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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Verses 4-7: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

Four different people, united on a doomed mission to the stars.
Brought crashing to Earth by the bombardment of mysterious cosmic rays.
Four different people; one cosmic storm. But look at how it changed them:

Reed Richards became the super-stretchable Mr. Fantastic!
Sue Storm (later Richards) became the disappearing, force-field creating, Invisible Woman!
Johnny Storm became the fiery flying Human Torch!
and Benjamin J. Grimm became the superhumanly strong, rock-skinned Thing!

Four people…one cosmic storm…but one team!

This was the origin of the Fantastic Four from Marvel Comics. But recounting their first story brings forth an interestingly strange parallel to today’s passage.

Paul is telling the Corinthians that although there are diverse gifts and ministries, it is through the same Holy Spirit that those gifts and ministries are to be used to profit the body. Just like all the parts of the body function to serve the whole body, we are to use the gifts God gave us for His glory! Not everyone can preach like Billy Graham; not everyone can sing like Sandi Patti. But every gift is useful, especially when used to glorify God. We shouldn’t fall victim to jealousy or envy, wanting someone else’s talents. We need to seek out what God has given us, and use it in His service!

Many Christians…one Holy Spirit…but one team!

Something to think about.

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Verses 14-15: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

When I was in college, I was in the drama team of our Baptist Student Union (called the Zoo Troupe). Once we acted out a skit called “The Owl Who Was God”. (I found out just this week that the skit must’ve been based on the fable in James Thurber’s book Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (New York, 1940), pp. 35-36. I reread the story at the following link: https://www.k-state.edu/english/baker/english320/Thurber-The_Owl_Who_Was_God.htm). The story (condensed here) is that the other animals asked the owl to be their leader because he could see in the dark and answer any question (although his answers to most questions were “Who”, “Two”, “To wit”, and “To Woo”…mostly owl-speak!). After chasing away a few animals who wanted to ask “Can he see in the daytime?”, the other animals asked the owl to be their leader. Appearing at high noon, walking slowly with wide eyes (since he couldn’t see in the daytime), the other animals, impressed by his seeming stature, began to cry “He’s God!” They began to follow him, even when he started walking down a highway. They were still crying “He’s God”…when most of them, including the owl, were killed by a truck which ran into them. The moral was: You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

Paul here is contrasting the natural man, using natural wisdom, with the spiritual man, who uses the wisdom given through the Holy Spirit. The spiritual man can discern and judge many things through the wisdom God gives; the natural man cannot discern those same things, because natural wisdom cannot divine the deep things of God. It would be like above, when the animals thought the owl was wise, when it reality, he was limited…just like the natural man is limited.

So for wisdom that lasts, do you want the natural sands to build your house on? Or do want your foundation to be the wisdom of the Rock?

Something to think about.

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Verses 4-5: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

There is no better feeling than when you are used by God, and through His power, not your own.

Our church choir recently performed our annual Christmas program. We are blessed with a very knowledgeable, talented, and experienced music minister (blessed by God), who often picks out various pieces of different styles for our choir to sing. We finished the program with a magnificent operatic arrangement of Christ is Born; the lead solos were 4 men, and the music minister had asked me to be the 2nd tenor solo in this piece. Now, without bragging, I’ve sung solos before and I believe I have a pretty good voice; but nothing in my experience had prepared me for the challenge of this solo. Our music minister (bless his heart) worked with me and drilled me a lot on operatic style of belting out this solo, from pronunciation to breathing techniques. Come performance night, I was anxious. What’s more, the Christ is Born piece was at the END of a 40-minute program. I had some water hidden under my chair and took sips when I could. Come time to walk down, I bent over to grab one last sip…and turned over the cup! (not to worry, it didn’t spill through the lid). However, I had no time to get one more swig of water.

It was at that point, that I prayed quickly, “ok, Lord, it’s all on You, because I can’t sing this with my voice this tired on my own.” It’s funny, it felt almost like God said back to me, “I’ve got this, I’m all you need.” I went out and sang with all my heart; God blessed my efforts. I had several compliments from folks and my music minister later told my wife that I did great! All glory to God! (oh, and by the way, God had me again that night when we sang a 2nd performance of this same program not more than one hour later!)

I tell you all this to remind you what Paul was doing. I have always admired Paul for his eloquence of argument and his speaking abilities, but I forgot (until I read this passage) that he was relying on the Lord to give him the power to address the Corinthian congregation here. That church was starting to slip back into relying on human wisdom, and Paul reminded them that the real power, the real wisdom, comes from the Holy Spirit!

Just remember an old adage I’ve heard before and is appropriate here: let go and let God!

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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Verses 37-38: “But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.” And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.”

There was once a manager of a community garden who lacked the funds and the labor to do a wholescale renovation of the garden. He had the money for materials, but not the help. Enter a group of missionary volunteers who offered their services free of charge. The man in charge of the group was a retired veteran landscaper, and knew his craft well. Although grateful for the help, the manager soon found himself meddling in the work, trying to do things more cheaply, or with his own ideas on how things should be done. Among the people involved in the renovation was a video documenter, who was recording the progress for a local documentary on public television, spotlighting the work. Now, during interviews, the manager sometimes didn’t speak as favorably about the landscaper as he should have; he’d offer “his” opinions on him, and lament about the amount of money they were spending. Finally, the documenter politely told the manager that he should “trust that my father is not going to waste your money. He knows what he is doing, believe me.” The manager was aghast: “HE’S YOUR FATHER???” “Yes”, replied the documenter quietly, “didn’t you notice our last names being the same?” The manager’s demeanor changed. After that, the manager was somewhat more respectful, if not more quiet, in his dealings with the landscaper.

One of Paul’s gifts was his intellect and knowledge. He called out the magistrates on their rash treatment of them; it’s very interesting to note what happened when Paul informed them that they were “uncondemned Romans”. Roman society was very strict when it came to citizen rights and the denial of same, and here are these magistrates who had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten, and tossed in jail…and now they wanted them to go away “quietly”. The magistrates changed their tune; they more respectfully apologized and escorted the two from the prison. Though Paul and Silas “could’ve made a stink” about what had happened, they didn’t; they left town after visiting with their new Christian family.

We live in a world today that, more than often, seeks to treat Christians unfairly. Just remember, we have rights and resources others can only dream about…we have access to the Most High God. We can count on Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, in times of need as well as times of plenty. Never forget to Whom you belong.

Something to think about.

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Verse 12: “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”

Quoted directly from the Secretary of State of Missouri’s website (http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/history/slogan.asp): “Why Is Missouri Called the “Show-Me” State? There are a number of stories and legends behind Missouri’s sobriquet “Show-Me” state. The slogan is not official, but is common throughout the state and is used on Missouri license plates. The most widely known legend attributes the phrase to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. While a member of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver attended an 1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia. In a speech there, he declared, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” Regardless of whether Vandiver coined the phrase, it is certain that his speech helped to popularize the saying.”

In Willard Duncan Vandiver’s case, he was saying that “you got to show me”. He wasn’t one to take flowery speeches lightly. He had to see it to believe it.

Paul and Barnabas (and by the way, it is in verse 9 that Saul is called Paul from now on) are in Paphos and were called by the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. He wanted to hear the gospel message, but a sorcerer who was with the proconsul, Elymas by name, sought to turn the proconsul from the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, caused Elymas to be blind for a while. Verse 13 reads, “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” Paulus still heard the teaching from the early church missionaries, but the miraculous blinding of the sorcerer was indeed “a clincher”, showing the power of the Holy Spirit.

How blessed it is, for those who believe by faith alone. And, yet, God still shows His miracles when they are needed…in His time.

Something to think about.

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Verse 2: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.””

When I was a little boy, I used to love to go to my grandmother’s house. She and my mother were great cooks. When my grandmother would make her homemade cinnamon rolls, I used to love to watch how she made them. She’d roll and cut the dough, and they’d come out of the oven as these perfect circles. Sometimes though, she’d call me into the kitchen and ask me to eat one or two rolls that didn’t come out perfectly circular. Now, they didn’t taste any different, but my grandmother always set aside her best-looking cinnamon rolls as the ones to serve family and guests. She knew though that we grandkids would eat them, no matter what they looked like! We didn’t eat the ones that were set apart, until we got through “disposing” of the less-than-perfect rolls. As a matter of fact, I used to try and pull a fast one on her; I’d insist that some of the best rolls didn’t “look right, so I better eat those too.” She’d look at me, smile, and loving say, “Oh, get out of my kitchen.” :-)

The church was focused on worshipping God and fasting. The Holman Concordance on Acts, page 209, even states something more eye-catching: “Notice the climate in the congregation – worship and fasting. Not frantic activity with programs burning out everybody in the congregation. In an attitude of worship and fasting they understood the Spirit to select missionaries for God’s work.” God calls us to be holy. The definition of “holy” means “set apart”. The Holy Spirit had called Barnabas and Saul to be separated, set apart “for the work to which I have called them.”

We are called today to that same work: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciple-makers.

Something to think about.

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Verses 28, 34-35, 44-45: “Then he said to them, You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

“I love it when a plan comes together.” That was the favorite catch-phrase of one LTC John “Hannibal” Smith, the wily leader of The A-Team. I enjoyed watching that old television program for its characterizations of this team of freelance soldiers of fortune and the wild inventions and schemes they would concoct to capture the bad guys. No matter how daunting the odds (or how much things went astray at times), the plan always came together in the end. Sometimes, even events that the team couldn’t foresee were used to work in their favor.

Our church had been “in the wilderness” for some time; we didn’t have a full-time pastor. God, in His perfect timing, brought us our current pastor, who’s been serving for the last 5 months here. As he shared his testimony with us upon his start in our church’s pulpit, we could see God’s hand in the absolute perfect timing of bringing our church and this pastor together. This man had been serving God in several capacities before finally bringing him to our town. Though he was able to get work in religious schools and such, teaching the Bible, he knew in his heart that God had something else in mind for him. The amazing thing was that his resume was in our list of candidates, but our pastor search committee only came back to it upon a second look through the stack. When he he shared that testimony with us, we could now easily see God’s hand in some of the reasons it took a while for us to get a new pastor…and that it took the same “while” to bring this man to our church. God was in control!

Peter’s vision and Cornelius’s vision now dovetail in this passage. Peter shares with Cornelius’s household and friends that God has revealed to him that He shows no partiality…salvation is available to all, not just the Jews. This is literally earth-shattering news at this stage of history with Jews and Gentiles (as you’ll see in Acts 11). God told Cornelius that he was to summon Peter; God showed Peter his change to the status-quo…and then brought them together for a memorable revelation.

When I shared these devotional thoughts with my wife, she stated “He (God) brought His plan together.”. This, in turn, made me remember the motto of Hannibal Smith.

I’m smiling right now, as I say….I love it when a plan comes together!

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Verses 14-15: “But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.””

The following is an excerpt from the 25th anniversary episode of BBC’s Doctor Who, entitled “The Five Doctors”:

The First Doctor and Tegan had entered Rassilon’s Dark Tower, at the heart of which was his tomb. The Doctor, along with later regenerations of himself, past and current companions, and past enemies, was forced to play the Game of Rassilon, the greatest of the Time Lords of Gallifrey. Standing just inside the entrance was a checkerboard-painted floor. Realizing it might be a trap, the Doctor held Tegan back while he pitched coins onto each row. Tegan, the Earth-born stewardess, was impatient, but the Doctor was insistent. About halfway across with the coins, the trap was sprung. Electrical bolts showered down upon the checkerboard floor!

Doctor: “Diabolical ingenuity! Nothing happens until you reach the fifth row, halfway,…and then the entire board becomes a death-trap!”
(The Master, the Doctor’s arch-enemy in later regenerations, appears behind them)
Master: “Our ancestors had such a wonderful sense of humor.”
Doctor: (not recognizing the Master, since he not encountered him in this incarnation) “Do I know you, young man?”
Master: “Believe it or not, we were at the Academy together.”
Tegan: (knowing who the Master was) “What do YOU want?”
Master: “To help.” (Ironically, he had been really sent by the High Council of Gallifrey to rescue the Doctor)
Tegan: (sarcastically) “That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day.”
Master: “Believe what you like; I should advise you to hide. I’ve got some very suspicious allies close behind me.” (At this point, a squad of Cybermen slowly enter the hall. Tegan pulls the First Doctor behind a wall.)

The Cybermen had captured the Master, and he deceptively offered to be their guide. He demonstrates how to cross the checkerboard safely, much to the surprise of the Doctor and Tegan. Even after most of the Cyber-patrol was struck down by the lightning, the Master reassures the Cyber-Leader that the safe path still exists, it just changes every time. The Master treacherously shoots the Cyber-Leader as they are crossing the board; chuckling, he crosses back to the Doctor and Tegan.

Tegan: “Wasn’t that a little ruthless, even for you?”
Master: “In one of the many wars on your miserable little planet, they used to drive sheep across mine fields…principle’s the same.”
Tegan: “Not quite…this mine field is still just as dangerous!”
Master: “Do you think so?” (The Master then hops and skips differently across the board to the other side). “Try it Doctor, it’s as easy as pie!”
(the Master disappears down the opposite corridor.)
Doctor: “What an extraordinary fellow. As easy as pie? As easy as pie??”
Tegan: “That’s what he said.”
Doctor: “No, he didn’t! He said ‘easy as PI’, the Greek letter Pi!”

The Doctor went on to explain that by using the mathematical formula for Pi, you could figure out the safe way to cross, which he did, and then led Tegan across as well.

That took a while to detail to you, but I wanted to explain the background of this scene from one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes, so that I could point out that, although the Master was taunting the Doctor by saying “easy as pie”, he also, accidentally or on purpose, gave him a clue to the solution. So, “easy as pie” had two meanings.

Peter was on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s house, praying and being hungry, too. Suddenly a vision appeared to him of a great blanket of all sorts of animals in it, being lowered to him, and the Holy Spirit instructing him to kill and to eat. Peter, still reacting with his Jewish upbringing, said he shouldn’t eat unclean animals. The Holy Spirit continues to tell him that what God has declared clean is clean indeed.

I once heard someone joke (and I wish I could recall who!), “And God made barbeque, and said it is good!” 🙂 God told Peter that the animals were clean to eat. But the double meaning, just like “easy as pie”, comes when Cornelius’s visitors arrive, and Peter realizes that God also meant that salvation was no longer just for the Jews! He realized it and preached it…as easy as pie.

More to come.

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