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Category: College

A c t s 1 0 : Seeing God’s Impartiality

A c t s 1 0 : Seeing God’s Impartiality

This past Sunday morning we found ourselves in Acts 10 as we continue to follow the life of the early church as God leads, convicts and corrects.

In Acts 10 we are met with two main characters, Peter and Cornelius, and one beautiful plan of our Savior. Peter and Cornelius may just seem like 2 individual characters with their own stories, but in our discussion Sunday morning we spoke about how they truly do represent something much grander. They represented two people groups becoming one in the eyes of the Lord. Those who had been identified as God’s chosen people and those who had not, those who were jews and those who were not, those who thoughts of themselves as the beloved and those who were seen as common.

What’s even crazier is that Acts 10 is actually the moment you and I enter the story, the moment in which we become considered God’s children, and no longer to be dependant on a basis of being born jewish or not.

Okay, so let’s go on and get into the discussion points then:

Go on and read Acts 10 in it’s wholeness and then we will break down some key points in the verses as well as providing some additional scriptures to further explain concepts touched on:


In verse 1-2 we are introduced to character #1: Cornelius (he’s going to represent you and me, so let’s root for him in this story!)

vv. 1-2 "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God." 
vv. 3-4 "About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God"

It’s important to note who exactly Cornelius was. He was described as one who “feared God“. He was not a born Jew, yet he followed Jewish culture, participating with those who were following God. Here we see him representing the nations of those who lived in accordance to that which pleased God, seeing him giving alms and adhering to prayer customs. 

  • We looked at Hebrews 11:6 to see a description of someone after God’s heart, someone who pleased the Lord
  • Other examples of people who found favor with the Lord we mentioned were: Job, Moses, Abel, Abraham, David

We see the Lord met Cornelius in his time of prayer. We must remember that God loves to meet us as we seek Him, more on this at the end of this post.

**Do you believe that when you seek the Lord you will find Him, like truly believe that? Spend some time praying to the Lord right now. We know that prayer pleases Him and yet we forget to actually stop in the hustle of life at times and pray. The Lord loves to hear you, your desires, your hurts, your heart. So pause and pray and expect the Lord to meet you there!


Look to verse 5-8 to answer the following questions:

What did the Lord ask of Cornelius?

What was Cornelius’s response?

vv. 5-8 "And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa."

We find that Cornelius was faithful to follow the Lord’s direction to send men to Joppa, even though he may have been slightly confused as to the why behind the action. Take a second to think about what the Lord has been calling you to do that you have laid to the side and said, “I need some more reasoning in order to do that”. Be challenged to let the Lord lead, even when it feels uncertain as to why. We can trust His character which means we can trust His steps forward.


In verses 9-16 we pick back up with character #2, Peter. We have been following his life in Acts thus far and have knowledge that he is seen as a leader, a disciple near to the vision and direction of the Lord. (refer to Acts 2:14 where Peter had the courage to preach at Pentecost).

vv.9-16: "The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven."

Some questions we looked at that are worth answering:

(1) What symbolism can we find in the voice having to speak to Peter 3 times? (refer to John 21 and Mark 14:66)

(2) What is odd about the request to kill all kinds of animals? How did this go against previous Jewish law?

(3) What did vv.15 mean to Peter, what does vv. 15 mean to us today?

We stopped and talked about the idea of clean, acceptable, worthy things. Sometimes, we like to be the judge of the  labels we put on people saying things like: “He looks unfit to be used in the Kingdom of God” “She doesn’t look acceptable for this church” “I cannot be worthy of being a daughter of the King because of my past”…

When thinking of the Lord as the final judge on all things, we must lay down our own opinions, our own judgements, our “normals” when we enter His kingdom. We must be reminded that our inheritance is not product of  anything we ourselves  have done, it is not because of some special quality that we possess, it is not from our ability to stay clean in a dirty world, and it is not by the color of our skin.


In Peter’s vision we get a glimpse of what the Lord is up to. God is breaking down barriers to the gospel, he is unifying a people, he is building up an impartial church. Let’s continue in the scripture:

In verse 17-23 we see Peter inwardly questioning the vision he had and yet the Lord being faithful to speak to Him and comfort Him in the way He was calling Peter to act.

vv. 17-23 " Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests."

From here we see the story of Cornelius coming into the presence of Peter, immediately feeling as thought he should fall on his face before Peter, a Jew. (Go on and read verse 24-29 here) and yet there is something so powerful in what Peter’s response is, what the Lord is trying to tell his people.

vv. 28 "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."

We are met with the impartiality of God, and in turn the impartiality we are to live with.

Here are some verses to explore more on this idea, to see this beautiful characteristic of the Lord:

  • Gen. 12:3, Gal. 3:8, Romans 2:6-16

Some more questions to look at with these verses:

In what ways have you been impartial in your love over the past 2 weeks?

How have you decided for yourself who deserves patience, who deserves kindness, who deserves your time?

How do you normally judge others? What do you notice about people you are interacting with?

 

Continue on and read verse 34-35.

vv. 34-35 "So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."

A humbling thought we discussed in the context of God’s impartiality was that there wasn’t anything in you that made Him choose you. There was no special characteristic, no excellent skill, no extreme beauty in you or in me that granted us a place in His kingdom. You see, it’s all HIM, His beauty, His grandness, His perfect character in us that makes us worthy.

You see, we love to have things specific to us that others notice and love us for. The teacher made an exception for me on a deadline because she knows I normally get my work done. That friend spent extra money on me for Christmas because she loves me a little bit more than her other friends. The coach put me in the game more than my teammates because I am simply better than they are and they all know it.

The Lord here is literally saying to flip that notion on it’s head and start a new way of living. A life that doesn’t cling to favorites, special treatment, or pedestals to try to be put on.

If that is the case, then our actions should image Christ better in our ability to see all people as deserving of the gospel in word and deed. We no longer get to stand for division or “fairness based on merit” or to rest in our given family name or wealth.

Convicting right?

God went through great lengths to bring you and me into this story. God spoke not to just Jew, not to just Gentile here. We see Him reaching both Cornelius and Peter, and it’s kind of a big deal. He did it to make sure His love was a redemption story for ALL and not just some. How beautiful is that?

(**Read Ephesians 2:11-22 to enrich your understanding of what God is making a way for as he lifts the title of “chosen” off of only Jewish born individuals and places the  title friend on ALL who have chosen to follow Him and have been covered by His blood)

 

Take some time to go on and finish reading Acts 10.

Below are some more thoughts and references to help as you explore some of the themes and application of this chapter.

 


(1) Acceptability, cleanliness, goodness.

What does the Lord say is acceptable in His children?

Who is God now saying is clean in the eyes of the Lord if it is not just those born Jewish?

What is the Lord making clear in this passage about what our idea of good in someone should actually look like?


(2) Further exploration on how we must seek the Lord, much like Cornelius and Peter. Both were seeking guidance from God, praying daily, in tune with the Spirit, willing to follow where He was leading. Here are some verses that lean into the idea that as children of God, we must seek Him and as we seek Him he promises us we will find Him!

  • Deut. 10:12, Jer. 29:12-13, Gen. 4:26

(3) Read Isaiah 49:6

Sit with the wording “Oh it is too small a thing, too light a thing…”

How is it too small a thing to only love those whom it is easy to love? To love the ones who look like us, do like we do, speak like we do?

Why would it be too light a kingdom is God simply wanted His people to be kind to those who were worthy by the world’s standards (i.e. to count the beautiful as worthy, to reach the wealthy, etc)

See, He’s pushing us to much, much more and it’s up to you and me to follow where he nudges us further or not.


(4) The Lord is a Lord of peace, and peace is a promise He keeps!

Read Eph. 2:17 which quotes Isaiah 57:19

Peace is gospel we need to preach to one another. Peace with God and peace with one another.

How have your actions over the past 2 weeks preached peace? How have the preached conflict?


God’s aim to unite Jew and Gentile is a plan to unite you and me. Let us rejoice in our Father’s effort to bring ALL to himself!

We are praying for a spirit of impartiality in our ministry and in you this week!

 

 

 

-Your First College Crew

The Life of P a u l : A c t 9

The Life of P a u l : A c t 9

Oh to be Obedient…

Acts 9 | The Life and Obedience of Paul and Ananias

 

While this week brought so many uncertainties, one thing that we knew wouldn’t change was having a space for our ministry to gather and talk about the Word of God. In the midst of social distancing, we have learned to be creative when it comes to studying God’s word tougher and so this past Sunday we tuned in via Skype to hear Rob bring us a good word as we continue in Acts this semester.

If you didn’t get the chance to join us, don’t worry! We will be writing recap posts like this one each Sunday so whether you were on the Skype call or not you can come back and have a resource to help study the scripture.

Take a minute to read through Acts 9 now.

Make your own notes, write your questions down, sit with the passage.

Now here’s some thoughts we had as we gathered this past Sunday Morning:


We started by looking to answer two simple questions: (1) So who is this Saul guy anyways? and (2) How is Saul persecuting Christ through his actions?

By looking at verses 1 and 2 we are met with the identity of someone who spent their life seeking ways to persecute followers of the Lord.

v. 1-2 "But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." 

See, Saul wanted to present physical evidence of people’s disobedience to the high priest and sought to bring them back to be found guilty and worthy of murder. In verse 5 we see that Saul’s efforts to persecution the people of God was not just an account against believers, it was actually an offense against God.

v.4-5 "And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

Saul was very much against the mission of the Lord. Instead, he was for the mission of stopping the work of the Lord.

–> Think about times in which you have been actively against the mission of the Lord. Times you have felt an urge to reach out to a new believer to invite them in and decided not to. Times you had hours to spend doing anything you please and sat your bible to the side in order to fill your mind with trash TV. Times you have been a part of a conversation that led to gossip and hateful words and decided to add to the convo more jokes and hurt instead of diffusing the conversation back to something edifying.

 

It’s important to note who Saul was before Christ in an effort to see the full beauty in his part in God’s handiwork moving forward, much like it’s important for us to remain in awe that the Lord chooses to use each one of us for His work.

–> Take some time to think about who you were before Christ. What were you living for? What was the aim of your life? What was your mission? BUT GOD, being merciful chose to call you out of that identity into a new life, a new creation.

 

We continued to dive into the scripture reading v. 6

v. 6 "But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."

Here we sat with the following idea:

God not only called Saul to stop doing certain things, but he called him into new action.

The following questions were asked during our conversation:

–> Why is it easier at times to simply stop doing bad things and forget that the Lord has called you to be an active member in carrying out His work here on Earth? Why do we get lazy and think we aren’t to be his workman, looking for ways to advance His Kingdom? Why do we stop short with just removing sin and forgetting that we have been called into a life on mission as instruments in our Redeemer’s Hands?

 

Saul was given an action to follow and a way to move forward with the Lord instead of against Him.

 

Sit with the idea that Saul was blinded for 3 days (v. 9). What do you think was going through his mind? What do you think the conversation between him and the Lord looked like?

 

While we studied Saul’s obedience in this passage, something we leaned heavy into was Ananias’ role in the story.

 

v. 10-12 " Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

 

We see God meeting Ananias with a command, and a confusing one at that. See Ananias then responds with admitting he doesn’t quite get it. Lord, you want me to go lay my hands on someone who has done so much evil? Really?

Let us find comfort in the fact that Ananias was able to voice his confusion, his doubts to His father and then choose to be obedient. The Lord was faithful to ease Ananias’s mind and remind him that He’s got in under control and is the one who decides who is to be used for the Kingdom of God, not man.

 

In our conversation on Skype we talked about why we like to be the judge of who get’s to bee “chosen instruments” for the Lord.

Why do we like to choose who is worthy to be used for the Lord? Worthy of our time? Worthy to be shown compassion?

 

Ananias could have not been obedient. He could have said, “Nah, God. I think I’m going to pass on that one. It sounds a bit far fetched”

And you know who would have missed out on something beautiful? Yes, Saul wouldn’t have been shown the light of the Lord and regained his eye sight right away. BUT, Ananias would have also missed out on being a first hand witness of the redemption of one of his brothers in Christ (v.17)

 

We must remember that our obedience to the Father is good not only for His Kingdom plan, but it is good for us!

Take a second to think about all of the acts of obedience that were present just in Acts 9 alone. There are so many little steps of faithfulness we must take in our daily lives as we follow God. Steps that add to our lives of obedience. Steps that keep us close to the hands of the Redeemer, the hands of the Creator of all things good.

 

We stopped our discussion in v.18-19 where we see Saul’s vision restored.

v. 18-19 "And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened."

In what ways did Saul have corrected vision? (both spiritually and physically)

There was clarity in Saul’s life, in the true way of life. Let us continue to be a people willing to be corrected, willing to be shown the way forward.

 

 

There is SO much good stuff from this passage that we could share but this is just a start to get your mind turning. Rob encouraged us as we were meeting to not simply be satisfied with reading scripture and answering the easy questions. Rather, let us continue to sit with it. Meditate on it. Let the truths lead us to prayer, to action. We must be willing to let the scripture penetrate our hearts and affect us.

 

Let’s continue the convo on Acts 9 with those we are speaking to this week!

 


Here is a list of the questions we discussed. Use the comments section of this post to write your own thoughts on each of the questions.

(1) Why is it important to know who Saul was before Christ?

(2) Why do we get lazy and simply remove the sin without adding the action of the Lord into our lives?

(3) In what ways do we let our past self negate the work the Lord can do through us?

(4) What can we learn about God’s character from this passage?

(5) What can we learn about our place in His story from this scripture? 

(6) How is Ananias’ obedience something we can learn from?


 

Thanks for reading! Keep getting in the Word this week, it will provide such comfort and clarity in an uncertain time.

Spring R e t r e a t Recap

Spring R e t r e a t Recap

 

This past weekend our College students gathered in houses on the lake to learn what it should look like to live out Acts 2:42 daily with one another. There was laughter, there were tears, and there was a whole lot of feeling near to the presence of the Lord. We had honest conversations on how our relationship with ourselves, the Lord and others are all interconnected and how we must know that the state of our  heart affects all three. It is always such a joy to take specific time to reflect and be the body together. Below is some reflections from students who came away with us on Retreat:

 

 

“As a freshman, my first student trip with First Baptist at spring retreat was an amazing opportunity to grow deeper In my relationship with God, myself, and my brothers in Christ. All the way learning how to be a better Follower of Gods word daily through my relationships and friendships. So many of my great surface level friendships where deepened and strengthened in both purposeful devotional time and awesome competitive board games and pool! Most importantly, the distractions of school and life disappeared as I focused solely on the well being of relationship with myself, friends and God!“

Bryson, Freshman
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Reflections on the Motor City | KJ Mack

Reflections on the Motor City | KJ Mack

Thoughts from KJ Mack on our College Ministry’s trip to Detroit over Spring Break:

 

Detroit.

This was my destination for spring break. If that statement sounds like an oxymoron, that is probably because it is. Warm weather was nonexistent, there were no tropical beaches, and I was not staying in a luxury resort with scenic backdrops. Quite the opposite, actually. I became acquainted (somewhat) with a new type of cold, the closest thing to a beach I saw were the ice sheets flowing over the Great Lakes, and a children’s Sunday school room became my bedroom for a week. Nevertheless, my time in Detroit was without a doubt one of the best weeks I have ever had.
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Ambassador; it’s more than just a title

Ambassador; it’s more than just a title

Have you ever looked up the word ambassador? To be honest I hadn’t ever.

To me that used to be some governmental term that went in one ear and out the other. The term was covered in classes or appeared in sentences and I just assumed I knew enough about it and that it didn’t pertain to me at all. I wasn’t a history buff and didn’t care to know what was going on around the world (don’t worry, I am trying to work on this as I am now an “adult” in society’s eyes).

So what made me interested in something that left little spark in my mind previously?
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God Will Get There | Bennett Lax

God Will Get There | Bennett Lax

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Over the past six months, I have been blessed with more opportunities to draw close to the Lord than I could ever deserve. Certainly, there have been more than I could ever have imagined. Coming from a Jewish background in which I was reasonably comfortable, I would have told you that my knowledge of God was complete, that it was correct, and that it was the center of my values and beliefs.

 

    Funnily enough, I would have been wrong on all three of those claims.

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Joseph Should Be Remembered | Meg Hoffmann

Joseph Should Be Remembered | Meg Hoffmann

Joseph deserves more credit. I tend to be one of those people that skim over Joseph and continue on to the part about heavenly hosts and shepherds. Sure, I know he’s there and he does what God says and all that, but really, he doesn’t play that much of a part, right?

 

Wrong.

 

Over the past month leading up to Christmas, I’ve been reading all the different tellings of the Christmas story in my Bible, preparing my heart for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Over and over, I’ve noticed something I’ve never really noticed before. Joseph is one of the most incredible examples of faith, trust, and belief in the Bible.

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Prepare Him Room | by Anna Maria Gardiner

Prepare Him Room | by Anna Maria Gardiner

The long awaited Christmas season has finally arrived—the Christmas music is playing

on our radios, our neighborhoods are slowly beginning to glow from Christmas trees shining through the windows, gift displays are filling the stores, and the Hallmark Christmas movies are in full swing.

Each year, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of Christmas season, excited for the cozy nights spent at home with family, the beautiful Christmas services at church, and the extra time to truly reflect on the reason for the season—the humble birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Word becoming flesh. However, if you’re like me, it often seems that I reach the end of Christmas and look back thinking “I had such greater intentions for this Christmas season.” Maybe it’s the busy holiday schedules… maybe it’s the temptation to use Christmas break as a time to be lazy… maybe it’s the distraction of earthly gifts… maybe it’s just a big ole’ mix of all these things.

So the question that we must ask ourselves is: “How can I be proactive now in preparing myself and my heart for what God has planned to do in me and through me this Christmas?”
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