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Posts Tagged ‘James’

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 1-3: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.”

Enter the villain. Herod the king enters the picture to harass the Christian church. He has James murdered and captures Peter. What strikes me about this is the part of the verses above where it’s stated “And because he saw that it pleased the Jews”.  In other words…Herod was also a corrupt politician, seeking to win over the majority with acts to gain favor.

In this election year, one might say the choices for President aren’t too promising. Each candidate, though they might have some good qualities, also seems to possess bad qualities and extra baggage that make for an old-fashioned, mud-slinging campaign. Promises will be made, and not certain that they will all be kept. One thing all registered voters need to do: make sure you vote, but make your choices wisely. We still live in a land where the right to vote is a privilege not to be taken lightly. If you are a Christian voter, you need to do something before you cast that ballot…pray to the Lord for guidance.

Something to think about.

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James 4:11: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

I remember seeing the movie On Golden Pond with my best friend back in 1981. It was the first screen pairing of legendary Hollywood actors Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn (in fact, it was Fonda’s last film). As we watched the beginning of the movie, where the two are out in a boat that almost gets swamped by a passing speedboat, I remember the shock we felt to see these legendary actors using profanity and “flipping the bird” at the jerk in the boat. My immediate thought was that actors of such stature don’t have to stoop to such vulgarity, even if it was in the script. It just didn’t seem like something I was used to seeing them do, like it was totally out of character of who they were.

James here is warning about Christians doing something that should be out of character for a Christian: slanderous talk. While it is something common to those in the world, it should be “out of character” for Christians to engage in that. Though saved, we are still liable to fail and to sin. We should strive to leave the judging to the Judge, to the Lawgiver. It’s hard, because as human beings we have opinions and make impressions about people. But we need to remember to live for Christ and to die to self…thus we’ll be more prone to look at the world the way Jesus does…with compassion and love.

Something to think about.

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Verse 3: “But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”
Verse 9: “and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.”

Today is July 4, Independence Day, in the United States. This is the day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America; over 200 years ago, our forefathers fought against the tyrannical British monarchy to achieve their freedom from England. They wanted to govern themselves, not be subjected to the unfair laws and rule of King George. They wanted freedom from the law of the English empire.

Paul had gone to Jerusalem to meet with the Christian leadership, and he, too, was fighting for freedom: the freedom from the laws that the Judaizers were saying the Gentiles had to abide by, in addition to the grace of Jesus. Titus was Exhibit A in this case; a Greek uncircumcised Christian. Had the Judaizers had their way, they would have stated that Titus couldn’t be a Christian without obeying the law of Moses, including circumcision. Paul defended that it was grace and grace alone in Jesus Christ that was saving. The Christian leadership agreed with Paul; they also offered the “right hand of fellowship” to Barnabas and him to continue in the ministry to the Gentiles. The Judaizers had kept referencing the Jerusalem leadership in their arguments against Paul…now Paul had the endorsement of the Jerusalem Christian leaders that he was in the right…that the grace of Jesus needed no additional “requirements”.

That is what makes the Christian faith different from other religions; you can’t earn or work your way to Heaven. It’s a gift from God, the gift of Jesus. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin.

Happy Independence Day!

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