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God bless us, every one

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Acts 10:25-48

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, "Get up. I myself am also a human being."

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever hears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him."

While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.

Then Peter responded, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?" He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

With authority Jesus speaks of his role in the restoration of man's place with God: "I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). No one from any culture, from any religion (including Christianity), from any socio-economic group comes to her Father except through Jesus.

Jesus may intercede without my knowing, of course. My path back to God is often obscured to my own vision. But many times we are conscious of some amazing conversion or awakening that changes everything. Charles Colson, Nixon's political hatchet man, becomes a prison reformer in the name of Jesus. Augustine of Hippo, a sexual glutton, becomes the most influential Christian teacher and philosopher of the ancient world. Eldridge Cleaver, founder of the militant Black Panthers, becomes a born-again Christian and runs for office as a conservative. Saul, killer of Christians, becomes the most effective evangelist of Biblical times.

I remember with great clarity a walk I took in snowy woods in January of 1979. Walking into the woods, I grappled with but did not accept Jesus as God. Walking out of the woods an hour later, I was as certain of that fact as I could ever be. My encounter with Jesus was powerful then and continues to be just as powerful today.

In 1979 I had shed some of the bad habits of earlier years, but I didn't feel like a member of God's elect. That didn't seem to matter to God. Cornelius was a Roman gentile, but that didn't matter a whit to God. God wants every one of us. We have all moved far away from him, and he wants every one of us back. And when I am fortunate enough to see a little of his working in my own days, I get the thrill of a lifetime.

Father you are far from me, and Jesus brings me close again. He fills me with your spirit, and changes everything. Thank you, thank you, Lord.

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