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Archive for February, 2017

Verses 37-40: “For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.””

I heard the story told of an elderly Christian woman who lived alone. She didn’t have much money; she lived humbly. Every day she would go out on her front porch and thank God for what she had, thank Him for His provision, and give her prayer requests to Him. This annoyed her next-door neighbor, an atheist, who always vocally jeered her prayers and her faith. One day, the atheist sought to “teach a lesson” to the old Christian lady. He overheard her asking God for food to eat for the week, so the atheist went to the grocery store, bought 2 big sacks’ worth of groceries, hurried home, and placed them at her front door on the porch. Then he hid in the bushes and waited. Sure enough, when she opened the door and saw the groceries, she raised her hands and thanked God. Jumping out from his hiding place, he shouted, “Aha, old woman! Your God didn’t provide those groceries; I bought them myself and delivered them. What do you say to that?” Once the old woman realized what the atheist had said, she smiled, raised her hands to Heaven and said, “Thank you Lord! Not only did you provide me the groceries, you had the devil deliver them to me, as well!”

God is in control. The city clerk of Ephesus, probably a high-ranking official in the city, finally calmed down the crowd. He matter-of-factly informed them that Paul and his fellow Christians had broken no laws; if they had, take them to court! That’s what the courts and proconsuls do! He further warned the crowd that if they wanted to pursue any charges or inquiry against Paul, do so in the legal assembly. Why? Because the near-riot was sure to attract the attention of the Roman Empire for violating Roman law! (And the city of Ephesus didn’t want that kind of attention!) At which point, everyone went home.

Two things jump out at me here; the city clerk probably wasn’t defending Paul and the Christians; he just wanted civil order to be restored. Also, it proves again that God can work for good in all situations. The unlikely hero here was an administrative official. The world might say, “coincidence”. I like to say “God-incidence”!

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verses 30-32: “And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

War Eagle! Roll Tide! Go Dawgs! Avengers Assemble! It’s Clobberin’ Time! Hulk Smash! Hey, Rube!

What do all these phrases have in common? For the most part, they are colorful rallying cries or battle phrases. The last one, “Hey, Rube!” was especially used as a warning cry by carnival workers in years long past to rally other carnies to their aid if one was threatened by an outsider. In most cases, these phrases mean something to those that know them, and know what it means when they’re yelled out.

In this section of Acts 19, the rallying cry used by the pagan Ephesians was “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Demetrius and his union of fellow silversmiths had stirred up a hornet’s nest of a mob, with everyone piling into the amphitheater in Ephesus. Bordering on a full-scale riot, there were others who came as well, just to see what the hubbub was about. The Ephesian disciples, fearing for Paul’s safety, wouldn’t let him in. What I find incredulous was that, with so many people packed into the theater area, “most of them did not know why they had come together.” Could you imagine our modern-day media reporters trying to conduct interviews with the locals there? (“So why are you here, sir?” “Uh…I don’t know.”) Even the Jews opposed to Paul tried to push Alexander to the platform to offer a defense (and distance themselves from Paul), but by this time, any non-Diana worshipper was treated the same. The Scriptures tell us that most of the mob were yelling “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” for almost two hours (sounds like modern day football games or recent political rallies, take your pick!)

So how was Paul rescued from this predicament? The answer shouldn’t be surprising, if you know the power of the Lord!

More to come…

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Verses 25-26: “He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.”

It never fails: I’ve heard people complain when their favorite sports teams, pro or college, raise ticket prices. Seems like some prices never go back down, but always go up! Fans get enraged, film themselves burning the jersey of their team, or appear on news segments up in arms about it. However, this doesn’t seem to bother the sports teams…they make their money anyway! Many times I’ve heard that the only way to get their attention is to “hit them in the pocketbook” and refuse to buy tickets. When such organized efforts rarely happen, the owners of these teams finally sit up and take notice.

Paul, with his preaching and spreading of the Gospel in Ephesus and elsewhere, had attracted a new opposition. A man named Demetrius, a silversmith by trade, had organized a group of his fellow craftsmen together. Why? Because thanks to the spread of Christianity, the pagan worship of Diana, who had temples in Ephesus, was threatened. No temples, no silver worship articles that were made by…guess who? Yep, the local craftsmen. They were being “hit in the pocketbook”.

A quote by Mel Brooks from Blazing Saddles sums it up pretty well (and I’m referring to the edited version of the movie via ClearPlay! http://www.clearplay.org ) When he, as the bumbling Gov. William J. LePetomane, heard the request by the citizens of Rock Ridge demanding a new sheriff to combat the violence thrust upon their town, the governor declares to his cabinet members, “Gentlemen, we got to protect our phoney-baloney jobs! We gotta do something!” (paraphrased). That’s the bottom line of what Demetrius was talking about: ignoring the pagan worship, they were worried that their income was going to be severely impacted!

So what happened next? That’s a continuation…for another day!

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Verse 15: “And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus, I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?””

In the movie Doctor Strange, we find this dialogue when Strange is learning the mystic arts (Wong and Baron Mordo are already accomplished masters helping in his training):

[Strange is experimenting with time manipulation using the Eye of Agamotto]
Karl Mordo: [bursting in] No! Tampering with continuum probability is forbidden!
Dr. Strange: I was just doing exactly what it said in the book!
Wong: And what did the book say about the dangers of performing that ritual?
Dr. Strange: I… don’t know, I hadn’t gotten to that part yet.
Mordo: Temporal manipulations can create branches in time. Unstable dimensional openings, spatial paradoxes, time loops! You want to get stuck experiencing the same moment over and over again forever, or never having existed at all?!
Dr. Strange: …They really should put the warnings before this stuff.

The preceding quotes can be found at https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Doctor_Strange_(film)

It never fails: trying to tamper with forces beyond man’s ability most always leads to disastrous results (or in Dr. Strange’s case, almost does!) Here, Strange was experimenting with magic spells that he didn’t fully grasp the consequences of. In today’s Scripture passage, verse 11 states that “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,”. Even items of clothing that had touched Paul’s body were being used to heal the sick. The current Jewish exorcists and other magicians of the day figured, “hey, let’s try to cash in on this Jesus in our work!” Would that they had had Han Solo there to quote his famous line: “I got a bad feeling about this!”

So when these exorcists tried to simply use Jesus name to remove an evil spirit, the spirit responds with verse 15. The demon knew Jesus, and knew of Paul, but he lets these would-be magicians find out that they didn’t know what they were doing. They were trying to literally use Jesus’s name like a magic word. It’s through faith in Jesus, that all-saving faith, that Paul could do these miracles. Jesus wasn’t a magic wand; He is the Messiah, the Savior, God the Son! These exorcists found out the hard way that you don’t call on Jesus’s name flippantly. This particular section ends appropriately with verse 20: “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed”.

I wish that people today who call Jesus’s name flippantly would learn from this passage.

Something to think about.

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Verse 5: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Years ago, Marvel Comics published a comic series entitled What If ___? and then would fill in the blank. The first story was entitled “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” In the original storyline, Spider-Man tried to join, but was rejected by the FF when he was told they didn’t get paid salaries (Spidey was trying to find a way to earn more money to support him and Aunt May). In this “what if” story, the FF does accept Spider-Man, and the story unfolds following the new Fantastic Five. The ending is not a happy one, as history takes a different path for the participants. Serving as the narrator of these alternate reality stories was Uatu, a member of the alien race of Watchers, who monitor and observe reality…but are not supposed to interfere. Uatu framed the storyline by using a device in his home on the moon that allowed him to see alternate realities, and how certain actions had different consequences.

Having just read about Apollos in the previous chapter, and how Aquila and Priscilla mentored him in understanding the full Gospel message, we are reminded that, up to then, Apollos taught about Jesus, but only understood the baptism taught by John the Baptist. We don’t know if the disciples that Paul encounters were taught by Apollos or by someone else. The actions of Apollos in the previous chapter frame the consequences that these men were under in this chapter. Nevertheless, Paul instructs them and completes their understanding of the Holy Spirit and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Now, the men, after this action, faced better consequences, since they received the Holy Spirit and were truly complete in their salvation.

Actions and consequences. God has given us a sacred mission; to tell the world the Good News of Jesus Christ. We can’t trust the world to tell them; Christians need to share the knowledge of this gift so that all may come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Something to think about.

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Verse 26: “So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

My family recently upgraded to using smartphones. Now, when you get through laughing or rolling your eyes at how long it took me and my family to “join the 21st century” 🙂 let me explain why I mention this. I know a little about smartphones from having to deal with them via my workplace’s oncall phones. However, as my wife and I fumble through learning all the new stuff, sometimes my sons have to show “dad” how something is done (or a quicker way to do something.) A good friend at work, who also is my manager, is my new “Master Yoda” when it comes to answering questions or telling me the whys and wherefores of how apps work on my new phone. Sometimes, too, he just completes my understanding on what I thought I knew well.

Today’s verse refers to Apollos, “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures”. The passage tells us that he was “instructed in the way of the Lord” and he was “fervent in spirit”. Sounds like a missionary just like Paul, eh? Well…not quite. You see, Apollos only knew of the baptism of John; he didn’t know about post-Pentecostal knowledge and being filled with the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ. He was still “new” to all this. Aquila and Priscilla, being Christians more mature and experienced in the faith, took Apollos “under their wing” to teach and to instruct him in the complete knowledge of Jesus Christ. They helped to complete his understanding; now fully equipped, Apollos was on fire even more for Jesus! He went to Corinth and “greatly helped those who had believed through grace”.

Even modern evangelists don’t quit studying God’s Word, even if they have read the Bible through several times. They don’t quit praying. They keep listening to God and His Word through the Holy Spirit. So don’t be afraid, young Christian, of listening to wise counsel of older, more experienced Christians. Sometimes, how will you ever know unless you ask? Or to put it Biblically: Matthew 7:7.

Something to think about.

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