CONNECTING THE DOTS
"As Peter puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon's front door. They called in asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there.
"Peter, lost in thought, didn't hear them so the Spirit whispered to him, 'Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don't ask any questions. I sent them to get you.'
"Peter went down and said to the men, 'I think I'm the man you're looking for. What's up?'
"They said, 'Captain Cornelius, a God-fearing man well-known for his fair play -- ask any Jews in this part of the country -- was commanded by a holy angel to get you and bring you to his house so he could hear what you have to say.' Peter invited them in and made them feel at home." Acts 10:17-23 (The Message).
What a story! Three worlds coming together, Jewish Peter's prejudice giving way to Roman Cornelius' request through the intervention of God's supernatural unseen influence! There must be millions of untold stories like this one where God's world has come close to the world of people who cry out to Him in their need.
This was not only a significant event for the early church -- God actively intervening to ensure that His followers take the message of Jesus out of the confines of the Jewish nation to a world that was waiting for a revelation of the truth. It was also a life-changing encounter for Cornelius with the living God which would transform him and his household.
Familiarity with the story can so easily dull the edge of this drama. Peter, born and bred in the cradle of Judaism, was confronted with a situation which would shake him to the core. Not only did he have a deep-seated prejudice against Gentiles in general, a generations-old attitude passed down from his forefathers, but he also had a particular hatred for Romans and especially Roman soldiers.
Were they not the ones who had inflicted so much suffering on his people? They were prisoners in their own land and subject to the capricious cruelty of their oppressors. His dream of deliverance had been dashed when Jesus died, having done nothing to fulfil his expectation of a new order of freedom in his land. No Roman soldier was an individual to him. They were all lumped together as nameless and faceless enemies.
Now he was faced with a nightmare of a vision -- an instruction from God -- "Satisfy your hunger by eating an unclean creature!" How could he, Peter, a Jew, do a thing like that, and, of all things, because God told him to do it?
Then a group of Romans arrived and asked him to accompany them to a Roman soldier's home! What was the world coming to? It was to Peter's credit that he both welcomed his visitors into his host's home and was willing to go with them to Caesarea, realising that his vision and their visit were tied together into an instruction from God.
It takes faith and courage to connect the dots! God's leading does not always come in unmistakeable instructions. We are not mindless robots. This is part of what it means to know God and to walk in the Spirit. We learn, on this journey with Jesus, to recognise His voice and to know His ways.
David prayed a significant prayer, one which I have prayed over the course of five years, which has been answered over and over in amazing ways.
"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11 (NIV).
No other prayer has affected my life as much as this desire, planted in my heart by the Holy Spirit, to know God's ways. It is the way of access to the heart of the Father.
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