buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Divine Encounters”

Beginning Again

I thought it would be different. I thought I would be walking into a new ministry. For the last few months, I have been searching for the right position. The door of opportunity came through an insignificant encounter at a small group meeting. It was a small opportunity; not in a ministry of great significance. I thought it would be different. But God reminds me every time I question this opportunity: ministry happens wherever He places us. We are to be His light in whatever opportunity we’re given. I don’t know where this opportunity will lead. The position may only last a few months – it happened one other time in my career life – or it may last many years. I don’t know what will happen.

Whatever door He opens, we are to walk through it. It’s a matter of following Him. It always looks different from what we think. I guess the disciples were in the same boat (so to speak). They dropped their nets and decided to go where this new fellow was taking them. They had no idea where He was going or where they would end up. But they kept following – even when everyone else stopped. They were offered the opportunity to leave when the crowds did, but Peter said no “Who else has the words of eternal life?” (My paraphrase of John 6:67). They did desert Jesus on that last night. They thought it was the end, but it was only a new beginning. Once Jesus arose, the movement started with a few sparks through the Holy Spirit’s igniting in a large gathering. The sparks were spread as the gathering was disbursed throughout the world. And eventually the movement became a fire that has lasted through thousands of generations.

It always looks different when we are in the first steps of beginning again. We just don’t know what’s on the other side of the beginning. It could be a movement that needs a few sparks to ignite for a new generation. Our job is to make sure the sparks aren’t extinguished. Can you imagine if it’s our generation that lets that spark die? We need to fan the flame wherever God has placed us. I completely fail in this regard. I know I need to be better about sharing with others. It’s really the only job that counts these days. Nothing will be credited to my account except the good works that will be stored in heaven for that day when we have to give an account of how we have lived on this earth. Nothing else matters. The fire has to be fanned – if not us – then who? For those who are seeking, they have to see something in us to make them question what we have that they don’t. We have to be different. It’s not easy being different. But we are told to be light in the darkness. The world loves the dark. If our light is diminished or extinguished, the world continues in the darkness and will not find their way to the cross.

So I begin again. I take the mantle that is offered to me. I take the opportunities as they come. I follow Jesus. I stay true to His word. I watch God at work and join Him to fan the flames. Sounds easy enough, right? Let’s do this thing. I want to hear at the end of all this, “well done!” And I want it all to count for something greater than what I thought was possible. I don’t understand it or foresee it now. God’s ways are different and His thoughts are greater. I have to trust it all to Him: for His glory! Let it be as He says and let my ways be obedient to His.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

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The Meeting

Do you have favorite Scripture that God has used to move you along your journey? One of mine is the passage found in Acts 10. The passage is about the divine connection made between Peter and Cornelius. One morning during my quiet time, I was contemplating this passage. I wondered about the significance of Peter and Cornelius’ meeting. Peter had to be willing to go where he was forbidden by his law to go. In his vision, God spoke to Peter to eat things that Peter considered as “unclean.” God told Peter He had already made those things clean. By God’s hand, He made all things in heaven and on earth. He declared in Genesis 1:31 all that He had made was very good.

Peter had to remove his old thinking and replace it with a new mindset. Peter was contemplating the meaning of his vision when visitors arrived who would take him to Cornelius. Peter took one step out of his comfort zone into a divine encounter. Peter’s vision was about “unclean” food, but God was giving Peter a new understanding that nothing made by God’s hand is unclean – and that includes all human beings. Jews and Gentiles did not meet. It was against their religion to associate with Gentiles. There was a barrier that God created in the beginning in order to separate the wickedness from His chosen people. And the Jews took that to an extreme. God set aside the Jewish people but that didn’t mean that they were any better than their fellow-man. Their thinking needed to be changed.

Cornelius was already on a path that respected God. He was already worshiping God and giving to the poor. He was already doing the things he knew to do, but it was not complete. He needed further information. I have seen this pattern repeated in Scripture such as the encounter found in Acts 18. Apollos was also in need of further information which was supplied by Priscilla and Aquila. When our understanding isn’t complete, God sends someone to tell the rest of the story. There were divine encounters that furthered the Gospel message. Apollos went on to preach the Gospel throughout his world. Paul mentioned Apollos in 1 Corinthians 1:12 as one of the preachers that believers “followed” along with Paul and Peter. Apollos must have been significant in moving the Gospel forward.

Back to Cornelius. Cornelius was a military man from the Italian regiment, which means he probably went back to Rome at some point. As I am contemplating these divine encounters, I wondered if he was the first messenger to Rome. When Paul wrote to the Romans, there was already a church planted. Who was the first one to take the message to the Romans? Was it Cornelius? Was this his divine connection with Peter that set up the wave of Christians to that part of the world? I would have to believe this is what took place. God gives us a small story that forms the larger context of taking the message throughout the world. I immediately thought of the Ethiopian eunuch that was encountered by Philip in Acts 9. Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to a specific road for the encounter with a man who would take the Gospel to the continent of Africa. It’s the small stories that take on the larger story of getting the message across – God so loved the world that He sent His Son; not to condemn the world but to save it.

We may feel that we have nothing to share, but God can use us for divine encounters for God’s ultimate glory! Peter heard the voice and was obedient to the task. Philip started out as soon as he heard the voice. As I stated previously, God used this same passage to move me to my current city – it’s now been almost sixteen years ago. Why did God call me here? I do believe I needed further information. I didn’t have the complete story. I haven’t had the divine encounter (that I know of) to take the Gospel message to my world, except through this written word. It’s not much, but if I am faithful to what I am called to do, maybe someone along the way will be changed by it. That’s my prayer anyway.

If I had not made the move, I never would have met the people I was supposed to meet to get me where I needed to be. My old thinking had to be changed. Sometimes it takes a move of God to help us see greater things than we could ever imagine. Never discount what God wants to do through our small obedience in these “little” decisions – it could impact a world! Cornelius, Apollos and Philip are good examples of what a little obedience could do for God’s glory!

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. Acts 10:22-23, 34-35

May I Help?

One of my friends sent me one of those blast emails of the story of an encounter in a busy airport. Salesmen in the rush to catch a plane upset an apple cart. All of the men rushed to catch the plane, but one man turned back to help the young lady. It turns out the young lady was blind, and no one was helping her retrieve the apples. She was groping blindly looking for her apples and everybody was passing her by without helping. This email reached into my soul. I have seen this email in the past, but this time it opened my eyes. I had been passing others by as well. How many times have I passed others who needed help without stopping because I was too busy or maybe just didn’t see them because I wasn’t looking?

I remember having my own airport experience from several years ago, which has stayed with me. I was on a business trip with my boss and a colleague. We were leaving the airport on our way to a meeting. As we were heading to our rental car, we passed a lady who was obviously upset. I noticed her. My soul was stirred. But I kept on walking. What could I do after all? I was in a different city. I didn’t know this lady or what was making her so upset. I could justify my passing her by with all my excuses. However, this could have been a life changing moment. It could have taught me a powerful lesson or it could have been what she needed for a better day. I’ll never know how God was going to use that moment. And I let it pass me by.

For far too long, I have been avoiding encounters with those around me who are blind and need help. For those who are actually seeking sight, I could be the help they need to find what they have lost. Jesus spoke about the blind seeing, celebration happening when the lost are found, and loving others as one loves themselves. I hope I never pass by another person who needs the help without at least offering to help. I may be turned down, but it never hurts to offer. It may be inconvenient. I may have to sacrifice something. But what difference will it make? It could be the difference between life and death. It could be a life-changing, divine appointment encounter. I’ll never know if I don’t stop to ask.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37

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