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Archive for June, 2016

Verses 19-20: “Then the Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Years ago, there appeared on television a reunion movie of the old series, The Wild Wild West. It was called The Wild Wild West Revisited. The central plot concerned agents Jim West and Artemus Gordon (played by Robert Conrad and Ross Martin); they were called out of retirement to combat the threat of the son of their greatest arch-enemy, Dr. Miguelito Loveless (played originally by the brilliant Michael Dunn). Dr. Miguelito Loveless Jr. (played wonderfully by Paul Williams) was trying to replace the world’s leaders with robot duplicates that he would control; he had even created the first “atomic bomb” as part of his arsenal.

During the pursuit of the main plot, there always appeared the same young gunslinger, who was trying to challenge the shooting talents of West. This guy was more comic villainy than real threat: West threw his guns away once, then on another occasion, Gordon tripped him up and subdued him. Towards the very end of the movie, as Jim and Artie were making their way towards their famous train to leave, here he came again (“go for your guns, Mr. West!”) Artie was so tired of this he actually said, “Oh no, not again! Look, I’ve had enough, you take care of this!” as he sat down on a bench. Jim walked deliberately toward him, sternly saying “give me your gun!” The gunslinger bewilderedly replied, “You’re not going to throw them away again, are you?” “No, I’m not”, Jim said. Taking the gun, he pointed it at a saloon’s sign across the street; never taking his eye off the gunslinger, he said, “Now, watch.” West then fanned the gun at high speed, striking every light atop the saloon sign, without taking his eyes off the young man. Stupefied, the young gunslinger took the gun back as West handed it to him; West calmly said, “Now…do you REALLY want to draw on me???” “Uh…no sir, no sir!” said the gunslinger. “Good.” West replied; “now, why don’t you find yourself a nice girl and settle down.” Looking at him wearily he added, “and leave me alone.” With that West and Gordon walked off to their train and the end of the movie.

The relentless pursuit of the young gun after West was done for comic relief, but there was nothing comical about the relentless pursuit of the Jews after Paul and Barnabas. They actually travelled all the way from Antioch and Iconium just to stick their noses in the missionaries’ ministry in Lystra! They got the crowd riled up enough to stone Paul; thinking him dead, they dragged him outside of the city. Paul, though, was not dead (although you’d be unconscious too from a bunch of rocks being beaned off of you!). He went back into the city, and left with Barnabas the next day to go to Derbe.

Christianity is still opposed today; sometimes just as violently (if not more so) then back then. There will always be those who oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ Himself even told the disciples as much when He walked on this planet. But like the disciples of long ago, we can’t give up; we have our hope and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and we know in the end, He wins! In the meantime, keep on keeping on, with the Good News.

Something to think about.

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Verses 11, 14: “Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”” “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out”

One of the classic episodes of the old television anthology series, The Twilight Zone, was one entitled “To Serve Man”. The tale was told in flashback by a government cryptographer named Michael Chambers, played by Lloyd Bochner; he detailed the historic meeting of aliens that had come to Earth and shared their technology and secrets to help humanity. Eventually they got the world’s peoples to begin immigrating back and forth from our world to theirs. They left a book written in their language, that Chambers’ department was trying to translate. A woman named Patty on Chambers’ staff had only managed to translate the title: “To Serve Man”. They assumed it was a friendly gesture to serve man as friends, advisors, and consultants. It wasn’t until the climax, as Chambers is about to board one of the flying saucers for his trip to their planet, that Patty frantically tries to get to him. He is confused as he sees her incredibly upset and wild-eyed. He finally manages to hear her scream, “Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship! The rest of the book To Serve Man, it’s… it’s a cookbook!” Too late, Chambers and the human race discover that they are nothing more than a food source to the aliens, who they have all but handed the planet over to. (For more information on the plot, you can go to this Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Serve_Man_(The_Twilight_Zone)

What I remember most about this scene is the horrified look on the woman’s face, and then on the man’s face, as they realize the truth of what is really happening. The couldn’t understand the aliens’ language before; only when the true intentions were released did they react in the pure emotion that you and I would expect.

Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra, when Paul healed a lame man through Jesus’s power. The populace, overwhelming Greek in their culture, reacted in a way Paul and Barnabas had not encountered yet; they were calling the apostles gods! Due to not understanding the local dialect, Paul and Barnabas didn’t fully understand at first the reactions; but when the crowd began pressing the pagan priests for sacrifices in the apostles’ names, the two missionaries reacted with shock and horror, and leapt into action, trying to make them understand. This was further complicated by the Jews from the prior towns, as we’ll see next time. It should be pointed out (and I read this in a footnote somewhere) that unlike Herod, who didn’t stop the crowd from calling him a god, Paul and Barnabas, once they realized what was going on, didn’t hesitate to set the townsfolk straight on Who really should’ve been worshipped.

As a preacher once titled his sermon, “Expect the Unexpected”:  be ready for all that the devil throws our way…some of it we prepare for, and others we may not expect. But God has it all covered; we just need to be true to acknowledging the Author who is to be worshipped!

Something to think about.

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Verses 4-6: “But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.”

Sometimes, you can read something that just reaches out and “grabs” your attention. In this passage, I found such a paragraph in my Holman New Testament Commentary on Acts, page 232. The paragraph regards versus 6-7 of Acts 14:

“The pilgrim and stranger motif throughout the New Testament begins to take incarnate form in these missionaries, now driven out of the second city on this trip. Rejected disciples who proclaimed a rejected Lord represented the New Testament standard. They stand in refreshing stark contrast to the contemporary prosperity gospel in which Christianity wants to be popular, large, influential, and wealthy. No kingdom politics or civil religion here, just the basic gospel proclaimed wherever people will listen.”

Paul and Barnabas didn’t give up and go home. They got up and went…to the next town!

Are you still going at it, fellow Christian?

Something to think about.

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Verse 51: “But they shook off the dust from their feet, against them, and came to Iconium.”

We recently completed a Carpenters for Christ mission trip to south Alabama. It was a good trip, and like many a trip, it had its share of rewards and challenges. One challenge I will not soon forget was an overabundance of…gnats! Man, from what the locals told us, we were smack in the middle of what is called the Gnat Line. Gnats are drawn to the plethora of chicken houses (and thus the chicken litter used on farms). It was no small feat to have them swarming around your head when you were working outside. Worse yet, if you didn’t close a door behind you, they’d come right behind you into whatever building you were in. I know that several of us, as we left the mission site at the mission’s conclusion, had all our truck windows rolled down so we could be sure those gnats were blown out of our vehicles…we wanted to make sure none of those gnats came north with us! We wanted no part of them!

The Jews stirred up trouble for Paul and Barnabas in the region of Antioch. They didn’t like the fact that the two delivered the Good News to the Gentiles also, and were determined to “run them out of town”. Following Jesus’s own instructions in Luke 10:11, they symbolically “shook the dust from their feet” as they departed. a footnote in my Bible states that historically, this is seen as a sign of judgment on the area that persecuted them for the Message. I’m sort of reminded of the gnats above; Paul and Barnabas, I believe, were figuratively saying, “we don’t even want the dust of your town on us as we leave!”

Be careful how you treat the Good News and the messengers who deliver it…you don’t want to be seen as a gnat, now, do you?

Something to think about.

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Verses 45-47: “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'””

Isn’t it kind of special when you are privy to news before it’s “officially” announced? Such as when expectant parents tell you of the baby they are going to have, or someone gets a very nice promotion at work? It can be equally disheartening when you are the last one to find out anything! When news of a change is announced, and your close confidants tell you “yes, I already knew”, you feel left out.

Paul and Barnabas had just spoken of the Good News at Antioch. Some who heard the news encouraged them to speak again of it. Word spread quickly about these men and their message. But when the Jews, who God had appointed as His chosen people in the Old Testament, saw that Gentiles were present to hear the second preaching of the Good News…they got offended. Paul and Barnabas were quick to point out that, although the Jews got to hear it first, the Good News of Jesus Christ was for ALL people. No one would be able to say, “nobody told me!”

Something to think about.

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Verses 34-37: “And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.”

Remember Lazarus? He was a friend of Jesus; he died before Jesus arrived back to his home to see him. He also became the central part of one of Jesus’s greatest miracles. He had been dead and in the tomb for some time, when Jesus commanded that the tomb be opened. Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!”, and Lazarus came out of the tomb, alive! All were astonished: Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave, to live again!

But did Lazarus live forever in his human body? No. He did die again. All those who were brought back to life by Jesus and his disciples eventually did succumb to physical death, or as the passage states above “ return to corruption”. All did return to corruption…except Jesus! Because God the Father raised Him, and Jesus is God the Son! Through his sacrifice to the point of death, He conquered the sting of death, once and for all! Raised again, He reigns as our Savior and Lord, and is the only way to eternal life.

Paul is quoting several passages in the verses above: Isaiah 55:3 and Psalms 16:10. Those were the prophecies that the Holy One would not succumb to corruption. Paul again is using Old Testament prophecies and Scripture that the Jews would be familiar with to show that Jesus is the Messiah!

Something to think about.

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