Doubting his Calling?

I was reading the beginning of Acts 11 this morning, and it got me thinking. You know how in those stories you know really well, an earlier part can remind you of what happens later? Yeah, it was a bit like that.

I was reading about when Peter returned from telling the good news about Jesus to Cornelius and watching his household being filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people thought this good news should only be told to Jews, and Cornelius wasn’t a Jew, so Peter came in for a bit of criticism. Fresh from witnessing God’s power, this opposition didn’t faze him at all. You see, Peter himself had been reluctant to associate with non-Jews, but in Acts 10:9-20, God had shown him a vision of animals Jews were forbidden to eat and said: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean.” So, Peter described the vision he’d had in the previous chapter as his reason for visiting Cornelius. Great! What a transformation!

But later on, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes that Peter ate with non-Jews, but when some strict Jews came along, he started to back away from them. In typical Paul fashion, Paul opposed Peter to his face ‘Because he stood condemned’. (I love how Paul confronts these issues.) Why did Peter stand condemned? Because God had already revealed how He wanted him to treat people: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean”, but instead of being led by the Spirit of God, Peter was acting in fear – backing away from the non-Jews because he was afraid of those who were Jewish like himself.

What about the vision? What about the power God had given Peter to communicate with non-Jews? Perhaps it’s not dissimilar to that day in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent came along. “Did God really say …?” As time passes, it can be so easy to let doubt creep into our minds, but Paul tells us: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Instead of walking in the flesh (in our fears or doubts), let’s walk according to God’s Spirit and be faithful to our callings.

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31 Days of Song: “Stranger on the Shore”

Yeah, I know; the title probably makes you think of an Acker Bilk tune.  It does me too, but this is a different one.

First an update and a thank-you for your prayers.  Compassion have heard nothing so far about any centres being affected by the earthquake (what good news), and Compassion Philippines will keep them posted over the next few weeks.

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Now, do you remember I said I had two favourite songwriters and one was Don Francisco?  Well, Michael Card is the other.  He’s another whose voice you’d hear on the radio and instantly recognise.  It was hard to pick just one of his songs.  He’s written a whole album on the book of Revelation called “Unveiled Hope”, made lullabies, rehashed old hymns, put Bible-stories to music, and I’ve recently discovered he’s also written books.  He seems devoted to studying his Bible, so I expect they’re really good.  The one I’d love to read is “A Fragile Stone:  The Emotional Life of Simon Peter”.  Talking about the book, Michael says one of the best ways of getting to know somebody is to get to know their best friend.

Michael’s first album was called “A Fragile Stone”, so I’m guessing those songs are also about Simon Peter.  I haven’t heard all of them, but one I have heard is “Stranger on the Shore”, which is John 21 put to music – the story of Jesus calling Peter again after Peter’s denials.  The song is on YouTube, but I haven’t included the link because it’s not the best version, it’s in a different key, and you can’t hear the words very well.

A-Z: Easter Garden

Day 5 of the A-Z challenge, and a poem written a few years ago, when the weather was a bit different from the bitter-cold Easter we had last weekend.

Easter Garden

The cockerel crowing in the middle of the day;

Unusual – yet it reminded me

There was one who denied, and the Saviour kept on loving –

Restored this man, so he could follow Him.

I went on listening, and the birds in the sky

Took my thoughts back to an early morning:

The one who betrayed was filled with remorse, and hung himself;

Perhaps he felt it a burden – having to put things right.

The horse neighing, from further away –

A strong animal, which brought to mind

The powerful soldiers, and all their mockery:

Were any of their hearts touched by the One who hung on that cross?

The tiny lavender-plants, only recently purchased;

Frail – yet their frailty reminded me

God chose the foolish things of the world; His followers are despised and belittled,

But we have One who loves and accepts us.

Relaxing in the garden, I rested my head on my arms;

I felt the wood of that garden table, and I was reminded

Of my Saviour’s body, crucified on a tree

So that I could have life in all its fullness.

And as the sun shone brightly in the sky,

I remembered Jesus – the Son of God –

The Son of Righteousness; He has risen not merely from the tomb,

But also in the hearts of all who will believe in Him.

Part of the Plan

Holley asked us to write this week about what brings us joy, particularly relating to our God-sized dream.  Of course, if they’re related to a God-sized dream, they’ll be Godly things – not things that contradict His Word.  I had one of the most joyful days on Monday, as I sat in a café for 2 hours, having lunch and talking with one of my most treasured friends.  Some of you reading this may think:  That brings happiness, not joy, but I’d argue the opposite.  You see, spending quality time with this friend twice in a month is something I could only have dreamed of a few years ago.  It’s precious, and I’m super-grateful to God for it.

Holley says if we look at the things that bring us most joy, that’s a clue to God’s call on our life.  God uses what we already have.  You see that with Moses in Exodus 2:11-17:  He had a passion to bring about justice, and he didn’t always get it right.  Look at when he killed that Egyptian, but nevertheless it was there.  As my pastor said, it was there as much when he couldn’t stand by and let those shepherds stop his future wife from watering her flocks, as when he went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him to let the Israelites go.  You see it with Peter too:  He basically had a big mouth!  One minute he’d be all-out for God, the next he’d be trying to side-track Jesus, but the Lord eventually used Peter’s words to save 3,000 people in a day.  And I see it in my own life:  I love singing, I love writing; I feel God’s called me to do both.

So if spending time with family and friends is what brings me joy, maybe people will always be part of God’s call on my life.  Maybe I’ll never be like one of those missionaries who travel to foreign nations on their own to spread the gospel, and maybe that’s ok, because it’s not how God made me.

What things bring you joy?  Do you see them as part of God’s plan for your life?