Anonymous

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What scriptural truth has God communicated to you that is guiding current decisions in your life? Please share! Your input may be just what someone else needs to hear.

Next Monday we’ll examine Discovery #2.

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