Do you feel that you are in a hopeless situation? Nothing you try to do helps and you don’t know what to do next. Please know today that no situation is hopeless.
The central theme of the book of Acts in God’s Word is found in one verse given to us by Jesus Christ. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Act 1:8 ESV)
Throughout the book of Acts we see this fulfilled. Stephen preached Christ to the Jews in Acts 7. In Acts 8, Phillip preached Christ to the Samaritans who were half Jews. In Acts 10, Peter preached Christ to the house of Cornelius who was non Jewish or Gentiles. The rest of the book of Acts focuses on the preaching of Christ to all people regardless of their race or social status.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Act 11:19-21 ESV)
Many Gentiles had lost their confidence in their idols and were looking for something better. Their situation looked hopeless, but God was working on their behalf. He broke down religious tradition and practices in people and sent them to Antioch to preach Jesus. Through the preaching of Christ, many non Jewish people turned from their idols, received the forgiveness of sins and became followers of Jesus Christ.
You may be saying about now, "how does this help me?" "My situation seems hopeless and I don’t understand how this is relevant to me."
Beloved, these three verses of Scripture are relevant to us today, in the midst of our seemingly hopeless situations, because God’s heart is revealed to us in them.
God goes out of his way to rescue perishing people and provide hope to the hopeless. God does not want people to be hopeless no matter where they live, what they have done or what they have become. He sent Jesus into our world to give us the hope of eternal life. Jesus showed us by example how to live a life dependent upon God, He died for our sins and on the third day He defeated the hopelessness of death giving us resurrection life.
God uses people to help others out of their hopeless situations. In God’s infinite wisdom, He uses people to help people. It is God that gives a person the heart to go out of their way utilizing their time, talent and treasure to help other people. If you are in a situation that seems hopeless today, know that God is preparing others and He will send them just at the right time to help you at your point of need.
The power of God is manifested in the midst of hopeless situations. If your situation seems hopeless, you are ready for the power of God to be manifested in your life. He will work undeniable miracles in ways in which He will be exalted.
Where Christ is exalted, hopelessness turns to faith. God’s Word is what grows our faith. Christ is exalted throughout God’s Word. As we read God’s Word and we listen to God’s Word proclaimed through His messengers our hopelessness turns to faith. As our faith in Christ grows through the consumption of God’s Word, we become strong in Him and nothing will move us.
Be encouraged today! God is for you and not against you. He is working on your behalf even when you do not realize it. As you wait on the Lord, His power will be manifested in the midst of your situation and He will be exalted in and through your life. Know today that there is no situation that is hopeless with God!
But Peter began and explained it to them in order: "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But the voice answered a second time from heaven, 'What God has made clean, do not call common.' This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." (Act 11:4-18 ESV)
When I was just beginning in pastoral ministry, one of my mentors told me that I would face much criticism if I obeyed God and not people. He said “when you receive criticism look for the truth that lies somewhere within it.” He said that “there are usually elements of truth in all criticism.”
Since receiving that advice, I have received a lot of criticism and I always try to look for the elements of truth that may be present in it. In looking for the element of truth in the criticism that Peter received in Acts 11:1-3, we see that his critics stated a fact. He indeed went into a home of a foreigner, spent time there and even ate with them. That was the truth. The non truth in their criticism, which was the result of their religious tradition, was that God was just for the Jew only.
Peter does not run from his critics. Instead, he faces them and responds. Peter’s response was not an argument. He did not allow himself to get caught up in an argument with his critics that would take away valuable energy from helping people at their point of need. Instead, his response was just simply a statement of the facts. In obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit, he did go to the house of a foreigner and he took six fellow Christ followers with him, which would prove to be a valuable move of wisdom, as these were witnesses to what took place in that house.
The fact is that God loves ALL people and desires that ALL people receive the forgiveness of sins that comes through faith; faith which increases through hearing the good news about Jesus Christ. As one’s faith grows to the point of believing, they receive the new birth that Christ talks about; specifically His words “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (see John 3:1-8).
Peter’s straightforward narration of his experience silenced his critics. What could they say? Peter’s preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to a house full of non-Jews grew their faith to the point that they received the forgiveness of sins. And through the Holy Spirit, God had given the Gentiles a change of mind and heart and the assurance of eternal life just as He had the Jews. Peter and six other Jewish Christ followers witnessed this move of God. Now, with Peter’s response to criticism by stating the facts of what happened, God has given these critics in the early church a change of mind and heart to receive all people into the church of Jesus Christ.
Notice their response which is an outward indicator of the change that had taken place in their heart. They “glorified God.” The fruit of their lips had changed from criticism to praise!To God be the glory!
Beloved, the Holy Spirit will take us places we would never imagine to minister Christ to people we never would have met without Him bringing it all together. As we obey God instead of people, we will face criticism. Look for elements of truth in all criticism and don’t spend energy in arguing. Just state the facts and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If we follow Peter’s model of defense in just stating the facts we are allowing room for a change in the heart of our critics.
If you are obedient to God and include all people in your sphere of influence, regardless of who they are and what they have done, you will be criticized by those who still don’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do. And those who criticize you may be a part of your community of believers.
Acts chapter 10 begins with Peter being partial to those of his own race and belief system. The chapter concludes with Peter obeying God and making those outside of his own race and belief system a part of his sphere of influence. He does not condemn them or judge them; he simply associates with them and points them to Jesus. As he does this, the Holy Spirit does the rest. Acts chapter 11 begins with Peter being criticized by those in his community of believers for including those who were different.
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
(Act 11:1-3 ESV)
Peter was criticized for obeying God and including those in his sphere of influence who were different. You would think that those in his community of believers would be rejoicing over his obedience to God, but they were not. Instead, they were upset. They just didn’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do.
Take a moment and consider who you have included in your sphere of influence. Are they different from you? Or are they just like you? There are a lot of people in our day who go to church, but only include people who are like them. Most churches are segregated and do not fairly represent the racial diversity of God’s Kingdom.
There are those in our day who only include people who:
Vote like they do belonging to the same political party
Are of the same faith
Are of the same denomination
Have the same color of skin
Are of the same economic status
Have the same sexual orientation
They exclude others who are different than they. I feel sorry for these people because they just don’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do. There is hope for these people though. If God could change Peter, God can change them. That is what gives me great hope for change in our day.
Beloved, I encourage you today to look at all people through the eyes of Christ. Christ died for all people. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have become, God loves them as much as He loves you. Don’t try to change people and make them just like you. Instead, obey the direction of the Holy Spirit. He will broaden your sphere of influence and speak God messages through you. He will do the rest. When criticism comes from those who don’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do, you will know that you are right on course as a Christ follower.
God is not partial and He does not show partiality to one group of people over another based on status or race. God loves all people and He has sent the Holy Spirit to baptize us all into one body.
Peter was preaching a simple but yet powerful Christ centric message as recorded in Acts 10:34-43. His audience was of a different nationality, but Peter had learned that God shows no partiality. God loves all people and desires that all people come to Him through Jesus Christ. As Peter told this house full of foreigners about Jesus, faith rose up within each hearer. And we know that God’s word declares that faith comes from hearing the Word (Romans 10:17) . It was saving faith springing up within them like a gushing fountain and they were receiving the forgiveness of sin that Peter told them would come through believing (Acts 10:43).
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 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. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (Act 10:44-48 ESV)
As Peter was speaking, there was a holy interruption. He did not conclude his message with a story and a prayer, nor did he precede his message with a joke to break the ice. He didn’t ask for a show of hands of those who would like to receive Jesus into their hearts. He did not ask people to come forward to receive Christ. He simply spoke God’s message and the Holy Spirit did the rest.
The six Jewish brothers (“the believers from among the circumcised”) that he brought with him were “amazed”. They could not believe that God was pouring out the gift of the Holy Spirit on these foreigners as He had poured out on the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). And they would have never believed it if they had not come with Peter and witnessed what God was doing at this God gathering. They were witnessing God baptizing believers into one body by His Spirit. It is as the Apostle Paul would write in 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks”.
When Peter realized that these people had just received the Holy Spirit as He had earlier, he immediately pointed them to water baptism which is an outside indicator and testimony of what God has done on the inside. All through the book of Acts and early church history, Christ followers did not wait to baptize a new Christ follower in water. When a person was baptized into the body by the Spirit, they immediately looked for a hole of water deep enough to follow their Lord Jesus Christ in water baptism.
Beloved, in this paragraph of Scripture, some of the heart of God is revealed to us:
He desires to use preachers to communicate the good news of Christ to all people.
He has ordained the preaching and hearing of the Word to produce and grow saving faith in people.
He does not need manmade gimmicks that produce “converts” or “church members”.
He is not partial.
He loves and desires for all people to be baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ regardless of race, regardless of status, regardless of what they have done and regardless of what they have become.
God is no respecter of people. What He does for one, He will do for another. May He lift up preachers in our day who will deliver God messages and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in baptizing all people, Jews and Gentiles, into the body of Christ. And may we be quick to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in water baptism as an outward testimony of a spiritual rebirth.
God messages are delivered by imperfect people who submit to the direction of the Holy Spirit. These messages are good news! They always point people to Jesus and grow the faith of the listener to receive the forgiveness of sins and become followers of Jesus Christ.
In Acts chapter 10, God puts together a God gathering. By the time we get to verse 34, we see that God has put together a full house of foreigners and has sent an imperfect preacher to give them the good news of Jesus Christ. This messenger of the good news of Jesus Christ was once a racist and a coward, but God was changing him and using him to minister at the point of need as Jesus had showed Him by example. Let’s look at the God message delivered by the imperfect messenger.
So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Act 10:34-43 ESV)
The message that Peter delivers at this God gathering of people is simple, but yet powerful in building the faith of the listener in Jesus Christ. The entire theme of the message is Jesus. It is relevant to us today and we will do good to note the major points of the message:
Jesus came into our world as God’s gift to people due to His love for people.
Jesus ministered at the point of need in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was put to death by people revealing the sinful nature that is within each us.
In contrast, Jesus was brought to life again by God who desires to give life to all people.
The Christ follower is a witness to the resurrection as Jesus is a living presence in their life.
The result of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is forgiveness of sin for every believer.
Beloved, that is a God message that never looses its relevancy and it is Good News to each hearer!
There is no one that is perfect, that is why Jesus came into our world. He showed us how to live and how to minister at the point of need in the power of the Holy Spirit. He died for our sins. He rose again. He ascended back to be with God the Father. He has not left us alone, but has sent the Holy Spirit to empower His followers to continue His point of need ministry. He is coming again. That is all good news! It is relevant in our day. And it is still delivered to God gatherings of people from all around the world through imperfect messengers. And when it is, faith grows and the forgiveness of sins is realized.
For the last six weeks I have been explaining on my blog some of the worldwide ministry that takes place through LovingGodFellowship.org. I am concluding that topic today with a list of links to the individual blog posts I wrote on the subject. I hope you will check some of them out. Feel free to comment on this blog and let me know if you have any questions.
God puts together gatherings where people are presented with the truth of His Word so that their faith can grow to a point where they can receive all of His spiritual blessings. These God gatherings cross all barriers that man has instituted; they transcend learned traditions and practices and are used to build the church of Jesus Christ regardless of race or nationality.
In Acts chapter 10, we are seeing God put together a gathering of people to receive the good news of Jesus Christ. It would require that barriers be broken down and it would require obedience. In the first paragraph (Acts 10:1-8), God is working on a Gentile named Cornelius. In the second and third paragraphs (Acts 10:9-23), God is working on a Jew named Peter. In the fourth and fifth paragraph, we see the gathering come together as these two individuals obey God.
So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me." And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.' So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."
(Act 10:23-33 ESV)
As Jesus was helping Peter see that racial barriers had to come down, Cornelius was busy getting his house full of his friends and family so that they could receive the blessings of God that were coming. He didn’t know what they were going to receive; he just knew that if God was putting it together, it would be good.
By the time Peter gets to the house of Cornelius, the house is full of people. This was a God gathering designed by God, but for it to take place and people’s faith grow to receive God’s spiritual blessings; it required the obedience of Cornelius and Peter. In this paragraph of Scripture we see that their obedience to the instructions that came to them through prayer resulted in a God gathering. When God puts a gathering together, good things are going to happen.
These two individuals did not realize what the result of their obedience would bring prior to obeying. They knew God and they knew that if they obeyed Him, the result would be good. Many never enter into all that God has for them because they can’t see what the results of their obedience will bring. These two did not have to see the results before they moved forward in obedience. They trusted God and knew that if He was leading, the result would be good.
Beloved, trust God and move forward in obedience as He instructs you through His Word and through prayer. You may not understand it all, but that is not a requirement. All that God requires is obedience and as we step out in obedience, we know that the best is yet to come. God rewards obedience with His spiritual blessings.
We need God gatherings in our day, but it will require stepping out in obedience. At Loving God Fellowship we have built a platform for God gatherings to take place in cities across America and around the world. We have stepped out in faith believing the instructions God has given us, not knowing what the end result will be while realizing that God’s spiritual blessings are for all nations and they will follow obedience. We are calling these gatherings Loving God Fellowship or LGF Gatherings and all we need on the other end are for people like Cornelius to step out in obedience and gather their friends and family. God will show up and with Him comes spiritual blessings. To learn more about these gatherings and how you can be a part, please go to our website at LovingGodFellowship.org and click on the link “Building the Church without a Building” or the link “Church without Walls”.
May those who love God and ALL people rise up in obedience to the Lord in our day. May God gatherings where the truth of God’s Word is proclaimed and faith is enlarged be commonplace. May we realize that God gatherings do not have to take place in a church building and on a church day. And may we receive the spiritual blessings that always follow our obedience to God.
We are living in a day where some churches devote more finances and time to buildings, programs and events than they do in taking care of the felt needs of the people in their community and encouraging their attendees to continue the point of need ministry of Jesus within that community during the week. Here in America there are churches that are thousands, millions, and some are billions of dollars in debt for facilities and building projects. There is church finance institutions in place that are thriving on helping churches go into dept. For a fee they will consult, loan funds and develop payback plans that will entice the church members to pay for the building projects that are oftentimes the fruit of the church leaderships pride and ego.
Some church facilities are only used a few times per week at the most. Pride is taken in accumulating maximum volunteer hours from church attendees for church activities that take place within the walls of these facilities instead of within the community at the point of need.
It’s amazing that the church thrived for over 3 centuries without building projects. From the beginnings of the church as recorded in the book of Acts until Christianity became popular when Constantine became Christian, the focus was on continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus. When the buildings started going up, the focus shifted off of needy people and onto needless buildings and the methods to pay for them.
We at Loving God Fellowship are seeking to help change this mindset that has held the church captive for way to long. In doing so, we have implemented what we call “building the church without a building” or “church without walls”.
May God help us in our day keep our focus on people and not on buildings. May we never put the needs of a building before the needs of people within our communities. Christ took care of people at their point of need. Christ died for people. Christ is returning for people.
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