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Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

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 19-20: “Then the Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Years ago, there appeared on television a reunion movie of the old series, The Wild Wild West. It was called The Wild Wild West Revisited. The central plot concerned agents Jim West and Artemus Gordon (played by Robert Conrad and Ross Martin); they were called out of retirement to combat the threat of the son of their greatest arch-enemy, Dr. Miguelito Loveless (played originally by the brilliant Michael Dunn). Dr. Miguelito Loveless Jr. (played wonderfully by Paul Williams) was trying to replace the world’s leaders with robot duplicates that he would control; he had even created the first “atomic bomb” as part of his arsenal.

During the pursuit of the main plot, there always appeared the same young gunslinger, who was trying to challenge the shooting talents of West. This guy was more comic villainy than real threat: West threw his guns away once, then on another occasion, Gordon tripped him up and subdued him. Towards the very end of the movie, as Jim and Artie were making their way towards their famous train to leave, here he came again (“go for your guns, Mr. West!”) Artie was so tired of this he actually said, “Oh no, not again! Look, I’ve had enough, you take care of this!” as he sat down on a bench. Jim walked deliberately toward him, sternly saying “give me your gun!” The gunslinger bewilderedly replied, “You’re not going to throw them away again, are you?” “No, I’m not”, Jim said. Taking the gun, he pointed it at a saloon’s sign across the street; never taking his eye off the gunslinger, he said, “Now, watch.” West then fanned the gun at high speed, striking every light atop the saloon sign, without taking his eyes off the young man. Stupefied, the young gunslinger took the gun back as West handed it to him; West calmly said, “Now…do you REALLY want to draw on me???” “Uh…no sir, no sir!” said the gunslinger. “Good.” West replied; “now, why don’t you find yourself a nice girl and settle down.” Looking at him wearily he added, “and leave me alone.” With that West and Gordon walked off to their train and the end of the movie.

The relentless pursuit of the young gun after West was done for comic relief, but there was nothing comical about the relentless pursuit of the Jews after Paul and Barnabas. They actually travelled all the way from Antioch and Iconium just to stick their noses in the missionaries’ ministry in Lystra! They got the crowd riled up enough to stone Paul; thinking him dead, they dragged him outside of the city. Paul, though, was not dead (although you’d be unconscious too from a bunch of rocks being beaned off of you!). He went back into the city, and left with Barnabas the next day to go to Derbe.

Christianity is still opposed today; sometimes just as violently (if not more so) then back then. There will always be those who oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ Himself even told the disciples as much when He walked on this planet. But like the disciples of long ago, we can’t give up; we have our hope and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and we know in the end, He wins! In the meantime, keep on keeping on, with the Good News.

Something to think about.

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Verse 51: “But they shook off the dust from their feet, against them, and came to Iconium.”

We recently completed a Carpenters for Christ mission trip to south Alabama. It was a good trip, and like many a trip, it had its share of rewards and challenges. One challenge I will not soon forget was an overabundance of…gnats! Man, from what the locals told us, we were smack in the middle of what is called the Gnat Line. Gnats are drawn to the plethora of chicken houses (and thus the chicken litter used on farms). It was no small feat to have them swarming around your head when you were working outside. Worse yet, if you didn’t close a door behind you, they’d come right behind you into whatever building you were in. I know that several of us, as we left the mission site at the mission’s conclusion, had all our truck windows rolled down so we could be sure those gnats were blown out of our vehicles…we wanted to make sure none of those gnats came north with us! We wanted no part of them!

The Jews stirred up trouble for Paul and Barnabas in the region of Antioch. They didn’t like the fact that the two delivered the Good News to the Gentiles also, and were determined to “run them out of town”. Following Jesus’s own instructions in Luke 10:11, they symbolically “shook the dust from their feet” as they departed. a footnote in my Bible states that historically, this is seen as a sign of judgment on the area that persecuted them for the Message. I’m sort of reminded of the gnats above; Paul and Barnabas, I believe, were figuratively saying, “we don’t even want the dust of your town on us as we leave!”

Be careful how you treat the Good News and the messengers who deliver it…you don’t want to be seen as a gnat, now, do you?

Something to think about.

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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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Verse 6: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,”

One of my favorite cartoons was the first couple of seasons of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? In one of the episodes, the gang (Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby) had to attend the reading of a will of an old Confederate colonel, Col. Beauregard Sanders. Some years back, Scooby had saved the colonel’s life when he had fallen into a pond; he repaid Scooby by remembering him in his will. Though the other heirs didn’t express any outward disdain or shock at a dog being an heir in the colonel’s will, nevertheless, the news made headlines in the local newspapers.

Imagine the news now to the brethren in Ephesus, as Paul tells them, that besides the Jews, the Gentiles were now also heirs to God’s promise in Christ! Christ died for all, that all may come to know God in a personal relationship and have eternal life by accepting Jesus. Think on that for a minute…no matter what nationality you are, no matter your background, no matter how different you are from other people…ALL of us are heirs to God’s riches through the saving power of Jesus…all you have to do is accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you step back and look at the big picture, it shouldn’t shock or surprise you…but to some it is as bold as a front-page headline. Remember, that fact is also called…the Good News!

Have a blessed day in Christ!

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