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Archive for August, 2017

Verse 25: “And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?””

In the 1979 TV special The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t, Count Dracula (played comically by Judd Hirsch) and the other monsters are trying to stop the Wicked Witch (played equally comically by Mariette Hartley) from leaving his castle; if she doesn’t fly over the moon, there will be no Halloween. The Witch is tired of being seen as ugly and unimportant, and wants to quit. As all the monsters corner her in the hallway and attempt to dogpile her, she causes the lights to go out briefly. Igor (played comically by Henry Gibson) has a stranglehold on her, gloating, “I got her. I got her! Now she’ll never get away!” As they all get up, the caped figure turns out to be a snarling Count Dracula, with Igor meekly saying, “She got away.” The look and reaction on their faces is the typical screwball comedy ploy of “whoops, we caught our leader”!

Once more, Paul uses his legal knowledge in God’s service. About to be scourged to ascertain why the mob is out for his blood, he calmly asks the centurion if it’s legal to scourge a Roman citizen who is uncondemned. You could almost hear the figurative “brakes screeching” as all the soldiers backed away and the commander realized the trouble he was in and could be in, even worse! Romans loved their laws and prided themselves on applying that to conquered societies as part of the Roman way. They saw it as part of their “civilized” structure. And if you broke that law…big trouble. Though not out of the woods yet, Paul used what he knew and used it in the service of the Lord, as a way of furthering the Gospel.

Like the old joke about the man threatened by a flood, when God told him “I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter”, God wants us to use what we know and what we have in His service.

More to come!

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Verse 21: “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’”

“God has sent me to minister and to witness to the Nazis!”

How would you feel if you heard a fellow American say that? Confused? Angry, upset? Fearful?

You could about fill in the blank of “to the ____” with a group or individuals you felt strongly against. I remember back after 9-11-01, our church had a prayer vigil. Our pastor asked deacons to pray for specific groups. And he wanted someone to pray for Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. I chose that one, because I knew it would be through only God’s love and His strength that I could pray for enemies who did such a heinous crime. God reminded me though…isn’t that what Paul was before his conversion? An enemy who killed Christians?

Here, his fellow Jews are in an uproar. “Minister to Gentiles? WHAT? Was he crazy? The Gentiles??? Away with him!” Needless to say, without God’s intervention, Paul probably would’ve been martyred that day. In this case, we see an interesting form of rescue. Whom did God use to save Paul? To paraphrase that great secret agent, Maxwell Smart: “wouldja believe…the Romans?”

More to come!

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Verses 1-2: “”Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.”

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

As Christians, we all claim sentiments to the meaning of this old hymn. Paul, probably more so than anybody, lived this hymn almost verbatim. Here he is now, laying out his defense, by telling the mob where he came from, how he persecuted Christians, how he was saved, and how he lived and preached for Christ now. Just the story, the witness, of Paul is incredible. Maybe the mob might have been calmed had he left it at that…but Paul must tell them all the story, of how God has called him to spread the Gospel to not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, too. In the next few verses, this is where circumstances take an interesting turn.

More to come.

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Verses 37-40: “Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,”

The Grand Councilwoman is directing her anger at Jumbaa, after the capture of Stitch (Experiment 626).
Grand Councilwoman: You! You’re the cause of all this! If it wasn’t for your Experiment 6-2-6, none of this-
Stitch: [interrupting] Stitch.
Grand Councilwoman: What?
Stitch: My name Stitch.
Grand Councilwoman: Stitch, then. If it wasn’t for Stitch- [realizes what just happened, turns back to Stitch]
Stitch: Does Stitch have to go in the ship?
Grand Councilwoman: [shocked, hesitant] …Yes.
Stitch: Can Stitch say goodbye?
Grand Councilwoman: Yes.
Stitch: Thank you. [walks over to Nani and Lilo]
Grand Councilwoman: [looks at Nani and Lilo] Who are you?
Stitch: This is my family. I found it all on my own. It’s little and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.

The preceding dialogue was from the Disney animated movie Lilo & Stitch. (This dialogue found at https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Lilo_%_Stitch).

Prior to this conversation, the Grand Councilwoman had only known Stitch as the monstrous, destructive Experiment 626. Now, here he was, calling himself by the name Lilo had given him, Stitch; he also was civilized, polite, and respectful. I still love the look on the Grand Councilwoman’s face when she realizes this creature is now vastly different from what she knew before.

I thought of this scene when reading this passage in Acts. Here is Paul, about to become yet another victim of the Jewish mob, and saved only by the Roman soldiers. Trying to get to the bottom of the disturbance and thinking him just another rabble-rouser, the commander was about to take him into the barracks, when Paul spoke to him. Paul’s use of the Greek language startles the commander; he begins thinking he is another rebel leader from recent times, an Egyptian, but Paul calmly corrects him, and even more, he begs to speak to the crowd. The commander gives his permission, and Paul is about to launch into an address to defend himself and to preach Jesus to the crowd.

How do people of this world act when they meet you, a Christian? Do you leave a positive impact? Do you surprise jaded individuals, who have drawn their own conclusions about Christianity through encounters with less-than-stellar representatives? Does your encounter with people leave them a mite bit bewildered? (You’re a Christian?) While each encounter we have with people, from common folk to authority figures, might not be as dramatic as that which Paul has here, we should leave no doubt as to the change Christ makes in our lives. That change should be as obvious as the change Stitch undergoes in the movie.

Something to think about.

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