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Posts Tagged ‘Gentiles’

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 10-11: “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'””

Larry Trask was the son of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels. His guardian, Judge Chalmers, had sought to shield the boy from the nightmarish legacy his father had created. However, in an Avengers storyline which culminated in issue #104, the mutant speedster Quicksilver compelled Larry’s help in trying to rescue his sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, from a band of Sentinels that had returned from orbit around the sun. As we find out in the storyline, Larry himself is a mutant, with the ability to see snatches of the future: and his visions showed the Avengers suffering defeat in combat with the Sentinels, the Sentinels launching a solar flare to wipe out the human race, and finally darkness, which Larry assumed to be the end of Earth.

During the final fight, it was revealed that the Sentinel leader, Number 2, had evolved into a mutant being himself. It was his plan to sterilize the human race with the solar flare, thus eventually wiping them out. As the other Sentinels attacked Number 2 (for their programming was to capture or to destroy mutants), it resulted in the mutual destruction of all the Sentinels. In falling like giant tenpins, one of them fell on Trask, thus killing him. Thus, Larry’s last vision was not of Earth’s destruction, but the blackness of his own death.

Agabus was delivering a vision shown to him by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s friends were anxious for his safety, for he still was determined to go to Jerusalem. This prophetic declaration must have alarmed the crowd even more. Yet, Paul was undeterred. He told them, “look, I’m not only ready to be bound, but to die for Jesus if necessary.” His friends were genuinely concerned for them, but they knew this was the Lord’s will.

How would you feel if you knew your future? How would you feel if you saw danger for yourself? Do you face a test today which challenges your safety or your future? If the test and mission is from God, have no fear for He is with you. If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you need not fear, though fear is a natural feeling…Jesus knows what the future holds…He’s been there…and He’s waiting to lead you through it!

Something to think about.

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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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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 17-18: “”If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

What a crazy Presidential election year it has been thus far! I can’t ever recall such “drama” on both sides of the election from both parties. Outsiders, traditionalists, conservatives, liberals, socialists…I’ve never seen the like in a long time. One of the “plotlines” in this campaign has been from some of the entrenched establishment of one political party versus the popular contender for their party’s nomination (I’m not going to name names…I think you know whom I’m referring to…this blog is not about politics, nor is it about endorsements…just follow along with me here 🙂 ). The “entrenched” party members aren’t too happy with who could represent them, and I’m not sure how this is going to play out (God knows, though). Could be they don’t like how the candidate is coming across, or that he is not “one” of them. Either way…someone is not happy.

After Peter visited with Cornelius and his group, some of the Jews met him when he came to Jerusalem…and were asking, “What is going on? Do you realize who you met with?” Peter didn’t immediately fire back like he might have once…in anger and in indignation. Instead, he told the Jews all that happened to him with the vision, Cornelius’s messengers, and God’s revelation that salvation was available to EVERYONE. The NKJV translation says “who was I that I could withstand God?” The NIV reads a little more plainer here: “who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Peter was convinced by God’s vision of the New Covenant that He revealed here…salvation was accessible for Jew and Gentile alike! And once Peter explained it to the Jews…they had no reply (silence), but then glorified God that He was granting “repentance to life” to the Gentiles, too.

There is an old phrase that reads “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” So, fellow Christian… which are you today? Part of the problem…or part of the solution?

Something to think about.

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