Peter did the unspeakable ~ at least the unspeakable in his day. He visited with non-Jewish people ~ you know us Gentiles! One thing I love about the Bible is seeing the story unfold. In Acts chapter 10, God is setting up a backdrop that will greatly benefit the Apostle Paul later. Chapter 10 starts out with an angel of God visiting a Roman officer.
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
God also gave Peter a vision ~ or two. The first vision was a sheet that was let down from heaven with all kind of animals, reptiles and birds on it.
“Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
What did Peter do, something he has a lot of practice in ~ he doubted Jesus! Not once, not twice but three times Peter doubted what Jesus was telling him. Not long after this vision, the Spirit said to Peter that some men would be looking for him and that he should go with them. When Cornelius’ soldiers found Peter, he did not hesitate to travel with them. When they arrived at Cornelius’ home, Cornelius and all of his family were eagerly awaiting his arrival. Peter asks why they sent for him and Cornelius explained that the angel of the Lord told him to send for Peter. He said they were all there to hear what the Lord commanded Peter to tell them. You see, Cornelius and his family were “devout and God-fearing” but they did not know Jesus Christ. Peter used this opportunity to spread the good news about Jesus and all who heard were filled with the Holy Spirit. The men that came with Peter were astonished to see that God would pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles. This is our hope in Christ. All we have to do is have a believing heart. God gives generously to those who believe.
Peter put himself in an awkward position by staying and eating with the non-Jewish Cornelius and his family. In Chapter 11 he is asked to explain his actions. Peter explained his vision of the sheet and God’s command to kill and eat. This is the beginning of breaking the mind-set of the law ~ and breaking down the barriers between the Jewish people and the Gentiles.
I mentioned that this visit later helps Paul but we’ll save that for another day. In closing, just remember that God makes no mistakes. You may not know the reason why He may be prompting you to do or not to do something ~ you just need to trust Him.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
I can relate to this woman named Tabitha because Luke tells us in the next verses that she is a woman who sews! From a young age I desperately wanted to sew ~ so I taught myself. I can’t say that the first things I made were great but I kept at it and haven’t stopped. God gives each of us talents and I am so thankful that He saw fit to give me this talent. However, there is one key difference between me and Tabitha ~ she touched lives with her sewing. I often just sew for myself. With God’s help, this is an area that I want to improve upon ~ I want to sew and bring smiles to many. I am going to pray for God to show me ways that I can bless others with this talent that He gave me. Here’s a little more about Tabitha and how wonderful and impactful her life was ~ a life worth saving:
Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas made while she was still with them.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
It was as simple as that ~ “Tabitha, get up.” I hear God’s voice telling me the same thing ~ “Eva, get up.” Do you hear that as well in your life? Do you hear God prompting you to do more? If you do, hopefully we can be encouraging to each other and just “get up.”
Here’s a free download. Print it and keep it close as a reminder of where our love belongs.
Use it as a bookmark!
Continuing with our study in the Book of Acts, the tables take an abrupt turn when Saul, whom God later renamed Paul, becomes the persecuted instead of the persecutor.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on his name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
Can you imagine the mighty Saul being lowered in a basket escaping from the very same men that just days before he was leading?? These verses paint quite a picture. The very same people that he was coming to persecute were now his lifeline out of the city. When Saul leaves Damascus, he returns to Jerusalem and tries to join the disciples. They were rightfully weary and refused to meet with him. Entering the scene is Barnabas, whose name means “Encourager”. Barnabas also plays a key role in bringing Christianity to the world. He has a unique talent of providing encouragement and comfort to people.
When he (Saul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in fear of the Lord.
Lots of things are going on in these verses in Scripture. One thing that is not spoken in words but is known to be true is that Saul spent three years in the Arabian desert and communed with God. These three years are believed to have happened sometime in between these verses. Paul had to commune with God one-on-one because the mission God assigned him may very well have been the single most important assignment in all of history. Paul is the number one reason we have Christianity today. God wants us to know that Paul received his message directly from Him and not indirectly from others. After this three year period is when Paul visits Jerusalem and tries to meet with the disciples who walked with Jesus during his early ministry (which was also 3 years, coincidence?). This is where Barnabas plays a significant role. If it had not been for this great encourager, the disciples probably would not have agreed to meet with Paul. However, Barnabas was willing to risk his life by speaking up for Paul and convincing the disciples to meet with him. Scripture tells us that Paul stayed with the disciples and traveled around openly in Jerusalem. Notice also that we’re told that Paul speaks “boldly” in the name of the Lord while getting around Jerusalem. We need to follow Paul’s lead and speak boldly about Jesus.
Once again, Paul has to flee for his life; and, once again, he needs the help of his fellow Christian brothers to help him escape. This seems to be a theme and is also another great lesson for us (see a trend here – the Bible is our life’s handbook with lessons about every single situation we can possibly get into). We cannot do it alone. We need others surrounding us, supporting us, encouraging us and defending us to so that we too can be strong and successful in doing our part to spread Christianity.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
I feel so very blessed to have been chosen by Jesus to be a disciple. I do not want to take this responsibility lightly and hope that you don’t either. Together we can make a difference.