God's Altar - An Open Altar! The Early Church Opens Up to Gentiles

now you may remember that we're working

through the book of axes we're talking

about the characteristics of a holy

spirit born New Testament church and

we're looking at some of these qualities

and characteristics and we're thinking

this is what we would like to be when we

grow up right but we find that the early

church with the early Christians wasn't

perfect they had problems they had

difficulties that they had to work

through but they also had the Holy

Spirit teaching them in guiding them in

a very vivid way and what we're going to

be talking about today out of the book

of Acts chapter 10 we're going to be

talking about a beautiful moment when

the vision of the early Christians got

bigger see they already believed in God

and they believed in what God had called

them to do but they had a small vision

of who was and was not welcomed into the

church and so we're going to be talking

today about the way God opened their

mind to receive everybody that God

wanted to come to know Jesus in that

church and so there's two of my favorite

topics that we're going to be talking

about one the topic of hearing from the

Holy Spirit I love that topic because i

believe the Holy Spirit is always trying

to talk to us he's got something he

wants to say to you and to me and if I'm

listening God will get the message

through and it's a beautiful thing and

the other thing that I love to talk

about and think about this so important

to me is the fact that God has called us

to minister to people who are different

than we are that that doesn't have to be

a barrier which is a good thing because

almost everyone here is different from

everyone else so it's a good thing or we

would we would be stuck right so God has

called us to that to Acts chapter 10 and

I invite you to pray with me I meant

dear God we come into your presence

right now and I thank you for what you

have done and are doing among us god I

thank you for your beautiful purposes

Lord God that you are unfolding here god

I thank you for the community that you

have gathered

of people who are very different but God

you have called us to be a holy people

from every tribe and tongue and nation

and language and you called us to be a

mosaic a work of art that reflects your

beauty and your glory in the city just

like that group here is here to study

art in the city I thank you that we are

a work of art in the city and I pray God

that we would not limit how you would

paint and how you would make us so bless

us today I pray guide this reflection

may the words of my mouth and the

meditation of our hearts be pleasing in

your sight oh god my rock and my

Redeemer amen amen anyone know what day

today is it's Palm Sunday no we got to

get some palms next year I think we're

going to we're going to work on that

like I was saying but today Palm Sunday

where it's the day when Jesus came into

Jerusalem seated on a donkey that he had

commandeered by God's grace and he came

into Jerusalem and people were laying

their coach down and they were shouting

Hosanna to the son of David and it was a

moment of beautiful celebration and

victory as Jesus came in does anyone

remember what the first thing is that

Jesus did when he arrived in Jerusalem

for that final week in his life anyone

anyone remember what's the first thing

he did first thing didn't did he get

something to eat no what's the first

thing Jesus went into the temple that's

the first place he wanted to go get to a

place go right to the temple and when he

goes in the temple was he happy to be

there and remembered no he found some

things in the temple that he was not

happy about you may remember he went

into a particular court of the temple

see there were different areas in the

temple area and there was one area

called the court of the Gentiles the

court of the Gentiles this was the area

in the Temple in Jerusalem where the

Gentiles non Jewish people who wanted to

pray to the God of Israel

creator of heaven and earth they could

come and they could pray in that court

it was a place where people could come

who were ceremonially unclean for some

reason maybe they had some sort of a

defect or some sort of an issue that

according to the religious laws they

weren't allowed to go into the inner

parts of the temple but there was a

court for them and that special court

was there in God's temple because God is

a missionary God God is a welcoming God

now Jesus came to that court and what

did he find there did he find Gentiles

praying did he find non-jewish people

praying in there you know what he found

a bunch of table set up with people

selling stuff and changing muddy so

instead of prayer he found a bunch of

business going on now there's a lot we

could say about how we need to be very

careful that even though the church

processes money and gets involved in

things that it's never a business right

amen we should never let money be a

primary concern but an even deeper issue

going on here is the fact that God's

temple was being clogged up so that

people who wanted to come to pray

couldn't come & pratik you want to get

Jesus angry want to get Jesus really mad

how many of us have the image of Jesus

being so mild that he would never raised

his voice anyone imagine Jesus that way

as he's so mild that he would never ever

the real Jesus the Bible Jesus you know

what he did when he saw this the Gospel

of John says he went home and he made

himself and even know what he made a

whip can you just imagine what the

Apostles you know they're they're

cooking over a campfire they've got the

matzo out there doing their thing Jesus

is over there weaving excuse me Jesus

what you making over there oh nothing

just just makin somethin no no really

what are you making oh I'm making a whip

you're making a whip why are you making

a wimp oh I'm gonna go to the temple I'm

gonna wit the people and animals that

are taken over my father's house excuse

me Jesus oh yeah yeah I'm just gonna go

do that and then he did you know the buy

in the different the Gospels sort of

tell it in different ways but it

basically what he did is he went to the

temple and he tipped over tables he

didn't say oh excuse me everybody excuse

me could we use this room for a prayer

meeting no Jesus didn't do it that's the

way see I would do it here but the way

Jesus did it was he started tipping over

tables knocking over the money money's

going flying there's animals squawking

he's whipping the animals and I gotta

believe he gave a good flat to a person

or two in the in the hind parts to just

move things along better now that's just

my own imagination right he's moving

things over he's cleaning out the temple

so that people can come and pray do you

have your Bible i invite you to open to

isaiah chapter 56 and we will get to

acts I had you in acts 10 don't worry

we'll get back there Isaiah chapter 56

remember how we read a couple weeks ago

about the Ethiopian eunuch the the

official from the Ethiopian Court who

accepted the Lord and well a lot of what

happened with him reflects back to this

text this prophecy in the Old Testament

listen what the Lord says in Isaiah

chapter 56 says this is what the Lord

says maintain justice and do what is

right for my salvation is close at hand

and my righteousness will soon be

revealed blessed is the one who does

this the person who holds it fast who

keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it

and keeps their hands from doing evil

verse 3 let no foreigner who is bound to

the Lord say the Lord will surely

exclude me from his people but no eunuch

complain i'm only a dry tree for this is

what the Lord says to the eunuchs

remember the Ethiopian guy we've read

about the you

unix who keep my sabbaths who choose

what pleases me old fast to my covenant

to them i will give within my temple and

its walls a memorial and a name better

than sons and daughters i will give them

an everlasting name that will endure

forever and foreigners who bind

themselves to the Lord to minister to

him to love the name of the Lord and to

be his servant all who keep the Sabbath

without desecrating it and who hold fast

to my covenant these I will bring to my

holy mountain I will give them joy in my

house of prayer amen it's happening

right upstairs they're burnt offerings

and sacrifices will be acceptable on my

altar for my house will be called a

house of prayer for all nations the

sovereign Lord declares amen he who

gathers the exiles of Israel I will

gather still others to them besides

those already gathered this house God's

house the Temple in Jerusalem and the

church of jesus christ is meant to be a

house of prayer for whom all nations

amen that's part of our vision is a

church be a place where people can come

from every nation on earth every tribe

and tongue and language and can pray and

meet Jesus in this place but it wasn't

like that at the time at this time the

people of Israel believed that salvation

was for the Jews no now God had said

that his house was to be an open house

right an open house we see that in the

book of Acts how they're preaching the

gospel and they started in Jerusalem

with Jews right because God's purpose

was to work through the Jewish people

through the people of Israel but they

just couldn't stay in Jerusalem the holy

spirit pushed them out to a region

around Jerusalem called Samaria remember

we talked about that Samaria was kind of

a strange place where we met a guy named

Simon who wanted to become a Christian

magician right but God was saying even

Sumerians are welcomed into my house

now they need to get some things

clarified about what that means but

Sumerians are welcome then Phillip came

alongside this this chariot and he

shared the gospel with a man who come

from Africa from Ethiopia I just

mentioned him the Ethiopian eunuch and

he told him about Jesus even people from

different countries who look different

who have physical disabilities are

welcome in God's house God says my house

will be a house of prayer for all

nations for everybody but at the time

they viewed the gospel or salvation as

only available to Jewish people who

believe in Jesus now this can be hard

for us to understand because for us we

just take for granted that everybody

comes to church we think of people who

are Jewish as worshiping God in

synagogues are not even part of our but

at this time all the Christians were

Jewish Christians you see God had called

Abraham centuries earlier to to be a

special man of God that through his

descendants God would make a special

nation and that nation would become the

vessel through which God would bless the

earth and that nation would be the

people of Israel so their assumption was

that the Jewish people were God's people

and that in order to be pleasing to God

or to be part of his people you had to

become Jewish which was a rather lengthy

process you had to convert if you were a

Gentile you wanted to know God you had

to convert the men had to get

circumcised you had to go through a

lengthy process of ceremonial washings

and cleansing then you could convert to

Judaism but basically the gospel in the

early church at this point was locked up

in a Jewish box right you had to change

and become Jewish in order to meet God

you were welcomed but you had to go

through all kinds of rigmarole before

you could come in now I'm going to stop

right here before I go on because this

really speaks to me because I think

often in churches we put up all kinds of

barriers that stop people from coming

we say everyone's welcome but what we

really mean is you're welcome to come if

you dress a certain way or if you look a

certain way or if you act a certain way

and so a lot of people don't feel

welcome because they think I'm not a

church guy I'm not a church guy it's not

for me and even though we say no

everybody's welcome we give a message

that says change before you come right

rather than believing that our God is a

God who will change people after we come

and even when he does change people we

didn't expect God to change everybody so

that they're just like me I hope not

right amen everyone gringo with glasses

and that null be very boring that's not

supposed to be that way and I love my

identity I thank God I'm not putting

myself down but we don't want everybody

to become like everyone else so there's

some things that might not even change

right that are not supposed to change

but the heart is supposed to change to

become more like Jesus and so as people

come and meet Jesus they're transformed

but what we want to be is the place

where people can come as they are and

meet the God who transforms them right

now at this time you had to become

Jewish before you come it had gotten to

the point where a good Orthodox Jewish

Christian would not even enter the house

of a Gentile Gentile means non jew right

so because they believed if I go into

the house of a non-jewish person and I

eat with them I'm going to defile myself

then and so that was the belief so they

would stay outside they wouldn't go in

the house and eat with Gentiles that was

scandalous that's nowhere in the Bible

by the way you know even with all the

laws and everything that was in the body

that was part of their tradition so

there was a sense of separation and God

is not into that right God's intention

was never for his people to be a an

exclusive club that was never God's

intention God's intention was for his

house always to be an open

house if you know your Bibles think

about when God called Abraham in Genesis

chapter 12 he said leave your family

your home go to the land that I will

show you I will make you into a great

nation that will become the nation of

Israel and the promise to Abraham the

father of the Jewish people was through

you all nations on earth will be blessed

in other words the call to Abraham was

always to bless not just Israel but all

the people on earth if you look at the

genealogy of Jesus himself you will find

some non-jewish people including a

prostitute did you know that that one of

Jesus's ancestors was a woman named

Rahab she was a woman who was not only

was she non-jewish she was Cain tonight

she was a member of the people that the

Israelites were supposed to displace and

she worked on the wall there's a wall

where they would be houses built into

the wall easy in easy access right

people could just come in and she was a

prostitute now she had heard about what

the God of Israel had done to other

nations and so she had faith in Jesus

and she's not faith in Jesus excuse me

although she would have at the time she

had faith in the god of israel have

faith in God and she was afraid and so

when the spies came from the Israelites

she let them come and she helped them

see even though she was a prostitute she

knew God is real and she opened her

heart not only was she spared when

Israel conquered Canaan but she became

an Israelite worshipper of God and an

ancestor of jesus himself check out the

genealogies of Jesus the beginning of

the book of Matthew or the Book of Luke

and you will find Rahab specifically

mentioned because God wants to make it

very clear that his lineage is meant to

include the whole world his His purposes

include everybody also

if you heard of the woman Ruth in the

Bible and sure I encourage you to read

this book if you haven't read the Old

Testament much I'd encourage you to open

up the table of contents or turn on your

phone a lot of you are starting to

listen to the Bible on your phones you

figure out how to plug it into the car

and and you could just listen to two

parts of the Bible or listen to it on

your headphone punch in the book of roof

it's only three or four chapters long

and it's about a beautiful woman who

decides to be faithful to her

mother-in-law and and she ends up

becoming an ancestor of jesus it's a

beautiful love story really and you know

what was she Jewish she was a Moabite

the Moabites were enemies of Israel but

she becomes an Israelite she becomes

Jewish and becomes an ancestor of jesus

so even Jesus's ancestry includes

non-jewish people so they should have

known better but they didn't okay so

you're with me I'd invite you go back to

the book of Acts chapter 10 now what I

want to talk about here is an amazing

story when God needs to show Peter that

his purposes are bigger than he thought

they were God is going to speak to Peter

God is going to show Peter the way he's

supposed to reach out to non-jewish

people has God ever spoken to you before

you feel like you've ever heard from the

Lord before you know we're gonna be

talking about that because just last

night my five-year-old daughter was

asking my wife saying mommy how does I

haven't heard God talk how does God talk

she's five years old she already kind of

had a little attitude to she having her

God talk and maybe some people feel like

god I want to hear you but I don't know

how to hear you we believe that God

wants to communicate with us all the

time but it's not always going to be a

voice no it's gonna be other ways and we

see here how God speaks to Peter so I'd

invite you as I read this story to look

at how God speaks and also look at the

message that he gives okay so you're

ready read in the Acts chapter 10 in

verse 1 i'm going to read this story of

how this unfolds all right verse 1 at

cesare ax

there was a man named Cornelius a

Centurion in what was known as the

Italian regiment he and all his family

were devout and god-fearing he gave

generously to those in need and he

prayed to God regularly one day at about

three in the afternoon he had a vision

he distinctly saw an angel of God who

came to him and said Cornelius Cornelius

stared at him in fear what is it Lord he

asked the angel answered your prayers

and gifts to the poor have come up as a

memorial offering before God now send

men to Joppa to bring back a man named

Simon who is called Peter he's staying

with Simon the Tanner whose house is by

the sea when the angel who spoke to him

and gone Cornelius called two of his

servants and a devout soldier who was

one of his attendants and he told them

everything that had happened and sent

them to Joppa I just want to stop there

so this is about Cornelius a Roman

general a Roman soldier or captain Roman

soldier right he is a Gentile he is a

part of the army that is oppressing

Israel but he believes in God and he's

praying and he gives gifts to the poor

an angel appears to him and tells him to

send messengers to get Simon Peter and

bring him to the house because he has a

message for him verse 9 about noon the

following day as they were on their

journey and approaching the city Peter

went up on the roof to pray has anyone

ever prayed on a roof before I saw a

video of someone shoveling their roof

and praying on a roof just this winter

right but these were flat roofs right

and who come from a country where

there's flat roofs he could go up on to

pray I used to do that in on dudas I

tegucigalpa I would go up on the flat

roof you smell the food being prepared

you'd see the city and pray it was a

great place so Peter did that here only

it's noon they're preparing lunch for

him and he prays verse 10 he became

hungry and he wanted something to eat

and while the

meal was being prepared he fell into a

trance verse 11 he saw heaven opened and

something like a large sheet being let

down to earth by its four corners it

contained all kinds of four-footed

animals as well as reptiles and birds

and then a voice told him get up Peter

kill and eat surely not Lord Peter

replied I have never eaten anything

impure or unclean now what does he mean

there I want to stop right there have

you been to the grocery store the past

couple weeks and you've seen the kosher

sections right the root the root of that

is in the Old Testament there were

certain foods that the Israelites were

forbidden to eat or it would make them

unclean okay now God lowers in this

vision this sheet with all kinds of

animals on it some of them are pro hit

they're not kosher they're forbidden to

eat and the voice tells him get up Peter

kill and eat and he's like no way I've

never done anything to make myself

unclean now look at what God says to him

the voice spoke to him verse 15 a second

time and says do not call anything

impure that God has made clean now this

happened three times and immediately the

sheet was taken back into heaven while

Peter was wondering about the meaning of

the vision the men sent by Cornelius the

soldier the Centurion found out where

Simon's house was and stopped outside at

the gate they called out asking if Simon

who was known as Peter was staying there

while Peter was still thinking about the

vision the spirit said to him Simon

three men are looking for you so get up

and go downstairs do not hesitate to go

with them for I have sent them so Peter

went down and said to the men I'm the

one you're looking for why have you come

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 verse 23 then Peter

invited the men

into the house to be his guests the next

day Peter started out with him by the

way he invited Gentiles into the house

so he's right away welcoming them even

though they're not Jewish the next day

Peter started out with them and some of

the believers from Joppa went along and

the following day he arrived in chesza

Raya Cornelius was expecting them and he

called together his relatives and close

friends as Peter entered the house

Cornelius MetaMan fell at his feet in

reverence but Peter made him get up

stand up he said I'm only a man myself

and while talking with him Peter went

inside and found a large gathering of

people and he said to them you are all

well aware that it is against our law

for a Jew to associate with or visit a

Gentile but God has shown me that I

should not call anyone impure or unclean

so when I was sent for I came without

raising any objection mask why you sent

me so Cornelius answered 3d three days

ago I was in my house praying and he

goes on to tell the story of how the

angel came I'm going to skip ahead to

verse 34 then Peter began to speak verse

34 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 you know the

message God sent to the people of Israel

announcing the good news of peace

through Jesus Christ who is the Lord of

all you know what has happened

throughout the province of Judea

beginning in Galilee after the baptism

that John preach how God anointed Jesus

of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit he goes

on to preach the gospel he went around

doing good and healing all who are under

the power of the devil and God was with

him we are witnesses of all everything

he did and he goes on to preach the

gospel about how Jesus came and died and

rose again in verse 44 I'm going to skip

ahead to verse 44 while Peter was still

speaking the Holy Spirit came on all who

heard

the message the circumcised believers

would come with Peter were astonished

that the gift of the Holy Spirit had

been poured out even on Gentiles for

they heard them speaking in tongues and

praising God and then Peter said surely

no one can stand in the way of their

being baptized with water they've

received the Holy Spirit just as we have

so he ordered that they be baptized in

the name of Jesus Christ and then they

asked Peter to stay with them for a few

days how about that story huh I like to

call this the process of connecting the

dots when God is trying to speak to you

have you ever had the experience where

you read something in the Bible in the

morning and then just that day something

happens here like I was just reading

about that or or or you're thinking

about something they in your life and

you turn on the radio and you'll hear a

sermon and it's about that and you're

like how do they know it's a God is

speaking to you it might not be an angel

from heaven but god is putting certain

messages of wisdom in your path so that

you can connect the dots and you can

hear what God is trying to get through

to you now God is able to yell when he

has to amen I know I never had that

experience but God has had to clunk you

over the head to get a point through to

you you see God is able to communicate

very clearly and if we ever think I'm

not sure I can hear God will it up don't

worry he's got a megaphone and he's able

to get it through to you now it's much

better if you hear him the first time so

that he doesn't have to raise his voice

right but God will communicate what he

needs to communicate to you he did that

with Peter he has this vision I want you

to think about this vision he's up there

preying on the roof he's hungry she

comes down from heaven and the vision he

sees all these animals some of them are

forbidden for Jews the voice tells him

get up kill Annie and he's like no way

god I've never done eaten anything

impure and gods I don't you call impure

what I have made clean

how many times does this happen did you

notice in the text does it happen just

once three times if I got his hammering

him don't call unclean what God has made

clean three times Bam Bam Bam and then

right after the last time he's sitting

there thinking about it what does this

mean yes I believe that happens

sometimes with prophetic messages so

when God reveals something we don't

understand at the time what it means but

later God explains it to us right so

Peters thinking about it and just as

he's thinking about it these guys are

downstairs hey there's someone named

Simon down there and he's like yeah

that's me he's looking off the room look

and the spirit tells him go with these

people and he connects his vision with

his experience so they invite him and he

says I'm going to go because God has

shown me not to call anyone impure or

unclean now to God specifically say

don't call people impure or unclean in

the vision no no it was a vision about

food but Peter knew the message that the

rules from the Old Testament about

ceremonial cleanness and exclusion have

changed and now cleanness is not about

an exterior thing but it's about part

and now anybody who's willing to have

their heart cleansed is welcome in and

he makes the connection he connects the

dots and he hears from God now I want to

take a momentary detour before we come

back to the the core of this I want to

talk about hearing from the Lord like I

said my daughter had a little crisis

about this last night she was annoyed

she's like mommy how do i hear from God

now sometimes I think we can get to

super spiritual and so I want to say a

few guidelines but i believe and we

believe in this church that God spoke

once in the Bible and that he continues

to speak through His Holy Spirit to each

one of us I really believe that if I

take the little device in my heart and I

connect to God's wireless network that

there will be text messages in my heart

from the Lord

all day long I really believe that I

believe that life can be a running

conversation with the Holy Spirit and

every day wow it is nice to I'm going to

imitate Marian for a minute let me rinse

key wow it's nice to be over here then

as I pray and say holy spirit speak to

me today he's just walking along with me

and he'll start speaking to me and

showing me things and I can learn

something new from God every day that is

a very exciting way to live because

every day I'm like we'll kick out what's

going to be today and I know he's going

to guide me into all truth just like he

promised but a few little clarifications

i want to say God will never teach me

what he something that contradicts what

he has already taught me in the Bible

okay we believe that God's Word is

written in this book we believe that

that is God's revelation and that god's

holy spirit will not contradict what he

has already revealed in his written word

so that's how cults are born right you

start to feel God leading you and

teaching you to do something that is

explicitly forbidden in the Bible I can

tell you that is not the Holy Spirit

that's important to say that because

well-intentioned good people can become

misled easily by our emotions by our

feelings or by the pressures around us

and that's why I don't even if it seems

like an angel from heaven told me

something crazy that contradicts the

Bible I'm not going to listen because

this is my standard amen point number

one the Bible is our ultimate authority

point number two as we look to listen to

the Holy Spirit I don't want us to fall

into a superstitious paranoia and try to

find a meaning in every little detail of

life that is a good way to go crazy and

you know when you suddenly start

thinking that everything has meaning Oh

what does it mean yeah that's actually

the I know I've shared this bumper

sticker before forgive me I just love it

so much you know the bumper sticker that

says

I do everything my rice krispies tell me

to do you know the image is a person

leaning over there rice krispies bowl

and hearing the snap crackle pop you

know my god there's a message in it

right and there's this paranoia that

sets in as we realize there's no that's

actually a pagan mindset the you know

it's called divination where they will

try to look for meaning in the stars by

the way we don't believe in that right

we believe God made the Stars and

they're beautiful and they reflect the

glory of God but there are not I don't

believe in its astrological signs that

determine who I'm going to be or what

I'm going to do right so we were not

into the horoscopes we don't believe

that there's that kind of meaning or

message in all the little circumstances

of the universe sometimes in pagan in

ancient times a pagan priests would kill

an animal and look at the at the

entrails and give you a reading no and

they would give you a message from the

way the guts of the animal were in

modern times I've seen people take

coffee grinds you ever seen this some of

your learning some weird I'm sorry I

don't mean to but my take coffee grinds

and spill it out on the filter and look

for a message in the coffee grinds right

I don't want us to read the coffee

grinds right I don't want to live like

that looking for kind of paranoid

looking for meaning and everything I

believe that the Lord is my shepherd he

guides me in paths of righteousness for

his namesake the normal way God speaks

to me is through the wisdom of his word

the wisdom of Good Counsel that's based

on the Bible and me just connecting

God's word with my life it's very

natural I don't need a miracle to tell

me what I should wear today I don't need

a message from God we just make

decisions based on principles of wisdom

and the holy spirit guides me and I

don't need signs and wonders and

miracles for everything now I do believe

God's sometimes will provide signs and

wonders in extreme situations or when I

might be tempted to doubt that what I'm

about to do is really from God

in my own life sometimes God will

provide freaky coincidences to confirm

that I'm on the right track right and I

appreciate that but God provides those

usually when I'm not so sure and I need

God to affirm me no go ahead I'm with

you in this and it's his way of

affirming he did that with Gideon in the

Old Testament if you've read the stories

of giddy and God provides miraculous

signs to confirm he's on the right track

so God will sometimes do that for us but

I found in my own life if God needs to

give me a miracle to show me that I'm

doing the right thing then the odds are

whatever he's calling me to do is going

to be so hard and so difficult that I

will be tempted to doubt later and I'll

need to look back on these miracles that

he gave me to confirm so I actually

don't want them because I sound like god

it's going to be that bad that you need

to give me all these miracles but

sometimes I think God will confirm in

that way but we shouldn't look for that

especially with decisions we make big

decisions in life this is something

singles fall into all the time looking

for some freaky coincidence to confirm

that this is the the guy that God's

picked for me or the gal that God has

picked for me so you look for a freaky

quince why we bumped into each other

must be the one you know we both picked

up where we got that same favorite color

must be the one right it's a very

natural thing that most people do please

though don't do that right base big

decisions on God's wisdom in his word

and good biblical spiritual common sense

right now if God chooses to send a

freaky coincidence or two along the way

to that's fine he dil do that sometimes

but I think that if we let ourselves

make decisions like that we're going to

going to be tempted to make some freaky

decisions because the enemy can do

freaky coincidence is to right right to

try to trick you or it can be just

coincidences sometimes so I don't want

us to be so super spiritual that we

actually don't hear the real

of God as he speaks to us say men but

God does speak to us and one final thing

I wanted to say about that is that I

also don't want us to live with anxiety

about missing the voice of God know

sometimes people will feel like oh I

missed it God wanted me to do this and I

did that now that may be the case maybe

you made some very bad decisions and you

have to live with the consequences of

those we we all have done that in our

lives but usually in our life the I

believe God's will is broader than we

think it is I don't think God's will is

always so specific that I have to do

just this thing or I'm missing it most

of the times in my life God says there's

five different doors pick whichever one

you want and I'm with you usually that's

what God does and he's just with me and

whatever I choose to do for example

finding a church I believe God has

called Christians to go to church I

don't need an angel to tell me that

right whenever I've moved in different

places in my life I visited a church

very early on and the first time I see

it's a church that believes the Bible

that loves Jesus they're good people and

like I'm staying here and God blesses me

I've never had to visit around and I've

shared this story before until I started

going to bible school I went to seminary

about 15 years ago and for the first

time in my life I couldn't find a church

where I felt God wanted me have I shared

the story with you before know where I

visited churches and I'd be like oh I

just know this isn't the place I know

this isn't the place for two years I

looked and I found myself thinking what

kind of loser seminarian can't find a

church I'm in Bible School I don't even

know what church does want to go to but

God was shutting doors because in that

case he had one specific door for me to

go through I ended up visiting iglesia

bautista central with dr. Roberto me

Rhonda and I'm like what am i doing in a

Spanish church in the city and I didn't

come back and although I liked it but

then after a little while

they counselor gave me some wise advice

and said give it another look give it

another visit I came back and visited

then I came for a while I thought maybe

this is God's will i'm not sure but you

know my Spanish isn't that good

culturally it's different and oh thank

you very much are you such a good man

praise the Lord God must have told him

to do that and sorry so so I'm visiting

around so I'm at the church but then I

realized that this was too difficult I

don't want to spill all over electrical

equipment and give you an interesting

show up here there we go thank you

excuse me so then God provided a

scholarship and i ended up staying right

and i knew after two years this is God's

will for me and it was so important that

God shut all the other doors until I

found that specific one see I believe we

can trust God that if something is

really important he's not gonna let you

take a wrong turn if you really want to

please him if you really want to follow

him and you're praying and you're

seeking good counsel he'll guide you we

don't have to live with the anxiety of

thinking oh did I miss it right maybe I

went the wrong way God is bigger than

that we don't have to leave with that

fearful kind of walk on eggshells but

with all of that said I do want to

emphasize though that God does speak and

I believe he speaks to me on a daily

basis I wake up every morning and I'm

listening to the word and I pray oh my

god how do you want to guide my steps

today and I'm looking for how God is

guiding and unfolding my day and it's an

exciting process but it's not a super

mystical one and it's not an anxious one

it's a fun one because I believe God has

good works prepared in advance for me to

walk in today and I'm going to discover

what they are right so that that is how

we can live in that so that's what

happened with Peter here is that he was

listening to the Holy Spirit and God

said there are certain people that I

want you to reach out to and don't you

dare call them unclean these are people

that I have accepted don't you dare

reject them

the Peter needed to open his mind to

what God had for him so he spoken to do

now God gave him coincidences and

visions and angels he did that because

he was doing something that was so out

of the box so scandalous that he was

going to need to authenticate what he

had done and that's exactly what

happened just a little while later his

colleagues Jewish Christian colleagues

say you went into the house of

uncircumcised men and you ate with them

and the Apostle Peter says like I know

it sounds crazy but here's why I did it

and he's got this whole lengthy story so

God knew that he would need miraculous

signs and wonders to guide his steps in

that particular case and the message was

very clear now I want to hammer this as

we bring this home because this is the

message that God community if you turn

with me to acts 10 verse 34 this is the

message that God spoke to him Peter

began to speak as he's preaching the

sermon he says I now realize how true it

is that God does not show favoritism God

does not discriminate God does not have

prejudice and neither should we how's

that for a powerful message huh now that

was relevant 2,000 years ago and it's

relevant to us now don't call anything

unclean I'd ask you to turn with me to

the book of James chapter 2 the book of

James chapter 2 the same word for

discriminate is used in that text it's a

word that has within it the word for

face in other words don't judge people

based on their appearances James chapter

2 and listen to how the same concept is

applied to other churches my brothers

and sisters believers in our glorious

Lord Jesus Christ must not show

favoritism or you must not have

prejudice or discriminate suppose a man

comes into your meeting wearing a gold

ring and fine clothes and a poor man in

the old clothes also comes in if you

show special attention to the man

wearing fine clothes and say here's a

good seat for you but say to the poor

man you stand there or sit on the floor

by my feet have you not discriminated

amongst yourselves and become judges

with evil thoughts and then it goes on

and on like that will stop right there

but in verse 8 it says if you're really

keeping the royal law found in scripture

verse 8 love your neighbor as yourself

you're doing right but if you show

favoritism you sin and are convicted by

the law as law breakers God's house is

meant to be an open house the title for

this sermon and what we're talking about

in the early church is God's altar is an

open altar come as you are now do we

really believe that no I believe that

it's happening here but it needs to

happen more we need to be a place where

anyone could come however you are God

has not disqualified you in Isaiah 55 it

says come all who are thirsty come to

the waters you have no money come by

Andy come buy wine and milk without

money and without cost seek the Lord

while he may be found call on him while

he is near let the wicked forsake his

ways and the unrighteous his thoughts

that in turn to the lord and he will

have mercy on them and to our God he

will freely pardon no matter who you are

no matter how you look or what you've

done you are welcome to repent to come

to this altar to put your faith in Jesus

and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

don't think you need to change before

you come come and let God change you

amen now it's important that we

emphasize that because by welcoming

we're saying come as you are but don't

expect to stay as you are because if you

really come to this altar if you really

see Jesus he's going to change you and

that's a beautiful thing we are all in

the process of transformation Bible says

as the rain and the snow come down from

heaven water the earth and produce a

harvest for for eating later than the

spring we're going to see the fields

blossom so is my word that comes from my

mouth says the Lord it will not return

to me empty but will accomplish the

purpose for which I sent it and bring

forth the reason for which I spoke it in

the first place if you will hear God's

Word and let it come into your heart he

will change us he will transform us into

the likeness of Christ now that might

take time in fact it almost always takes

time now I know some people who came to

the altar and the first day they

accepted Jesus in their heart they cried

because they felt the Holy Spirit and

maybe they were addicted to alcohol and

that day bumped they never wanted

another drink I know people who

experience that but I know other people

the majority of the people who do it the

way who experienced deliverance not once

for all but little by little by little

remember the sermon from last week the

sister Marion preached if you weren't it

was really good if you weren't here look

it up online it was excellent Marion ski

last week English service she talked

about how God often lets us conquer new

land but he does it little by little

because if God gave us a whole land

right away we wouldn't be able to occupy

it and the animals would take it over

the weeds and the bushes so God lets us

take over new ground little by little so

that we can can be solid we can be

established in it so transformation

takes time now here's the question are

we willing to let people change little

by little in God's presence are we

willing to let that happen now don't get

me wrong I'm not saying we make excuses

for people right this is not a place to

play Church and to say I can keep coming

to church and keep doing whatever I want

and it doesn't

matter that's abusing the church of god

that's treating the church of god like a

den of roberts right a hideout a for a

double life but if I know that I'm sick

and I need change and I want Jesus and

I'm coming to him then the messages you

come as you are if it takes if it takes

two weeks if it takes two years if it

takes 20 years if you're coming

sincerely to Jesus Christ that this is

your house this is your altar where you

can come no matter what now that's an

awesome exciting thing because the

gospel really works the Apostle Paul

said I'm not ashamed of the gospel

because it's the power of God for the

transformation of everyone who believed

the Salvation we're going to believe

first the Jew but then the Gentile the

gospel works when people receive Jesus

he changes us he transforms us it's an

exciting process I've seen this over and

over again I love it and that is what we

want to happen here but are we willing

to tolerate and walk with people in long

slow processes I invite us to check our

hearts for any prejudices we might have

right certain types of people that you

that make you feel uncomfortable whether

it be their appearance or their

ethnicity or their lifestyle or the way

they dress but they make you

uncomfortable Ike anyone but them Lord

they're exactly the ones that God is

saying don't call unclean what I have

made clean check our hearts check our

hearts let us not be a diverse community

that is all here but everyone's separate

but no a place where people come in and

breathe the love of Jesus that no one I

am Here I am in God's house and he can

change me now it's very important that

we keep our standards clear we're not

going to make excuses for anybody God as

his teaching he has his moral law and we

insist on that we're not going to

compromise the teaching of the word of

God the standard is up here but we are

down here and we're going to come as we

are and let God's Word transform us now

I believe some of us put a box around

the gospel not

so much because we have racism or

prejudice against other people but

because we feel that we would not be

well received in certain groups have you

ever felt like that every now and then

I'll have members who don't speak much

English or who may be their english is

limited they'll invite me over to

evangelize they're getting go co-worker

or vows right which is totally okay

because I can invite them to the English

service and I'm happy to do it but I

often tell these people look your

English might not be very good but

you're the one God is using and he can

speak through you too don't put a box

around what God can do through you now

I've shared this testimony in the past

but I have to bring it up one more time

as I bring this to a close I was raised

in a very quiet very culturally

homogeneous little town I became a

Christian when i was 16 i received Jesus

and my youth group went to visit a

church in in Hartford Connecticut that

was called glory chapel it's still there

today and it is an inner-city

Pentecostal church with a Teen Challenge

program in it a youth challenge they

call it which is for men and women who

are recovering from drugs and alcohol in

different addictions and we visited this

church and it was a while ago in Judah

two hours of you know worshiping the

Lord and people at the altar crying and

demons flying out of people and i was

there from this very quiet little town

in a very quiet little Presbyterian

Church i was going to and i was there in

the middle of this looking around

thinking I like this I like this a lot I

want to come back here but I thought but

they wouldn't they wouldn't want me here

like if I were to try to go to the men's

program I would think that they would be

like well what are you doing here you

know you've never white boy from the

suburbs you know then you know how are

you gonna ever understand what I've been

through

so I thought maybe I could visit but I

could never really go there but I

enjoyed it the next week I had my own

little Peter experience I'm praying in

my church in a little prayer room we had

a little prayer silo it was a barn and

it was a tiny little space that was

circular and I was praying in there

alone and then I heard all these

footsteps outside the door and in about

20 men complain in and so excuse me oh

we didn't know someone's in here can we

pray in here and I'm like sure and 20

guys from glory Chapel from the program

happened to be driving through Boston

through through simsbury my town and

they felt let's go pray in this church

there's a little cool little prayer

chapel so they gets the next thing I

know this was a week later I'm looking

around and I've got 20 guys in a circle

around me holding hands praying in

tongues and I'm like oh I like this and

it's come to me and I'm like wow this is

great and I thought boom connect the

dots could God be telling me something

the next week they came to my church and

preached the the pasture church pastor

that I would go in Silas is with the

Lord right now preached an amazing

sermon and I heard and I loved it and

afterwards I'm talking to the the leader

of the men's home who is this great guy

he was he led the men's program and he

was a man of God and he was bilingual

and anoint that he said hallelujah a lot

and I just loved this guy and he's like

oh you know you're free and he's like

why don't you come volunteer with us and

he by the way and he spoke perfect

Spanish and then I find out that he was

more good ingo than I was that he was

raised in a little time didn't speak any

Spanish learned it in school went to the

same college I went to learned it in

school went at Teen Challenge and made

his life there he said why don't you

come and volunteer with us for a summer

just tag along with me I thought no way

could I could I try that so I figured oh

okay I'll go so I went my first day and

I'll never forget him you know I'm there

just thinking I'm gonna keep a low

profile and I'm younger than all the men

i'm 18 they're all 18 and up right i'm

keeping a low profile the first day he

says okay you're gonna preach in chapel

tomorrow and look what I'm gonna what I

in a present anyway it would end

I ended up learning Spanish and then I

discovered that God was saying don't

tell me who you can and can't minister

to no don't don't don't limit what I

might do huh I might have purposes for

you that are bigger than what you think

you can be in different settings God can

use you if your humble if you're genuine

if you listen if you're not trying to

you know but God can do that we put

boxes around what we think God can do

through us and often times it's our own

self-doubt God wants this house to be an

open house an open alter a place where

people come and meet Jesus and their

lives are transformed no matter who they

are and that is a happy place do you

know how the the the story of Palm

Sunday ends after Jesus has cleaned the

temple and this is I'm going to end with

this so I'll invite the musicians to

come up you know what Jesus did after

the temple was cleansed after he whipped

to you know the animals and God anyone

remember what he did he sat down in that

court that he had just cleaned out and

people who were lame and blind just came

in and jesus healed them one by one and

also there were children running around

yelling Hosanna Hosanna to the son of

David and the pharisees were scandalized

jesus healed people in the open altar

and there were kids playing the verse I

read to you about the court of the

Gentiles ends with a beautiful vort

verse that says i will give joy in my

house of prayer i will give joy in my

house of prayer in spanish it's so

beautiful here's how it is in Spanish yo

los llevo a mi Santa Monta Ellis Lecrae

are a mi casa de oracion I will give

them it's the word for recreation it's

the same word used for how you feel when

you give wine to someone who makes them

joyful it's the same word used in the

Bible for when you give news

it's a boy it's a baby boy or it's a

baby girl and that joy you receive when

there's a new baby it's the same word

used for an army that's celebrating when

they've won a great victory that is the

kind of joy that happens in an open

altar in a house of prayer where people

can come experience change and open

altar is a happy altar that's the joy of

salvation seeing people change before us

and being one of them among them that's

a beautiful thing I want that kind of

alter do you because this is your house

now that might mean that you are a

participant that you say God I'm not a

church guy but he's saying I'm welcome

to come and pray so I'll come and pray

maybe that's you or maybe it's you as a

person who's called to come and pray for

others here but whatever it is you're

welcome in the space and God will do

amazing things that's what I want that's

what I wouldn't be part of that's what

God was speaking to Peter about and one

final thing out of all of this Peter

made a new friend Cornelius of all

people a Roman captain in uniform with

the sword a symbol of Roman oppression

becomes one of his trusted friends

because Cornelius really a beautiful man

who was seeking the lord when we're

willing to open our hearts God's going

to provide some friends we would have

least expected if we're willing to be

that kind of a community amen so i

invite you to stand with me and let's

let's bring this before the lord

father I thank you that you are a

missionary God

I thank you that you are

a hospitable god father I thank you that

you can transform anybody Jew or Gentile

rich or poor no matter what the

ethnicity or appearance you are the God

who transforms people lord I pray in

Jesus name that we would be a place God

where people really can come as they are

but father I pray the people wouldn't

come as they are and stay as they are

god I pray for healing and deliverance

here in this altar from addictions I

pray for healing and deliverance in this

altar God from sexual sins and bondages

I pray for healing and deliverance in

this altar God for inner problems and

struggles God from mental illnesses i

pray that mental illness would be healed

in this altar Lord God Father that we

would be a house of prayer for all

nations God that the gospel would never

be compromised that it would be preached

clearly and that it would do its work in

people God guide us in this guide us in

your paths of righteousness for your

namesake Lord God we open ourselves to

you do your will do your purposes among

us in Jesus name