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Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

Verses 7-9: “Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

Set the time machine of your memories back to 1974-1981: do you remember a game show called “Name That Tune”? Hosted by Tom Kennedy, this game show offered a musical twist to its questions. (Now the show is actually older than this and had a handful of different hosts, but I remember this one specifically.) Contestants had to name musical pieces through a series of rounds and games, but I remember the Bid-a-note challenge: this was between two contestants and had as its clues a spoken Jeopardy-like hint. Based on the hint, the two finalists would bid down how many piano notes of the answer they needed in order to guess the song. The starting bid was seven notes, but contestants could bid down to one note, at which the other contestant would challenge them to “name that tune”. (Now granted, if they stated they could name it in one note, chances are they knew the answer from the clue, not the notes!) In most cases, the contestant winning the bid would have to recognize the song from several notes…just enough notes to hopefully name that tune.

Did you ever go somewhere and didn’t know what people were saying? The obvious example is to travel to a foreign country and not know the native language. If you were in that situation, you had to have an interpreter: one who knew what was being said and could tell you what it means. Paul here is advising the Corinthians that while it’s good to have the gift of speaking in tongues, he urged them to pray to ask for the gift of understanding/translation as well, whether personally or for someone to be there to interpret. Non-Christians would see someone speaking in tongues and conclude they had a gift, but to Christians in church who heard only the tongue being spoken, it was useless unless someone stood up to interpret. (Look up the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27-39 for a good example!)

While the gift of tongues is not commonly heard today, Christians still need to tell others about Jesus. Sometimes they need to give their testimony without “churchy” words. Because, believe it or not, there are still those who seek to know who Jesus is, and we have to tell them in a way they’ll understand. Sometimes, we may need to do it in more than one note!

Something to think about!

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Verses 8-9: “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”

When she was a teenager, my wife had a principle that might seem strange to some. She would not go to the movies, even if there was one she wanted to see. She would wait for that movie to come out on video so she could see only that movie at her house. As a Christian, she was cognizant of the fact that someone seeing her go to a multi-screen theater might wonder if she was seeing a G-rated film or something rated worse. Even though she was confident in her salvation, she didn’t want to give the appearance that she watched movies that she shouldn’t, lest it hurt her witness to others. That’s a principle she’s kept to this day.

Paul here is cautioning the Corinthian church about eating food served at pagan temples (these temples also doubled as centers of civic activity). He explained that technically it didn’t matter, since idols were non-entities and there was only one true God. However, he cautioned the flock not to become “stumbling blocks” to weaker or new Christians, who might not fully reconcile what they saw with what they were told. Paul even concludes the chapter stating that he would never eat meat again if it caused his brother to stumble in their walk. As always, we Christians need to remember…we might be the only Jesus some people see today, so therefore let Jesus shine through your walk.

Something to think about.

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Verse 6: “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”

On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., there is a form of entertainment that each of the 2 main political parties love. That’s when there is “in-fighting” amongst a party, especially when it spills out into the public media. Whether it’s moderates vs progressives in the Democratic party or pro-Trump vs anti-Trump in the Republican party, the other side has a field day to see bickering amongst its rivals. It is a sad state of affairs; we should be able to have differences, yet act like adults to take care of the business of the nation. And even when there are differences, we should be able to resolve them before they blow up out of proportion.

The devil gets a similar “kick” out of seeing Christians argue with each other. What is worse, the Corinthian church members were going to court against each other, instead of settling their differences in a Biblical manner (go personally, if that doesn’t work take a friend, if that doesn’t work bring it before the church). Paul was questioning why they were doing this; even today, it seems like our television and Internet airwaves are chock-full of lawyer commercials. Paul was encouraging them to act like they are set apart from the world (because they are the church), not act like the world!

Something to think about.

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Verse 11: “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.”

I was recalling the first time I went through the Corinthian books, and I saw a small notation on this passage. I did a series before on the 4-1-1; verses of the New Testament that were chapter 4, verse 11. But God struck me with some insight on all those references He led me too.

As much as we don’t like to repeat ourselves…well, I’ll put it the way a Christian brother put it to me through a devotional one time. He detoured off the main point to “chase a rabbit…but this is a good rabbit to chase”! This was the post from the 4-1-1 series, and is even more appropriate today.

Paul above is describing what he and his fellow apostles are going through in proclaiming the faith. Many Christians were persecuted in the days of the Roman Empire, not just by the Romans, but by the religious leaders who rejected Jesus.

Well, yeah, that’s way back then…that doesn’t happen in the 21st century now.

In the words of the stereotypical addicted gambler, “want to bet?”

Ask the Christians in northern Iraq today who are being hounded out of their homes by Islamic militants.

Ask the Christians in heavily Muslim countries who are targeted and martyred just because they are Christians.

Ask Christians in the United States: have someone make a statement that is somewhat derogatory toward any other religion and watch the outrage and backlash on the news…let the derogatory remark be about Christians and listen to the silence or the apathy.

Persecution still happens today to Christians. Take heart; Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Something to think about today.

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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 32-34: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”

Filmation, producer of animated and live action Saturday morning shows heavily in the 1970’s, had an animated version of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Here, Tarzan was shown as more intelligent and literate than the movies preceding this series; he was also voiced by the wonderful voice of the actor, Robert Ridgely. In the very first episode, “Tarzan and the City of Gold”, Tarzan was taken captive by warriors from Zandor, the militaristic City of Gold. He was made to fight in a gladiatorial bout for the cruel queen Nemone against a warrior named Phobeg. Phobeg, a mighty warrior of a man, never understood why Tarzan didn’t kill him when Tarzan would get the upper hand. He, like most Zandorians, didn’t trust outsiders. Even when he tried to cheat and kill Tarzan, Tarzan bested him and refused to kill him. Phobeg asked Tarzan why he spared him. Tarzan let him know that his life was not Tarzan’s to take or anyone else’s. In doing so, Phobeg becomes an ally to Tarzan, realizing that there are kind, brave people in the outside world as well. Phobeg smuggles Tarzan and an acquaintance who had been captured, a woman named Thea, out of the prison. He later provides them with a disguise and a chariot to get them out of the city.

Here was the jailer, probably a tough, hardened man with a tough job. He was used to handling, to shackling, and to being in charge of prisoners of all sorts, but here he stood amazed by what he seen God do with the earthquake, as well as Paul and Silas not escaping. Once he accepted Jesus into his life, his relief at his life being spared (physically and spiritually) translated to kindness toward his two charges. He washed their wounds, brought them into his house, and set food before them. He began to exhibit the characteristics that we as Christians should exhibit today. Even when he came to them, in the next verses, and told them that they were freed by the magistrates, he probably did it with a kinder, better manner.

Something to think about.

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Verse 19: “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”

Al Capone was the vicious mob leader and gangster during the Prohibition era in Chicago. He had friends on both sides of the law, and for a while, no one thought he would be arrested. For all of the crimes he was responsible for (murder, bootlegging, and other violence), the charge that he was arrested and later convicted on was…income tax evasion. Seems like such a minor charge, but it was one that the federal authorities were able to get a conviction on. Once in jail, Capone’s influence began to wane.

When Paul cast out the prophetic demon from the young girl, her masters who owned her (and profited by her “gift”) were none too happy. But this wasn’t the charge that they had Paul and Silas arrested for. They complained to the magistrates that Paul and Silas were “teaching customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” It was the implication of “civil disorder” that was frowned upon in Roman society that more than likely snowballed the efforts to get Paul and Silas thrown in jail. You see, Paul and Silas preaching the Gospel, what they actually were doing, wasn’t the charge. It was “causing civil disorder”…that and probably some discrimination against them, since they were Jews. It doesn’t seem like anything more than a minor charge, but this was all it took to get them thrown into prison. We’ll see more in the next couple of verses of how these two were “railroaded” without due process.

Just a cautionary devotion on the fact that the devil cheats, and uses all sorts of weapons, major and minor, to attack Christians.

More to come.

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Verse 29: “that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these you will do well. Farewell.”

In the movie Captain America: Civil War, Captain America (Steve Rogers) is wrangling with the decision being forced on his team, the Avengers, about accepting oversight from a governing body. Iron Man (Tony Stark) and several others are for it, but Cap and several others feel it will take away freedom to act if there is a need to. While debating this, Steve’s WWII love interest, Peggy Carter, has passed away (she had aged normally while Cap was in suspended animation). Upon attending her funeral as a pallbearer, the eulogy is given by his apartment neighbor, Sharon Carter, whom Steve discovers was really Peggy’s niece! In the words of her eulogy, including advice from Peggy, Steve decides which side he’ll stand on. Sharon stated the following eulogy (copied from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Captain_America:_Civil_War#Sharon_Carter/Agent_13)

Sharon: “Margaret Carter was known to most as the founder of SHIELD, but I just know her as Aunt Peggy. She had a photograph in her office: Aunt Peggy standing next to JFK. As a kid that was pretty cool, but it was a lot to live up to, which is why I never told anyone we were related. I asked her once how she managed to master diplomacy and espionage at a time when no one wanted to see a woman succeed at either. And she said, “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move’.”

Compromise and hold firm. The convention was ending with a decision by James and the elders to offer some guidance to the new Gentile converts. The “hold firm” part was the fact that salvation was for both Jew and Gentile; that was not going to change. The “compromise” part was probably a bit of what I would modernly call “discipleship training”. My copy of Holman’s New Testament Commentary on Acts, page 251, summed it up thusly: “We might parallel this to rules in the student handbook at a Christian college.” The Gentiles had formerly worshipped in pagan temples using pagan practices. James and the elders wrote them a letter to outline a few points of things to avoid that would offend Jews, and thus help pave the way for joint worship (they also used the letter to encourage the new converts). Again, quoting from page 251: “Perhaps it would be useful to sum up these four regulations in our modern understanding: no idolatry, no immorality, no murder, and not eating meat offered to idols.”

By sending the letter with Jerusalem representatives Judas and Silas to encourage and to continue teaching, the convention was all but finished with what could have been a very divisive issue. When God is in charge and Christians turn to God for guidance, all the issues, big or small, get taken care of.

Just a little more to come!

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Verses 15-17: “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’”

In the animated movie Happy Feet, Mumbles was a penguin who couldn’t sing; all penguins used a “heart-song” to attract and to match up with a female penguin in order to mate. But he could tap-dance, something that flew in the face of the traditional singing of the penguin colonies. Through an adventure in exile, he learned that humans would respond to his tap-dancing; he thought he had finally found a way to communicate with these “aliens”. Tagged by researchers, he returned to his own colony to try and convince them that he had a way to communicate with the aliens…that maybe they could solve the problem of why there was little fish to hunt (which in reality, humans had been overfishing the area). In the penultimate scene, Mumbles convinces his parents, the girl penguin he loves, and others to join him in dancing when the aliens appear (homing in on him through the tag transmitter he was wearing). The elders tried mightily to stick to singing, but the colony discovered that the aliens did indeed pay attention to the out-of-character dancing. Finally, even the elders joined in; with the entire colony dancing, the aliens recorded the event and left. The humans later concluded that this non-traditional behavior on the penguins’ part was a sign something had changed; they finally figured out that the overfishing was affecting the colony. The overfishing was stopped, the penguins had a restocked food source…and now they celebrated in song AND in dance.

Here, we have the proclamation by James, the ruling elder of this convention, on the issue of the Gentile mission. He quotes Amos 9:11-12 above, bolstering the statement that God wanted to reach the Gentiles, too. The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ the Messiah, was not just for the Jews. Jesus came and died FOR ALL. Are we all alike…no. Do Christians share the same Lord and Savior…YES. Part of the issue with the Judaizers, the Pharisees here, was that they wanted the Gentile converts to behave like Jews…to adhere to the Jewish customs. Do we all worship the same…no. Do we worship the same Lord…for Christians, the answer is YES! Traditional (old) versus contemporary (new) is an age-old conflict that still exists, even today. As someone who has led music in church, I like traditional and contemporary…do I like all of one or all of the other…no. But, in light of the last post, we need to remember to “keep the main thing, the main thing.” We would do well to remember the words of Paul in Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” That verse applies to both Jew and Gentile, traditional and contemporary…in other words, ALL Christians.

Now, how does James propose to heal this rift? Well to quote Paul Harvey, we’ll find out later in “the rest of the story”.

More to come!

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