And the rest…

Acts 10

And the rest…..

Here is where we come in.

Up to this point in the story Christianity was as a sect of Judaism. God had other plans. God had bigger plans. God had plans that would eventually include me, not exclude me.

“34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

Jesus had said that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, the city, Judea, the area, Samaria, the area next door, and the utter most parts of the world, and the rest. I think that they were thinking geographically. That they would travel and tell their story to the Jews in the utter most parts of the world but God wasn’t talking about land masses. He didn’t come to save the land masses. He didn’t come to just save Jewish people. Jesus came to save the masses. Jesus came to save the masses that are messes. I am one one. I am one of the mass that is a mess. I am a sinner. I’ve done things. but more than that, I still, even after accepting Jesus as my savior want to stray away. My heart is self centered and bent on wanting what it wants. Jesus knew all that and he died for me.

Because of Cornelius and his family, and Peters obedience I can be welcomed into the family of God without becoming a Jew first. I don’t know all of the details but The process was not easy and would leave a convert always on the outside.

The show Gilligan’s isle in the theme song there were two unnamed characters, “and the rest”, Bob Denver wanted equal billing for all of the characters on Gilligans Isle. Again I don’t know all the details but after the first season we get to sing, “the professor and Maryanne,”. Because God so loved the world, the masses of people not the masses of land, he gave his only Son that whosoever would believe in Him, would not perish but have everlasting life.

Good news for ALL of us. In Gods song of salvation our names can be included.

Am I a tool?

Acts 9

Saul/Paul’s conversion.

“9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

The word ‘tool’ has gotten a new use. We now say someone is a tool and it means something bad. Not in my garage, not in my daily life, (I’m an electrician by trade), not in my vocabulary. A tool is what you use to get things done. I have one tool called an 11 in 1, which is a screw driver with 8 bits a 3 sizes of nut drivers. As an electrician It is indispensable.

Chapter 9 has stories of 4 men who were tools in Gods hands. Each used in specific ways for specific tasks.

Ananias, used to minister to death threatening Saul. To heal him, baptize him and teach him. To accept him and bring him into fellowship.

Saul, who’s heart was changed on the road to Damascus. He immediately began to teach that Jesus was exactly who he said he was, the messiah and there was no turning back for Saul or for anyone Saul would encounter.

There was Barnabas, his name means “son of encouragement”. He was used to befriend Saul and bring him into fellowship in Jerusalem. I imagine him as a Yukon Cornelius type who brought the bumble into Christmas castle just in time to put up the star. An encourager, an includer, a bold and fearless follower of Jesus who knew that Jesus can change the heart of a man.

And then we have Peter. Everywhere he goes miracles happen. The sick are healed, the lame walk and even the dead are raised to life.

I hope that I am a tool. Only in the best sense. Jesus use me to tell about you. You have forgiven all of my sins. You have changed me so much already but I am still in process. Continue the process you started in me and use me.

I want to be a Christian 11 in 1.

“Del, it’s a gift “

“Del, It’s a gift…. ”

That’s what Neal Page tells his friend Del Griffith when Del frets about repaying a debt. (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

Being indebted to someone or something is a terrible place to be. I got money from the US. Government to go to college. I don’t have to ever pay it back because it was a grant. That’s what you do when you give something of value to a person when you know they can’t repay you. It’s a gift. It’s a grant. No payments, no interest, free. A gift.

That is what God has done for us in Jesus. He has gifted, granted, graced us with forgiveness. It’s a debt we cannot pay. Our sin is a stain that we are powerless to wash away. We can’t pay for it. We cannot clean it up or cover it with a pile of good deeds.

Do you know what God calls our good deeds? He calls them filthy rags (think used feminine protection). Our good deeds look like used tampons to God. How can we ever expect to pay for our sins with used tampons?

The good news is we don’t have to. “Though our sins be as scarlet, he will wash them whiter than snow”.

We cannot pay for a gift. If a gift is a gift then it is free.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:4-10

We are forgiven by the grace of God.

(your name, my name here)It’s a gift.

Prepare to share

Acts 8

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”

Back in Acts chapter 1 Jesus had told his disciples, that they would receive power to be witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to utter most parts of the earth.

The persecution that broke out served to accomplish Just that. Philip went to Samaria and started proclaiming Jesus, healing and teaching. People there began to believe in Jesus.

Philip did two things really well. First, he shared about Jesus wherever he went, praying for people’s needs as he encountered them. Second, he went wherever he was sent.

” Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake…”

Philip goes on to bring this man to Jesus and then is literally spirited away. “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.”

I can’t explain this. It happened.

Am I available? Am I ready to share the good news that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost? I have a lot of “but what about..?” Things floating around in my head.

Stephen

Acts 7

Stephen preaches.

His sermon is long and filled with history, Jewish history, Israel’s history. His words point out that the plan all along was Jesus. Gods role in the history of Israel was all to bring out Jesus. All the patriarchs and prophets and people were providing a path to Jesus.

Jesus is THE plan and path for our salvation.

What is salvation? It is having all of our sins washed away because one perfect man who was in fact God in the flesh, willingly died in our place. He willingly took on all of our sins. All of us. All of it. And he died. And then he came back to life. All we have to do is confess that we need forgiveness and then accept the forgiveness God offers us in Jesus.

The surprise of this chapter is that after preaching eloquently, and passionately the crowd doesn’t receive what Stephen said. Instead they pound him with rocks until he is dead.

He didn’t go out fighting, he went out contending, contending for the faith. He went out like Jesus did, he went out forgiving. I hope I follow his example.

“59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

And we meet Saul, Professional Christian hater. Little did he know how this Jesus would change his life.

Being the body

Acts 6

Some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

The apostles were concerned and decided to divide the labor of ministry. It’s like when a human is formed from two cells, the egg and sperm. They quickly begin to multiply and as they do they cluster into groups. Theses groups begin to develop into the various organs and tissues that will make up this little person. No group is more important than any other because they are after all just specialized copies of the original two cells.

The church, this living organism is a multifaceted organization with millions of people. We all, all Christians, have a part play in the function, health and growth of the church, which is also called the body of Christ.

Stephan was chosen not to preach and teach, “3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

And yet he served. And the church continued to grow.

“7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen Seized

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.”

My body has a lot of different parts and pieces. I need them all to work, to work well, to work hard, to work at their jobs when I don’t even recognize what they are doing. It’s a team effort and all victories and defeats affect my entire body. Every part of me is working together to feed, encourage, bless, protect, aid, and serve every other part. When a part is sick or hurting all parts suffer.

We are like that. Us Christians. We all part of one body. One body of Christ. We need to work together. We need to be connected to each other. We need to aid and support each other. One body, one goal: witness to the miraculous work that Jesus is doing in us. We have a mission to go into the whole world and make disciples and to be witnesses to what Jesus is doing in our lives.

The good news is Jesus loves us and has forgiven all of our sin. He wants to have a relationship with us. There are people, really every person, that Jesus is, no, that Jesus did, die to meet, and now he lives forever waiting and watching, hoping and encouraging us to to share the good news with the people in the world that don’t know about him yet.

Secrets

John 8

What if God knew our secrets?

“8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’

We don’t know what Jesus wrote with his finger on the ground. We can only guess. The Text says that the older men left first. This was a society that esteemed elders and they would’ve been in the front. They would’ve seen what Jesus was writing first. I believe Jesus was writing out the list of each mans dalliances, names and dates.

Who was without sin? not one in that crowd. There is no crowd where the outcome would be any different. No one is without sin.

The one man who lived his life without sinning, Jesus, stood there completely justified to condemn this woman but instead he forgave her.

What if God knew our secrets?

He does.

He knows all of them. He knows all of our past. Here’s the hard part to understand, he still loves us. Jesus knew us and and our sin and yet went to the cross to pay for them all, to pay for us all.

I did some stuff, bad stuff. I was young and stupid. I cannot undo what I did. I recently met an older gentleman who knows part of my story. I can’t see him without thinking about that part of my life and feeling shame and remorse. He only knows part of my story. God knows it all. Every detail. Every motive. Every move I made, he was watching me. He has enough on me to condemn me for eternity but instead he has forgiven it all.

Jesus paid it all. It’s not fair, but it’s true. I walk away forgiven.

Thank you Jesus. You have set me free!