God Welcomes everyone

Acts 11:1-18 New International Version (NIV)

Peter Explains His Actions

God welcomes everyone11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Is God just there for people like me?
We are all different, God made us all different, different colours, different coloured eyes, different coloured hair, but it’s not just our outsides that are different, it’s also our characteristics that are different; different interests, different sense of humour, different things we are good at..
What a boring world it would be if we were all the same. 
Jesus wanted everyone to follow him, he wanted everyone to know about God, Jesus didn’t judge people by their colour, or where they were from, he didn’t judge them if they were poor or rich, or whether they were good or not so good, young or old.  Jesus didn’t judge people whether they were male or female.  Jesus wanted everyone to know about God. 
In the time of Jesus people were segregated – Jew and Gentiles were two such groups.  In our reading Peter had a dream telling him to go and tell the Gentiles about Jesus.  Not everyone was happy that Peter went and ate and told the Gentiles about Jesus welcoming everyone.  They wanted to keep Jesus just for people the same as them. 
But that wasn’t what Jesus taught when he was with them, remember the story of the Good Samaritan.  Peter was carrying on this teaching with the help of the Holy Spirit.  His preaching and acceptance brought people to faith. 
“So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
This same lesson applies to us today: Who are we to think that we should decide who should come to church?  We might not all be the same but we all believe in the same God.  God is there for everyone, and I think sometimes we forget that it is God’s church not ours.  Therefore our churches should be open for everyone. 
In my teaching on this subject I have found photo’s of all sorts of different people – homeless, refugees, children, elderly, clean people, dirty people, people with disabilities, people from different countries.
I have put the pictures all around the room and have asked the children to go and find the people who go to church. 
This is a very interesting exercise to do before you give them the talk. 
Then do it again after the talk. 
Draw a church like yours in the middle – stick openable doors on and when you open them up have All Welcome written in big bold letters.
Then leading up to the church stick all the people who are welcome in Your church. 
Maybe mixed in with people that already go to your church.
http://www.christart.com/clipart/image/everyone-welcome God’s weird and wonderful people.  
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