Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Acts 10:44-48

Acts 10:44-48
English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
  44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

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   A co-worker recently ran the Boston marathon.  He described how challenging the race was and how poor he was feeling by the end of the race.  His experience was such that it affirmed my desire to never run for four hours straight.
  But imagine just keeping going after you cross the finish line of whatever race you're running, whether it's a 5k or a marathon or an ultramarathon.  Imagine getting excited to see the finish line fade in the rearview mirror as your momentum carries you forward, never stopping to rest on the laurels of what you have completed.
  That's what the Christian life is meant to be.  Baptism isn't a place to stop -- it's a starting point, a launching pad, a booster shot that launches the Christian life even deeper into relationship with Christ.  Here, the Gentiles are baptized, but they ask Peter to stick around for some days, because they want more.  Their appetites are growing stronger, and they want to learn more.  Baptism isn't their finish line -- they are just getting started, and they are hungry to learn about their faith, to grow and mature in their relationship with Christ.
  Are you still hungry for growth?  Are you still seeking Him?  It's easy to get comfortable and rest.  But we are called to dive deeper, to grow more, and to love more freely each and every day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43
English Standard Version (ESV)

  At a certain point, we have to admit that there are things we simply cannot grasp about God -- there are ineffable qualities that escape our ability to comprehend.  We get into trouble when we become so certain of things that our minds cannot be changed, because then we stop listening to what God has to say because our minds have formed a certainty.
  It would have been easier for Peter to shut off his mind and stay focused on what has always been true.  Instead, what Peter does is listen to the Holy Spirit call him into a new understanding of the Gospel.  Peter could have remained in his old understanding that the Gospel was only for the Jews, but instead he allows God to change his mind, to challenge his way of thinking, and through Peter the Gospel flows into people who had not previously heard the Good News.
  It requires a certain humility to be a Christian, because we aren't God.  We don't know all the answers -- we understand what we can through the lens of Scripture, and we trust that God will give us the strength and wisdom to serve and love those around us.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Acts 10:17-33

Acts 10:17-33
English Standard Version (ESV)

  Spend enough time around people, and you can get a sense of what their primary motivation is.  Some people are easier to read than others, but you can eventually determine what drives people by studying their words and actions.
  Here, one gets the sense that Cornelius and Peter are guided by the Holy Spirit.  The way they talk -- there is a strong connection between their lives of prayer and their next steps.  These are men who invest heavily in their prayer lives, and then they follow up on what is revealed to them.  They expect God to guide them, and when God gives direction, they obey, even when it's unclear where this will lead.
  Now, our prayer lives are probably different.  We may not hear from the Holy Spirit in the same way Peter and Cornelius seem to.  But wouldn't it be wise to invest the same energy and time into our prayer lives, with the expectation that God will lead us?  I don't know what would happen next, but I imagine it would bear fruit that would draw us closer to God.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Acts 10:9-16

Acts 10:9-16
English Standard Version (ESV)

   Working makes me play the lottery more often.  Not every day or every week, but sometimes I'll stop by the store on the way home and buy a ticket with a (very small) chance of winning several hundred million dollars.  I think the idea of having lots and lots of money without having to do any work sounds rather great.
  We all like to get something for nothing.  We love the idea of an outsize reward for little work.  While we scoff at the signs on the side of the road that offer high pay for little work, there's a little voice inside us that hopes there is such an offer out there for us.
  When I read these 8 verses, I want the second part of the story, the vision that guides and leads, the voice from God that directs the feet, but I often don't want to put in the work that Peter does in the first part of the verse.  I want the direct benefits of a close relationship with God, but I often fail to put in the work necessary to draw near to God and train my heart to hear the Spirit speaking.
  So how do you make space to put in the time, to lead your heart into a closer relationship with God, to train your mind to focus on God and God alone?  It's hard, but the benefits of a close relationship with God requires that we design our lives to see everything through the lens of discipleship.  It's not about earning salvation, for that is a free gift.  It's about shaping our lives to let grace lead us into growing discipleship.