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What Are You Building?


“Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” Acts 10.4

In Acts 10, we read the story of Cornelius, a devout, early follower of God. Although he wasn’t Jewish, he devoted himself to the God of Israel, feared Him, and led his family to honor God, too. He gave alms (gifts) generously to those in need around him and prayed continually. Due to his devotion to the Lord, God showed him in a vision that he should send for Peter. God wanted him and his community to receive an important word from the Lord.

Peter would indeed come, and this man—a Gentile leader—would be the first to discover that God had come not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. The Gentile mission would burst forth from there and result in the gospel being spread around the world. You and I are recipients of this mission. Thanks be to God!

But that’s not the end of the story. What really strikes me is what God said to him: “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

Pause on that for a second.

Apparently, because of Cornelius’ generous gifts to those in need and because of his constant prayers, a memorial was rising up in heaven before God—a testimony to God due to things done on earth!

Think of it.

Prayers are invisible, and yet they seem to build something substantial before God. You can’t see a prayer, touch a prayer, or point to it and say, “there it is.” Yet, they are substantial before God. The gifts we give to others who are in need leave our hands, and we often don’t see the benefit beyond simply giving the gift. The actual effects of the gift are often invisible. And yet, these actions were creating something of substance—a memorial—before God.

This is a mystery to our modern ears, but take it at face value. Cornelius’ life and his actions were creating a new reality in heaven. Wow.

So consider a couple questions with me:

  • Are you living your life in such a way that you are building memorials before God?
  • What kind of memorial are you building?

These questions hit me hard.

I am raising four children to love the Lord. I want my legacy to be strong for them and those that follow my leadership in life. I want to be a man of deep conviction and have my life make a difference in the lives of people. I want to cling to the truth and love God with all my heart. But is what I am doing in this life creating anything substantial before God? Is it helping to make a real impact?

Apparently, for Cornelius, two things made the difference: prayer and giving gifts to those in need. These practices, which displayed his devotion and his fear of God, resulted in a memorial rising to heaven to give God glory. I suppose if I were to just focus on those two disciplines, I wouldn’t be too far from the life Cornelius lived.

So, I’ll leave you with the same question that I am wrestling with: “What kind of memorial are you building?”

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